“I’m so glad I’ve been a widow this long,” I tell folks when we talk about what it’s like to stay at home during this virus. “I’ve learned to be alone.”
I’m moved to say this because of an acquaintance whose husband just died. I envision her doing the necessary paperwork without any proper closure. I see her at her desk, alone. I see her busy during the day closing her husband’s bank and credit accounts, discontinuing his magazine subscriptions, changing the name on utility bills, stopping his phone and reducing coverage, ending his health insurance, running around with his death certificates—first stop Social Security, changing the title of his car to hers, getting his name off the mortgage, and more. But then I see her after dinner, which she’s eaten alone, sitting alone or pacing around her home. What next?
I’m sure we’ve all thought a lot about how our lives may or could change whenever this quarantining gets over. I see myself going through a similar process as I did on becoming a widow. After all, overnight I was alone in my home, just as I am now, and wondered, what next?
This time, however, I have none of those post-death activities to take up my time. My alone status is almost comfortable. I do not have children to homeschool. I have a daughter who grocery shops for me. I have my own Zoom subscription to set up chats with whomever I please.
Naturally, though, there is that void of seeing people in person.
How are you coping? What are you doing to help you through each moment, each day? What do you look forward to? Are you driven to do something totally out of character?
I was. At 78, I did something I’ve never done. I answered a plea for blood donations. Now it wasn’t totally altruistic. I’d been cleaning Marv’s and my file drawers; I’d run across his many slips of blood donations. Just then, there came a plea for donations. I told myself that if Marv is no longer participating in his regular donation schedule, I could check if I would be allowed. Over the years, I’ve asked and because of my history of fibromyalgia, I was refused. But I went on the website of the hospital requesting donations and read the criteria. I qualified! I signed up on the last date available on their registration schedule. I figured I’d be seven weeks post international travel, and even though that was not listed as a disqualifier, I thought I’d try to be several weeks distant.
You can imagine how excited I was when that donation day finally arrived. It gave me a legitimate reason to GO OUT. I was still under an executive order from our governor for people 65 and over to stay at home, so I felt a bit guilty about even going, but I rationalized that this outing was a necessary medical reason to leave my home.
The day before, thanks to advice from my nurse practitioner friend, I sipped water much of the day. Not too much as she warned me against over hydrating and reminded me my food contained water, too, so I could be sure I was adequately hydrated when my blood volume would be reduced. I tingled with excitement after reading a benefit of donation—someone wrote that we hang out with the same blood all our lives and isn’t it great we can change it up now and then. I imagined my circulatory system having a replacement party of its own, regenerating the volume that would be taken out.
My appointment was at 12:20 the next day, so I made sure I got up at 8, ate breakfast, sipped water until 11, ate lunch, made sure I went to the bathroom, and left home at 11:45. My body was physically ready for the big occasion. It was hydrated and caloried. I’d even showered, fussed with my over-long hair, and dressed in my most brightly patterned leggings, black shirt, and matching vest. You’d think I was going to attend a rock concert.
Well, you might have guessed how the outing turned out. The donation went perfectly. The tech made me stay on the table for my cookies and juice “since this is your first time, I don’t want you passing out.” After I’d finished the snack, I announced I was doing great and was ready to go.
The parking lot was warm and sunny, and I sat in my Forester and admired the greenery on the hospital grounds. I rolled down my window and imagined birds singing. I felt the warmth on my arms and my face broke into a big smile. I was alive! I was OUT. My senses were getting delightfully awakened. I sat there, not wanting to leave.
In my rear-view mirror, I saw another masked face behind my car. A woman passing by. I recognized the profile. The chaplain of Marv’s hospice. The woman whom Marv had told when she called, “I won’t be needing you, but my wife will.” He’d handed me the phone, and from that day on, she comforted me many times with her presence and phone calls.
Seeing her seemed to make my outing complete. With an overwhelming sense of peace, I left the parking lot and drove the twenty minutes home. Feeling euphoric, I drove through a nursery on the way, to check out the plants. It was getting warmer, and I started to feel overly warm. I headed right home. Getting out of my car in the garage, I immediately felt lightheaded and bee-lined into the house and threw myself on to the couch and raised my legs on a pillow. I needed blood to my head.
And, I pretty much stayed on the couch for three days, sipping water, but still feeling so good that I’d done it. I’d given blood, I’d done a duty for society, I’d had an outing, and this lightheadedness, too, would pass. Marv would be proud!
So, what adventure will you take on that’s out of your comfort zone? Who knows what capabilities we have that we don’t even know about because we don’t take a risk?