Posted tagged ‘living alone’

“Because once you’re afraid of one thing, you can get scared of a lot of stuff.”

August 3, 2017

The air is so humid it feels damp. The sky is gray. The slight breeze does nothing to clear the air. We are starting days of hot weather. I will be a hermit sitting in the cool house with doors and windows closed. The Sox game last night was rained out. There was thunder and lightning. It missed us.

My laundry is done, but the pile sits in the living room waiting to be brought upstairs. That’s progress to me and a check off the to-do list.

Ghost Shark is today’s unbelievable movie. The shark can appear in water, any water, including bathtubs and water coolers. It doesn’t eat the bodies. It is after all a ghost but it does lop off heads or cut the bodies in half. Even to me this is one strange movie.

Clowns don’t scare me, haven’t ever scared me, though the clown in Stephen King’s It is scary. I grew up with Clarabell. He honked instead off talked except he did say good-bye on the very last Howdy Doody show. Maybe it’s clown make-up which scares people or their bad taste in colorful clothes with ruffles. I guess clown shoes don’t help much either.

I admit the man with the hook scared me when I was a kid. My father told us the story with heightened drama, hand gestures and the occasional grabs of our knees which made us jump. When he and my mother once went grocery shopping, we were alone which was fine until we heard scratching on the screen and no other sounds. It scared us enough we hid under the bed probably the first spot a crazed killer would look, but we didn’t have the time to discuss the best hiding place in the house. We just ran. It was, of course, my father. He thought it was funny. We didn’t at least until we caught our breaths and our hearts stopped beating wildly in our chests.

I do like to be scared but not about real things. I never expect boogeymen in the bushes or that my house will be targeted by roving marauders. I keep my inside doors open. I have no window shades. The curtains stay open to the sun though not all windows even have curtains. If I hear a noise, I usually investigate, a little timidly but I go anyway. The other night the dog’s backyard lights were triggered. She was inside. I went out on the deck to check the yard but neither saw nor heard anything. I just shrugged at the mystery and went back inside the house. I left the inside door open.

The first place I ever lived alone was in Ghana. It took a bit of adjustment, but after a while I enjoyed being by myself. My house was right by the back gate which I sometimes had to climb over to get back into the school compound after hours. The watchman pretended not to hear me so he could stay by his bedding and his fire. My inside door was always open even then. My house was broken into one night. I was sleeping outside and slept through it all. Nothing much was stolen as I didn’t have much. My camera was found outside the house. You couldn’t buy film for it in Ghana so it was useless to the thief. I had very little money which was gone, but Peace Corps reimbursed us. I had my pocket picked at the train station and was the victim of an attempted purse snatching. Despite all of those, I was never afraid.

I have lived alone my entire time in this house. I haven’t ever heard scratching on the screen or eerie sounds at night. Gracie used to bark at sounds but doesn’t anymore unless there is a knock at the door or the bell is rung. So much for my watch dog.  Regardless, I feel perfectly safe.

“Sweet are the thoughts that savour of content, The quiet mind is richer than a crown…”

March 25, 2017

It rained last night leaving today cloudy and dark. It’s warmer than it has been. All my chores and errands got finished, scratched out. Today is a stay at home day. Right now Boris Karloff as The Mummy is on TV. I have seen this movie several times, but that doesn’t ever matter. A propeller plane circles the world, the eerie music starts, and we see Egypt and the desert. We’re at a dig: it’s 1931, and the mummified remains of Imhotep, who had been buried alive, have just been found. A warning on the top of the chest buried with the mummy warns that whoever opens the chest will die. Despite the warning the chest is opened, the sacred words are said and the mummy comes back to life. There’s more but not here.

In winter, cloudy days sometimes make me feel subdued, and, after several in a row, even melancholic while other cloudy days, like today, make me feel cozy in my warm house. Life doesn’t get much better than being in my comfy clothes and watching one of my favorites, a black and white science fiction movie from the 30’s. I’m even having Chinese for lunch. It’s one of those perfect days.

When I was in Ghana, I lived alone for the first time. My house, one side of a duplex, was brand new and on school grounds right by the back gate, which I had to climb a few times as the watchman chose not to hear me yelling for the gate to be opened. (Sorry for the digression. Back to the story.) I was really lonely the first few months. I hated the quiet of my house. I played music especially at night to ward off the silence, but, by Christmas, I relished the night-time quiet because every day was busy and filled with sounds. In the morning it was the swishing of the hand- held brooms as the students cleaned the compound. After that, I could hear buckets being filled with water for bathing and the conversations of my students in a variety of languages. From that morning time on, the day was only quiet after the students had lights out.

It is always a marvel to me that life in Ghana took on a routine, became every day. Here I was living on a school compound in Bolgatanga. It was eggs and toast and coffee, horrible coffee, for breakfast, fruit for lunch and chicken or beef with a sauce and yams on the side, sometimes fried but mostly mashed, for dinner. I went to the market every third day and filled my basket with vegetables and fruit. The amazement of living in Africa was replaced by familiarity. It was home.

I think the memory of living in Ghana surfaces on days like today. I recognize the comfort in the quiet I felt then and I’m feeling now. It is contentment!

“Silence is also speech.”

February 25, 2017

Today is far warmer than I expected. It’s a sit in the sun day because tomorrow will be colder, back down to the daytime 40’s, to our usual February weather. This morning there was some fog. I couldn’t see more than an outline of my neighbor’s house. After I got the paper and yesterday’s mail from across the street, I stayed outside a while just to take in the warmth, the fog and the songs of birds.

The aroma of wood smoke is one of my favorite smells. The guy in the house on the next corner has been burning wood in a rusty metal barrel. At first I though a house fire then I saw him putting more wood in the barrel. He’s the same neighbor who thought Gracie was a wolf when she jumped the six-foot fence into his yard to go after his dog. I’m thinking he doesn’t have a permit to burn wood. but I don’t care one way or the other.  I like the wood smoke. It is one of my strongest memories of Ghana where wood charcoal is used for cooking every meal.

I had a portable cassette recorder in Ghana. The tapes stuck all the time because of the humidity so mostly they had to be rewound by hand using a Bic pen. I didn’t have a huge number of tapes, but I had my favorites including PP&M, CSN, Simon and Garfunkel, and Joni Mitchell. I think I played music every night. The adaptor had a red Christmas light size bulb attached so I could play without a converter. I could plug the cord directly into the wall. My friends Bill and Peg and I got together every night. We had dinner outside in their small courtyard. After their one-year-old went to bed, we played games. Password was our only actual comes in a box game, and we played it over and over and never got bored. We had the cards memorized through repetition so we sometimes changed the game. There were contests like the winner is the one who finishes the whole card first. That kept life into the game and kept us occupied.

I lived alone for the first time in Ghana. It was quite an adjustment getting used to being alone in a place so different, so far from home. My PC friends weren’t close to me geographically. (They were a letter away, no phones back then). I was teaching for the first time and not teaching well. My students didn’t understand my English. I was frustrated and lonely but determined. It took time. I did my best and so did they. Finally, we understood each other, and I was teaching, really teaching. I loved going to town and the market. I filled my days with teaching and my nights with music and books.

After my first year, Bill and Peg moved to my school, and we lived in a duplex. I loved having them near, being with them, and I also loved my quiet times, my alone times. We gave them to each other.

“All holidays can be good times.”

April 18, 2016

Today is Patriot’s Day, a holiday in Massachusetts. It is also a big day for sports. The Red Sox began playing at 11. In Hopkinton where the Boston Marathon starts, the first wave of runners set off at 8:50 while the elite runners started just after 9:30. It is a beautiful day, warm and sunny. It is short sleeve weather at the ballpark, but it might be just a bit too warm for the runners. Right now the lead women are all from Ethiopia and only 2 seconds separate them. The men are close to the finish line, and there are two running side by side. As for the woman, one runner took a commanding lead and has just run across the finish line. Atsede Baysa, an Ethiopian, is the 2016 Women’s winner. Demi Hayle, also an Ethiopian, has just won the men’s race.

My cats have disappeared. One is angry because I gave her all her medicine, and the other is hiding to avoid getting any.

I live alone in a good size house, but I spend most of my time in the den on the computer, watching television or lying on the couch reading if I can get the animals off. The house where I grew up was smaller than this one. Three bedrooms and the bathroom were upstairs while a living room and a smallish kitchen were downstairs. We had an enormous cellar which held some of our toys, the bikes and the washing machine. The center of the house was the living room with the TV which was one of those models in a cabinet. You had to open the doors to watch it. You also had to walk to it to change channels. My father sat in the big chair while the rest of us sat on the couch. We eventually would start pushing for more room, touching each other just to cause trouble, complaining to my father and blaming everyone else. My dad was never tolerant of the noise or the shoving.

Mostly we watched what he wanted to watch. On Sundays my father watched football. On Sundays I usually stayed in my room reading or listening to the radio or doing both at the same time. I do remember some programs. The one afternoon program I will never forget is Queen for a Day. I still remember the chosen queen wearing her robe, her tiara and carrying an orb of royalty as she stood and listened to what gifts she had been bequeath. You Asked for It was a favorite. Skippy Peanut Butter (or some other peanut butter) was its sponsor, and the person asking would have his/her name on the jar label. I always thought that show was interesting. Just like everyone else I knew, we watched Ed Sullivan. I remember his introductions of well known people in the audience. I also remember many of the women wore hats and mink stoles. I’ve always felt blessed that my father didn’t like Lawrence Welk.

 

“I make no secret of the fact that I would rather lie on a sofa than sweep beneath it.”

March 14, 2016

I woke up late this morning and rushed over to my neighbor’s house in record time for our Monday’s at 10. My back was so bad I stopped three or four times before I got there. Today is cold and dank and doesn’t bolster my spirits in any way. I am sick and tired of winter and the few days of pseudo spring we’ve had.

The first load of wash is in the machine. I got tired of looking at it leaning against the cellar door. A second load sits on the floor waiting its turn. Adam and Eve before the apple had it easy.

When I was growing up, I never realized how much work my mother actually did around the house. I’d see her making dinner but that was about it. While I was at school, she cleaned, vacuumed, made beds, washed clothes and ironed. My empty bureau drawers would magically fill. My bed would be made and my room cleaned. I never gave any of that much thought. I don’t think I ever said thank you. I just supposed it was what mothers did.

I am living by myself which I quite enjoy. There are no expectations. Today I might do this or I might do that or I might do neither. I make lists only when I have lolled far too long. I believe a written list of chores is binding much like Moses must have felt walking down the mountain with the ten commandments. If the chore is there before my eyes, I have to do it though that’s where the comparison with Moses ends. His was mostly a don’t do list though there were a couple of have to’s. I am quite faithful to finishing my lists, and I cross off each completed item with a flourish.

Coffee was going on hiatus today but then I got started and the words just poured out. My two typing fingers had quite the work-out. I do have to stop, though, my first load of laundry is done and needs to go into the dryer. A woman’s work is never done, sort of.

“Varicose veins are the result of an improper selection of grandparents.”

February 2, 2016

Gobbler’s Knob was the place to be this morning when Punxsutawney Phil emerged and didn’t see his shadow. Start packing away those heavy coats, hats and mittens. Spring will be early this year.

Coffee is late for a lot of reasons: I slept late, mirror under the nose late, took my time with the papers and drank my usual two cups of coffee. My calendar is empty for the week so I figure I can dawdle the days away. I’m very good at dawdling.

I live alone with two cats and a dog. When I was a kid, I’d have been labeled the old lady who lives with cats. I’d be wearing house dresses and ratty sweaters, white socks and slippers bent down in the back, and I’d be driving a really old blue or gray sedan under the speed limit, always under the speed limit. The doors in my house would be locked and never opened even in the summer. I’d fix dinner, eat at the table and hand wash my dishes.

My grandmother would have been the poster child for old ladies. She just didn’t have cats, didn’t like any animals. Never in her life did she wear a pair of pants. Her tie shoes were always black. She carried a huge, square faux leather pocketbook, and when she visited, she always kept it right by her side as if we were a house of thieves. She never used kleenex, only handkerchiefs with lace edges. I never saw a dirty dish in her house or a clump of dust in a corner. She was a horrible cook, but we never ate there often. I always thought she didn’t like us all that much.

She lived in a senior housing apartment. My father was a good son who visited her on Saturdays. If I were at my parents for the weekend, he’d try to drag me with him. Once in a while, out of pity, I’d go. My grandmother talked and talked. Sometimes she’d tell us the same thing she had just mentioned a little bit earlier. I’d listen and smile as if I hadn’t heard the story before. My aunt once took her to dinner at a Japanese restaurant where the food is cut and cooked right in front of you. I heard that story at least five times. I smiled every time. I also gritted my teeth.

P.S. We have a new citizen!!

 

“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.”

November 15, 2014

The day has a pretty start with a blue sky and sunshine though it is chilly. My bird feeder is getting lots of attention. I saw house and gold finches, titmice, my friends the chickadees, a woodpecker at the suet, nuthatches and the other day a flicker. My kitchen window gives me a perfect view of the two large feeders. This morning I chased away the red spawn. It hadn’t been around for a while. I think maybe now it knows I have emptied and put away the hose. I’m definitely thinking potato gun.

My backyard, Gracie’s realm, is still filled with trees, still wild. When she goes out, I can keep track of her by the sounds her feet make as she trots on the dead leaves. The other day, our last warm day, Gracie was out for long stretches. Now, with the cold, she is out and back inside quickly. Today she has another test at the vets to check those irregular heartbeats. Right now it is morning nap time for Gracie, Fern and Maddie, each in her special spot.

I have lived alone in this house since I bought it thirty-eight years ago. The first time I ever lived alone was in Ghana, and it took me a while to be comfortable. I missed people. I was homesick and wanted to leave so many times those first few months, but I didn’t. I learned to enjoy the solitude of my house, to sit outside at night and listen to the sounds from the dormitories and the compounds behind my house. In the morning, as I sat on my front porch drinking coffee, I heard the familiar sounds of the different languages of the various tribes as the students talked to one another, the sound of water and metal as students filled their buckets for morning baths and the sounds of students sweeping the grounds with their short handle-less brooms.

I love living alone though there are times I wish for company. I admit I talk out loud to myself and to the animals. Gracie understands more than the cats, but they do come when I call their names. I love doing what I want when I want. I sometimes eat odd choices for meals. This morning I ate leftover pizza. It had sausage, a breakfast food.

“There are people who like to be alone without feeling lonely at all.”

July 11, 2014

The morning is a quiet one with only the songs of birds breaking the silence. I am part of the morning. A calmness seems to take over, a slowness with no need for haste. I stood outside leaning on the deck rail for a long time. I could smell the freshness of the morning air. I watched the birds at the feeders and the slow sway of the leaves from the slight breeze. It is a familiar feeling for me, the sense I am alone. I remember being in Maine on vacation, and it was pouring. I took my book and went to the car, got comfortable and read for hours. I loved the sound of the rain on the car roof, and I loved being alone. When I’d get home from school on a rainy day, I’d take off my wet clothes, put on cozy pajamas, get in bed and read. I snuggled in the warmth of the blankets and loved the quiet of my room. I used to be a night owl, and I was always the only one awake in my neighborhood. I remember being outside at one or two in the morning watching the meteor shower. I oohed and aahed as they lit up the sky. Every other house was dark, and I felt sorry for them. I wanted to run up and down the street waking my neighbors so they could share the glorious sight of all those meteors. I didn’t, which was probably the right choice.

The first time I ever lived alone was in Ghana. We were altogether for training so someone was always around who was sharing the same experiences I was. At the end of training, the transition to my post, Bolgatanga, way north and off the beaten path, was difficult, especially the first few months. I was terribly homesick and had no one to talk to about it. I was also having trouble teaching. The students didn’t understand my American accent, and at the end of the class they would tell me they heard nothing, a Ghanaian term for not understanding a word. I felt like a failure. Here I was lonely, miserable and a complete failure. I made plans to go home by Christmas if things didn’t change, but happily for me they did. I began to love being alone, to having all this time to myself. I would read for hours. My letters home were filled with everything I saw and did, and I took pleasure in the descriptions. I didn’t have to lie any more about everything being great because it actually was. I learned how to teach, how to enunciate. No more did students not hear me. Everything had fallen into place, and I couldn’t imagine leaving.

I bought my house when I was 29. I have lived alone the entire time. Sometimes I’d like some company, and I always miss my guests when they leave, but I am content living by myself.

“alone doesn’t mean lonely. It just means alone. It just means that for now, you’re on your own, and that’s not a terrible thing.”

August 30, 2013

Somewhere off in the far distance, I can hear a dog bark, barely hear that dog bark, but Gracie feels it is her responsibility to respond. That she is standing on the deck directly under my window is of little importance. A dog does what a dog wants to do.

Last night was so chilly I shut my downstairs windows. My feet were even cold. Yesterday was fall. I don’t care that it is still August. Fall drops in now and then to get the lay of the land and last night was one of those visits. Today isn’t much better. It’s still chilly and damp. School should start on a day like today.

My friends are leaving for Ireland on Tuesday. My other friends are going to Ghana in the middle of September. I feel like the poor relation. I haven’t even been to Hyannis lately.

I called Rose Atiah, one of my students, this morning. I needed a Ghana fix, and Rose is always good for a conversation. She said it was getting ready to rain, and I could picture exactly what Bolga looks like with an impending storm. Rose said she was doing nothing, and I told her I was doing nothing as well. We chatted a bit more, and Rose said she would pass along my greetings to Agatha, Francisca and Bea. Hearing a Ghanaian accent always gives me a bit of a lift, and I love that Ghanaians pass along greetings.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a hermit. With no reason to go out, I don’t bother to get dressed. I make my bed, brush my teeth, do a cursory wash of hands and face and then let the day while by me. Today could easily be one of those days, but I have no choice but to go out to the pharmacy. Gracie gets to come because it will be cool enough in the car for her.

When I finally got to my house in Ghana, I was living alone for the first time in my life, and it was a difficult transition. During Peace Corps training, we had been herded and kept in large groups, and we had each other, but now I had no one to talk to about how I felt, no one who understood what I was going through. I was homesick, doing a rotten job in the classroom and an object of curiosity for my students and just about everyone in town. I fled to books and checked for mail every day at least a couple of times. I was starved for conversation and companionship. I was miserable. I don’t know when that began to change, when I knew I was home, but change it did. I loved living alone. It was fun going into town and to the market. People greeted me all the time, and I returned their greetings. I was madam, a teacher at the school, and that was all.

Talking to Rose today brought a lot of that back. She still calls me madam.