Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dorothy's Choice

During my visit with my mother in April 2015.
There is one conversation I had with my mother that I would like to share -- one we had while she was in hospital, and that I have reflected on since then.

After I'd first greeted her, she made a comment that seemed a non sequitur: "You've never lived alone, have you Wynn Anne?"

"No," I answered wondering where that came from. But she was a little mentally disconnected at the time, still recovering from her diagnostic procedures, so I paid no mind and changed the topic.

It wasn't until much later that it dawned on me that this simple question was her explanation for why, after my father's death, she had chosen to marry the man she did: she simply could not bear to live alone.

Some of us relish solitude. My aunts Winkie, Win, and Betty are or were all happy spinsters. My sister-in-law has spoken of how content she was to live alone. For my part, one of the blessings of traveling for work was the occasional night with time and space all to myself.

Others, like my mother, do not do well on their own. She needs companionship and, more than that, she needs someone to take care of her, to demonstrate love on a continual basis. Without it, she sinks swiftly into depression. (Truth be told, even with it, she sinks into depression, but she told me that she has learned to "just ignore it" in her old age.)

I imagine other people with similar voids have found other dysfunctional ways of coping: promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling . . .

For my mother, marriage was her prescription of choice. Her husband has been exactly the kind of companion she desired. He dotes on her. He fetches and carries, saves her steps, makes her comfortable without ever having to leave her chair. He coddles and mollifies.

To be honest, he is more loving toward her than my father ever really was. It breaks my heart that my parents were such a poor fit for each other, but I have to admit that it is so.

My mother's simple question, "You've never lived alone, have you?", has brought me a degree of closure and acceptance that no outright apology could ever have brought. When I finally figured out the clue, it was an 'aha' moment for me. Because anyone who has ever been hurt always has that lingering question "why"; and I finally had the answer.


  1. I really enjoyed my time alone in my little condo before I was married. And then I really enjoyed my time in our tiny apartment when I got married. And then I really really enjoyed the too small, too crowded tiny house full of life and laughter and running feet. for awhile. ha. now I often think back to my little condo and wonder if, knowing what I know now, would I have ever been happy to have an entire life alone? Some would think that awful for a mother to question, but I think it's a good and fair question. I'd like to think that even though I love this life right now, I also would have found a way to be happy and content had life turned out different.
    I'd like to think that I would have still have enjoyed my own company.
    It's nice though when life surprises us with answers we never thought we'd find. :)

    1. It's hard to know how we would be if life threw different curve-balls at us. I think my mother had a sense that she would not do well alone. Too bad.


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