Home Alone 2

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I drove along the freeway on my way back from dropping my husband at the airport and wondered why the car behind me was bearing down, too close for comfort.

I could not see clearly enough to change lanes to let him pass. Besides I was inching over the 80 kilometres limit with all the signs making it clear we should not go above that and still he bore down on me as if I was travelling too slow.

We passed a number of cars in the left lane as we roared down the highway and eventually just as I was about to move into the left lane, he changed lanes before I had a chance and as he sped by he honked his horn.

The speed limit meant nothing to him it seems.

The sun was coming up as I said good-bye to my husband who’s off for a week in Western Australia to visit his brother. I will be home alone.

It’s happened once before that my husband was away and coincidentally all our children away simultaneously. My youngest, who still lives at home, is housesitting for friends and so I am truly home alone.

I hear about other people who live lives like this, lives of solitude and it suits them.

It does not suit me. I find I wander through the house and sense the presence of the others who are normally here. It is almost as if they’re all sleeping and at any moment will wake up.

The sense of being in an otherwise empty house, empty of other people, is like having to grieve a death.

No one has died but being home alone for me has that surreal quality, as if I’m still in conversation with my mother. I see her in my mind’s eye and then need to remind myself, she’s gone. I’ll never see her again.

It’s an eerie feeling, as if I’m in a dream and all the people in the dream slip in and out of my awareness, outside of my control.

Things just happen in random and unexpected ways.

The flip side to this is one of pleasure. A sense of freedom I rarely experience, knowing that for the weekend at least, before my work begins again on Monday, I’m a free woman.

Not that my husband imposes restrictions on me. Not any more. We have come to a good arrangement in recent years where we can come and go as we see fit, as long as we let one another know and there’s none of the angst at the idea of doing something independently I experienced when we first met.

Even so, I find his presence and the presence of others who walk in and out of the house at will, leave me filled with a sense of expectation.

As If I am on call.

Now alone in my house on Saturday morning and free of all responsibilities and able to decide for myself where I will go, whom I will meet, what I will eat, without the need to consult another, has an exhilarating feel, even as it leaves me feeling its opposite, the sense of oppression that comes from living in an empty house.

This oppression is not unlike the sensation of having someone tailgate you. Someone who, without words, is telling you to move over.

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4 Comments on Home Alone 2

  1. Karen C
    August 3, 2016 at 9:00 am (12 months ago)

    I am one of those who is very comfortable with my own company, so my transition from married to widow has been gentler than maybe for others.
    My married relationship was very like yours in the later years. Separate, yet together, but now he is gone, I realise how very together we were.
    Now, sadly, I no longer have to account for myself to anyone, which I can only describe as an ‘unsettled freedom’.

    Reply
  2. Elisabeth
    August 3, 2016 at 9:29 am (12 months ago)

    A friend reminded me of this, Karen, that my time alone is limited, a week only. Were it ongoing like yours in widowhood, it’d be very different. She’s right of course. In my fantasies, time alone is wonderful, in reality I experience it as something to be endured. I count down the days until life resumes it’s usual rhythms. Thanks, Karen, for your poignant words.

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  3. Jim Murdoch
    August 4, 2016 at 9:18 pm (12 months ago)

    On call. I’d never thought of it that way. But it works as well as any other expression. It smacks of duty and I’m a very dutiful person. Not sure why. It wasn’t an obligation that was hammered into me growing up. Not a very biblical word. Yes, by all means, pay Caesar his dues—so the principle is there—but I was never ever told to “do my duty.” It was more important I do what was right. I think of myself as needed. And I am but not as much as I think I am. My wife for all her aches and pains is still very much an independent spirit and only calls on me when she absolutely has to which is fine but it’s important when she has to I’m available, that when she hollers I’m never far away. People can be a burden. Even the bird’s a burden. We’re his flock and, little insecure devil that he is, if his flock’s out of his line of vision for any length of time he’ll call out to make sure we’re about. “Marco!” “Polo!” I like being needed but it does bother me sometimes that I feel burdened by it but it’s only because I hold myself to higher standards than are really necessary. I leave the house when I have to and everyone copes. Mostly I don’t go out.

    At least three times a year in recent years Carrie’s visited the States. I went once to show my face—this was before we acquired the bird—but I’ve never been back since or felt I was missing out on much. Pretty much all I wanted to do last time I was there was shop and I can do that from the comfort of my armchair. Her visits usually last three weeks. The first’s fine—I hardly notice she’s gone—into the second I’m starting to drag and by the third I’ve had enough. You’d think I’d be glad of the break but not really. There are pluses—I can eat when I want although not always what I want since Carrie always prepares enough food to last me and that needs to get eaten and I can watch what I want on TV (I generally save up Jimmy programmes for then)—and there are minuses and the main minus is a lack of structure as the only thing I need to do on time is be available for our daily phone call.

    Mostly I try to stick to our normal routine when she’s away, a loose version of anyway. That said these days even when she is here we aren’t as strict as we used to be but that’s because our sleep patterns (mine especially) are all over the place. That bothers me because I find comfort in routine. I like order, it’s reassuring. I don’t find freedom especially exhilarating. Freedom means I don’t have to keep up appearances. I can wallow. And mope. And slump. I feel at a loss when I’m alone but not lonely per se. An odd expression when you think about it, at a loss: not quite loss-with-a-capital-l. Because she’s coming back. Whereupon order will be restored.

    I was never very good with holidays when I worked. The first week I spent winding down, the second gearing up. Eventually I stopped pretending, took a project home and worked through the whole holiday, hence the whopping great breakdown when it finally came.

    Reply
  4. Elisabeth
    August 7, 2016 at 4:31 pm (12 months ago)

    I nearly missed this response, Jim, until now and I’m sorry because reading this leaves me with that same odd feeling others commented on after reading my subsequent post on being home alone for the third instalment.
    We rely on those nearest and dearest even as we convince ourselves we can manage well enough in their absence. So far, at least for you and me, those absences are temporary. I reckon it will be a different story when they become permanent.
    I like being on call as much as I hate the absence of the structure of other people’s needs weighing down on me.
    Thanks, Jim and may Carrie’s absences be few and far between.

    Reply

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