I have been single for 18 years, since my husband passed away suddenly Christmas week in 1993. We had been married for 17 years. Aside from the horrible shock of his death at such a young age, there was the loss of camaraderie and shared humor and stimulating discussion (he was a brilliant guy) and the constant shared joy in our four children, who we both adored.
Over time, however, I will admit that some aspects of being single have grown on me. I love that I am not accountable to anyone for anything in my personal life. I don’t have to explain what I spent my money on. I don’t have to make dinner if I don’t feel like it. I don’t have to pause for even a millisecond on any sports program on TV. And now that the kids are grown, I don’t have to take care of anyone either. I don’t have to wash anyone else’s clothes or make sure they have a decent outfit for a formal affair (as when my sister had to patiently explain to her husband why he couldn’t wear a NASCAR t-shirt to a funeral; in all fairness he was single until he was over forty, but oy vey) or get them up in time for work. I can stay up late reading and not disturb anyone. The covers, and the bed itself, are all mine.
That does make me sound like a selfish cow, but, mostly because I took care of five other human beings for so long, it is a novel relief to only have myself to worry about now. And multiple sclerosis has made taking care of myself harder and harder as it is.
So here is where being fully human and, therefore contradictory, comes in. While I cherish my independence, I am lonely. Being sick just makes it seem that much worse. It is sad having no one to commiserate with or to come with me to doctor’s appointments or keep me company during medical procedures. It is overwhelming financially to have no one else bringing in any kind of income. I find that without a significant other, it can be very hard to keep my illness, and its accompanying challenges, in perspective. Having someone share those tough moments, those struggles, really does help them feel that much more manageable. When you are on your own, minor difficulties can loom and appear to be insurmountable. Another person can help keep your fear in check when it threatens to run away into that vast wasteland of “What if?!?”
Is it any surprise that I often feel, with no intimate partner, the future looks bleak indeed? And meeting someone now is extremely challenging, emotionally and physically. Even a year ago, getting out was not that big a deal, although I was using a walker. At issue today: bulky wheelchair, heat intolerance, feet and legs swollen with lymphedema, constant pain. Can’t you just see men saying “Woo hoo, where do I sign up?!?” I was high maintenance before because I was such control freak. I am really High Maintenance now because so little is within my control anymore. Dating has been, let us say, adventurous. Although not necessarily in a bad way. If you like horrible surprises.
To complicate matters even further, there is the whole issue that I, along with so many of my generation, had my expectations unrealistically raised. By Walt Disney. I think Mr. Disney could be held personally responsible for the current high divorce rate in the United States. Weaned on Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White, we all breathlessly imagine these preposterous paragons and subsequently we are shocked and disappointed when The Prince turns out to be a mere mortal. Who snores.
I have wonderful, helpful, loving friends, and they are so good to me. I have a certified nursing assistant whose help every day is a gift from heaven. But I do miss simply having one special person to love and share my life with.
Well, I’m not dead yet. Maybe someday my prince will come. But he better hustle. Time is growing short.