Absence makes the heart …
Time on my hands: so precious these moments alone, with my wife gone away to visit our daughter and our grand-daughter. I didn’t want her to leave me here alone. But I thought she needed the break, the space, and I also thought the women needed time together without the troublesome presence of a man. So many ideas flow back and forth when the man isn’t present, ideas that women share and debate, female anxieties that they will not discuss in front of the male, questions of children and development, teething and first words, actions and reactions, left-handedness and right-handedness, backwards and forwards skills that they will not discuss with the same comfort if the man is there.
I miss her. The sun filters through the kitchen and the autumn leaves store up sunlight like an old precious wine before they fall. Wine: I sip slowly at this bottle filled with life and sunshine, bottled sunshine they call it in Spain, sol embotellado, and I know that although I am alone, my friends are there, at the end of the telephone line. I can call them if I need them and anyway, they call me often or drop in once or twice a day to make sure I am okay. If I walk around the block or knock on their doors I know I will be greeted with warmth, an arm around the shoulder, the offer of a meal.
Thanksgiving is near. I already have two invitations for dinner and another lady, much lonelier than I am, has offered to buy the Thanksgiving food, bring it round, and cook it for me. She will also clean up after wards and leave the house cleaner than when she arrived. Can you believe it? I get company, companionship, and no, they are not the same thing, a cooked meal, and a house clean all together. It’s like winning the lottery.
But really, I prefer this solitude, my adventures with the cat, my slow stroll, not through the autumn woods, but through the leaves of this book. I like exploring my own mind, linking myself now to the self I was when I first read these pages and yes, there have been crises, and there will always be crises, and this is not a crisis, not yet anyway.
I remember when I was in boarding school. First day back from the holidays, I would draw a railway engine, and a train track, and I would number the days until the holidays came around again. For the first few days, I would cross off each day. Then, one day, as the new routine took control of my mind, I would forget to do so and the days would all blend into each other.
The new routine: get up earlier than usual. Go down and feed the cat. Make sure the cat had water. Change the kitty litter and make sure that her litter box is clean. Hoover around the litter box and pick up all the spilled litter. Place used litter in the garbage. Put the cat garbage on one side ready for Monday morning when the garbage men come around. Finish with the cat. Wash hands carefully. Then wash them again.
Downstairs I go. I put the kettle on and debate what I shall have for breakfast. Tea or coffee? Cereal or eggs? Muffins or toast? Breakfast for one is so simple. I take the easy route. Green tea with honey, no milk, no sugar. Some yogurt. Some grapes.
I sip my tea and thumb the pages of Carl Jung’s book, The Undiscovered Self. I love her and miss her so much, but I am glad she has gone. Her absence allows me to re-discover my own presence. I learn about myself once more. I remember who I am and what I am and how I survive when I am on my own, abandoned, set adrift to fend for myself.
I get up from the breakfast table, look around the house, and find my Teddy Bear. The cat will not come near me, so Teddy it is. I set him on the table next to me and tell him all my news. Then I tell him what is happening on the news. Together, we sit and wait for the phone to ring. If she doesn’t call soon, I’ll call her myself. But not yet, not just yet: I’m still discovering my undiscovered self.