The Widower and the Wastebasket
It was when I got around to vacuuming the living room rug, and recognized some crumbs from something I’d eaten a couple of weeks earlier that got me to thinking about some of the differences between living alone, especially as a widower, and a happily-ever-after married life.
Rather quickly it seems, standards reset. You begin to realize how much energy was tied up maintaining a basic level of dignity and self-respect simply to reassure your spouse she had not made a monumental error of judgment. No longer necessary to prove to her you were not a rescue, it is remarkable how little time it takes for the natural order of your life to overgrow any evidence that a healthy, successful relationship with another had once thrived there.
Start with the master facilities. They reach the point where they match that restroom off the interstate in the Dakotas where she had decided to “hold it” until the next one. Passing the bed, which is made in accordance with the advent of each of the four seasons, you enter the hallway, not noticing the patina of the carpet has gone from a deep plum to a wispier grey. The foyer has retained the flora of the previous fall well into the current spring, and the pizza box from the Superbowl has now become such a familiar part of the living room décor as to be virtually unnoticed, except by the neighbor who apparently has been tasked by the neighborhood to “keep an eye on things and report back.”
Then you enter the kitchen. Only a nuclear waste facility may be more poorly maintained. While you pride yourself on continuing to cook for one, it was your spouse who’s always insisted on doing the cleanup as a fair division of kitchen labor. Since you’ve not filled that position, you are not only unaware of the new, suspicious scent your neighbor had noted the moment she entered the premises, but you’re blissfully ignorant of the news spreading through the local vermin community that a “free buffet” is currently expanding its offerings.
Since you are no longer cooking for two, but so far have failed to adjust portions, the colonies on the leftover shelf of the fridge can apply for annexation to the town and get its own zip code. The use-by dates on unopened purchased items there may be part of the next Ken Burns historical epic. The residue in the frying pan you’ve been ignoring is now a revolutionary new petroleum based derivative.
The one bright spot in the domicile is the DVR archive. You’ve managed to deplete The Three Stooges inventory, along with recordings of Animal House, Bad Santa and House of a Thousand Corpses that had been awaiting the appropriate audience of one. You’re no longer adding to the archive, since live sports of any kind, including Mexican soccer and Canadian curling championships occupy your daily viewing 100% of your viewing options.
It’s in those periods of solitude, though, that some sense of what that neighbor has been noting and reporting on, is beginning to impact your home the way climate change is impacting the planet, with similar levels of denial informing each.
And, as you rearrange the bedding so you can tuck yourself in at night, you acknowledge a tipping point is coming. You drift off into sleep hoping it’s the planet that collapses first.
That’s when you realize how much you’ve lost.