When you visit with an older family member, that lives alone, you think gee, that must be hard.
But when you ask the person doing it about the situation some interesting observations come up in conversation.
For starters younger people in the working world, involved in community service work, raising kids can keep themselves pretty round the clock busy. Not be so idle. But consider if you are an elderly person, that can not drive and is house bound. Or has fear of driving. Does not do it at night so is limited on how far a trek to take. To get out, see how the rest of the world lives once in awhile. To shake the cabin fever. The “camp queer” being under house arrest spell.
Many older folks I run into with my job helping sell Maine family homes that outgrew the owner, that are alone, mention “sundown syndrome.”
They are fine alone during the day when busy with tasks. While the world is moving and shaking with activity. But about 6:30 it hits them. They are alone. And it the loss of a particular loved one is a permanent situation. And it is not a case of choice… where when as George Thorogood croons “when I am alone, I prefer to be by myself” either.
The recall of where their mate sat during dinner. That was his or her chair. This was the habit daily to sit down for a cup of coffee in the morning in the pair of rockers. And discuss the day. Or to take a break from hobbies and chores done jointly or individually. But to be able to compare notes. Know each was not alone. And after a sixty year marriage, it is not a case of trying to make the wrong one the right one either. The other was not perfect, but was perfect for the other. And each knew it completely.
But what you may not think about is the process, toll of being alone a long time.
Not just during a long winter when it’s dark, people are shut in more and not out, about. But when days go by without much contact with the outside world other than the boob tube. Newspaper, radio and often no Internet for the older age group in some cases. Especially the men who are not so eager to tackle the dot com, dot net.
My Aunt Molly told me when you are alone, you don’t talk to many people besides yourself. And in time when you are in a group, something rare, you don’t have much to talk about. You have new nothing to say. Because you are out of the loop. Been out too long. Don’t feel so comfortable around people because used to them being missing. Pre-occuppied. She lamented she just doesn’t have much for new information to relay of interest, of any use to someone else. When this ninety year old woman shared that I had never thought about the elements of being alone.
Lonely has many shades, degrees.
A little is good, too much can remove you from your surroundings, the sense of community, fellowship and needing others because no man is an island. Man is a social being. But alone is better than being with the wrong one you try to make the right one. To feel loved, accepted, understood.
Too many “married but living alones” walking the world today right? Doing the day to day in quiet desperation expecting others to make them happy which is an individual solo inside job. To make your outsides match the insides before you are ready to let another into your heart to trust with your inner most private areas. Freely giving the other the key to the long ago opened, sorted through little black box.
As I mow the lawn at the Maine farm I grew up at, the many flower beds still bloom that my Mom planted. Spent time on her knees tending with loving care. People live on in the courageous actions they took, the deeds they did while on Earth. That you don’t forget, that helped shape you and me. Embrace family. Help combat loneliness.
Reach out to a shut in, out of circulation family member and learn a wealth of information.
Unlike some cultures, the elderly of this overbooked, chasing material goodies country are often forgotten in the hustle bustle. Don’t neglect them, enjoy them while they walk the Earth. Are available to enjoy, learn from and for you to cause a spark, joy in their life too. Maine, we need each other in the space, the place called Vacationland.