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planning for a quieter life



Finally a nice warmer day, a cold night but less cold than for the past couple of weeks. There is just a hint of Spring in the air. I even unbuttoned my jacket at lunch today, the first time I had been out after church with the Sunday lunch club girls since I have been back. It was good to catch up on the gossip again and they are dear souls, they have been such a support to me since Ray died.


I think I am finally settled back into routine again. Going from winter to summer and back again was a bit of a shock to the system. Think about the warming food, casseroles, soups and roasts we have for winter, that is my food today. Then imagine salads, fresh fruits and summer desserts just made for a northern summer and that was what I was eating in England. No wonder even my digestion went out in sympathy.


After being in company for six weeks I have hit a new wall – the silence. On Friday I spoke to no-one except the phone operator at the warranty insurance place where I rang to say my refrigerator has decided to become a freezer. Trevor said that means the thermostat has gone. The operator said I could expect a service call “some time on Wednesday”, so in the meantime I am turning it on for half an hour, off for four hours and keeping it empty. No hope for all that was frozen in there, all my lovely salad greens, even the sauces in the door froze, so out they all went.


The silence is a strange thing. During the 14 years I looked after Ray there was always someone coming and going, we had Trevor live with us for four years and of course for the last three years Ray was at home there were the carers. I thought they were an intrusion at first but looking back I can see what a blessing they were. They were cheerful and efficient and kind and brought us news and provided conversation. I think of Jeff and his willingness to put Ray through his exercises and Mel who brought me a little bunch of flowers from her garden. Each carer came with their own personality and interacted with us in a different way. There were many of them and each contributed something to our lives.


Then when Ray went into full-time care the staff and relatives of the other patients in the nursing home took their place in being the people who brought friendship and company into my life. The nursing home was its own little world and I went there every day and encountered smiles and hugs and yes, even laughter, the courtyard girls being the warm heart of the place for me. I still see one of them and she brings me news of the others so I still have that connection.


It is strange that when the funeral is over and family and friends have dispersed how quiet life becomes. At first I would hop in the car and go to the shopping centre whenever I felt lonely, I would sip coffee and watch the passing parade and even if I didn't join in a conversation I could hear them all around me. I know my family must have got sick of my phone calls, reaching out of my loneliness into their busy lives was kind of unsatisfactory as I knew I often caught them when they were too busy in their own lives to want to concentrate on my wants and needs.


I think the grief counselling helped reground me and for a while I was busy working on various tasks set for me by the counsellor. Just trying to reconnect to a world that seemed out of step with my grief-drugged brain was a strain but I did it. The trip to England to reconnect with my cousins was one of the things that came out of that period. It again refocussed my thoughts to what was, what is and what will be..in other words trying to get life back into perspective. I am not saying I am over my grief, I don't think you are ever over it but it is not as raw and all-devouring as it was at first. I probably still have brief tears most days but I do not wake up sobbing any more.


And so the months have gone by. The trip to England was a welcome break but back home again I know I have to learn to live by myself and to a certain extent that is a new test for me. I don't think I am the remarrying kind. It would take someone special to fill Ray's place and I know I am a creature of habits strange and wonderful and someone else would have to be very long-suffering to fit into my life and my routines. There may be someone special out there but I think it more likely I will simply learn to live alone.


And so I will learn to live with the quiet days and the solitary life. I could fill my life with busyness but I had all those crowded years while being caregiver to Ray and I do not wish to over-fill my life as I used to. I am older now and do realise that busyness can be a health hazard. So I need to fill my life with things I want to do rather than things that might cause me anxiety or frustration. And that is a plan that hopefully will slowly unfold for me.


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Such a slow journey for you Sue, but it sounds like you are on course to acceptance. The ultimate goal. You make me sad for all the times my Mom called me and I hesitated to pick up, since I was "too busy" to chat for awhile.


I know we've bugged you about this before, but what about a cat or two? Or a little dog? They can be such a comfort; and for a giver like you, something that you can "give" to. I'm not saying run out and get one today, but if the opportunity arises, maybe? They are such a comfort sometimes.

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Hello Sue, I so enjoy your blogs, they make me think.I used to "want peace", not pick up the phone, if it was my grand kids calling, or my friends, now I call them! I do like " me time" , but after my stroke, it shows life is too short. Getting a pet is something to think about, and you are so giving. Take care Sue


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It will be hard to find it again... I know I would have trouble.. but somewhere inside, there are Sue's Sounds. The music she would listen to, the show she would watch, the craft she would do, if life had not changed it all around. Discovery is not as simple as it sounds. I have my doubts of doing it myself, but can only look to those who are doing it somehow, and know it must be possible.

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Hi Sue: It is very hard to go from a busy (normal) life to being alone and grieving...you as a caregiver and me as a survivor. What I have found and I still can't make up my mind, is I signed up for Facebook to see some photos of little nieces and nephews back in the Midwest. Now I have found all of this is just too much. It is taking time away from both FB and Strokenet plus I still have learning, especially with FB and it is just too cumbersome. I've gone off FB twice and I think I will do it again so I can clear my head. Tomorrow I start PT again. Last week I was sick (stomach problems) so am now weak and the fear crops in that I won't do good enough. But I have to do it or else I certainly won't be good enough! So we will see and you will see me one way or other. My younger sister is a FB junkie so of course she doesn't want me to go. But she isn't me and she is 6 years younger, didn't have a strokd and has a LOT of energy. So keep it up and God will be with us as we chug this happy road of destiny. Cherio my dea

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Leah, you don't have to haunt facebook to see those pics. If you are friends with them, you can go on only when you feel like it, click on their pic in your friends and that will take you to their page. Click on their pics and you we see a link to their albums and can see all their pics.

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Sue: I do hope the season change will be positive for you. You do so love your yard and gardens, walks. I do so understand "quiet" but it can not be isolation. Fortunately you have your wonderful family and your friends. Stick with the people you enjoy and truly can share with. Doesn't have to be every week. And I hope you are getting back to your books and music.


Thank you for sharing. This journey is painful, I know, frustrating, sad, difficult. But seems like you are working through with time and space. Best always, Debbie

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