I sit in Panera for coffee and a bagel tapping, answering email, commenting on Facebook, setting up a few meet ups with friends. Panera, at least this one, in the morning is a senior zone. Couples mostly. Of course. In small groups of a single gender or uneven, odd numbered mixes. Is this what substitutes for the boomer bar scene?
I am content just sitting with carbs, fat and caffeine. Observing. There is a woman at the next table who is not. Not happy. She sits alone holding onto a paper cup of hot liquid in front of her. No book or paper or electronic device to accompany her or pass the time. She has not planned for independence. She is waiting. Her fingers tap the cup. She looks at her watch. She looks to the door whenever it opens. The color in her cheeks rises. Her eyes are troubled. She avoids looking at anyone, including me. I would smile at her given half the chance.
Her ill ease, that I take for loneliness although it may not be, surrounds her. I can almost cry for her. In some way, I too am waiting. Not expecting anyone to show up to ease my loneliness on any schedule. But lonely. And I have been for six long years.
I’ve started a writing project, something steeped in memoir and science fiction. The working title is Widow Writes (“WW”) and I’ve started work by reading my blog entries from just before the heart transplant to the present. At present, I am working through the time between transplant and death; last night I read, the week between re-hospitalization and death. Most of what I read I know, but last night, a sentence jumped out at me.
The woman alone puts on dark glasses, picks up her paper cup and cleans up her napkin. And leaves. Her aura of sadness or ill ease or loneliness moves out of the room with her. Does anyone else notice?
“This morning, I woke up before Julia which is pretty rare. We usually have a therapist over right now, but she appears to be late or missing the session. It is fine. We have Marilyn this morning and then the day to ourselves. I plan to visit David, hopefully have lunch all together, and then go to the pool for awhile.
I realize this morning and as I write, every minute of my day, that I am lonely. I am talking to a few friends and of course, Cheshire, but I miss a body here to trade the day with. I think of my single mom friends. You are fantastic. I don’t think I could do it.”
I can almost cry for the me who was just discovering what I would carry from then on. I want to hug her and whisper, “enjoy your last week. Feed Julia, hug her, tuck her in to sleep and drive her to therapy and then, throw all the rest aside for your last week of easy joy with David.”
Easy joy. A strange description of that limbo week before death.
The uneasy waiting woman is replaced by a couple, sitting down with coffee, pastries, a NYTimes and an iPad. Through my lens, they are happy. Content. Satisfied with each other’s company. But perhaps they can barely sit at the same table together. Perhaps theirs is not lovely, quiet companionship. But I can’t quite turn my mind to a darker view.
Easy joy. Naive happiness. A time when I could have faith that my world could continue as it had been. With hiccups but no substantial change. Charmed and blessed.
I read blog entries and then copy excerpts into labeled files. Not quite thinking of chapters but of topics that I want to explore. How have my ideas about various topics, like travel and holidays and online dating and disability, changed over the years of grieving. Still, there is pain in reading and the recognition of a self who has entirely disappeared.
But to change this pace-A strange, quirky, almost outrageous happening. I have a sports’ injury! Hard to believe that it is me that has this. I have been a gym rat since the beginning of the year, to keep the sciatica at bay, and then we walked miles every day in Italy and I returned to the gym when Julia returned to school. But recently, some lingering, strange pain in my left (other) foot sent me to the doc’s. After an x-ray showed no stress fracture (ME! A stress fracture. Almost incredible.), the diagnosis seems to be strained tendons. The “cure” is a month of switching from weight bearing cardio work to swimming, shoes with hard soles, like clogs, some meds to ease the inflammation and ice massages. Stunned but coming at a good time, I need some fall shoes and the garden work is slowing down. And my gym has a very nice and usually under-used pool. I regretted for a few moments my “dreams,” or rather, mental meanderings, of running a 5K one day, but only for as long as it took me to text it to Cheshire. And then, I thought, “Me, a 5K? Let’s be real!” I have a reluctance because swimming is solitary, but in all these months, I’ve only seen one friend at the gym a handful of times and have not talked to anyone else. How more solitary could swimming be?
There is a subtle shift from senior socializing to business meetings and job interviews at the Panera. And my coffee cup is drained. And the lovely sugar and caffeine course through my veins and inspire mornings doings. And a swim.