My life is divided into Before—the time between meeting my husband Vic in 1966 and his death in 2008—and After.
I am no longer a wife and partner. I am still a mother, although my adult sons watch out for me as much as I watch out for them. I still have a close community of friends, but some have moved away or moved on.
The woman who was half of an entity called VicandElaine or ElaineandVic is gone. The woman who bounced decisions off Vic, told him every feeling, and called out to show him hawks soaring over the hedgerow. She’s gone. The woman who told Vic her dreams, cooked dairy-free for him, and slept beside him. Gone.
My new life is built on the solid foundation of the old. I imagined I would sell our property after Vic’s death, but I’m still here. I learned to drive the tractor, tend 71 acres of fields and forest, and hire help. My helper reopened trails Vic abandoned during his illness making paths to visit all the oldest trees. I became a woman of the land and found comfort there.
My relationship with solitude deepened as my hearing grew worse. I began losing hearing in the 1990s from inner ear pressure imbalance or Meniere’s Disease. My hearing stabilized long before Vic’s illness and for four years after his death.
I no longer enjoy noisy restaurants, concerts, and social gatherings. My high-tech hearing equipment is a godsend, but I cherish quiet conversation, small classes and groups, readings, and lectures rather than noisy environments. I can complain about the challenge or take it as opportunity. Writers and meditators need quiet, after all.
I learned to contain my irritability and impatience. Since I had no sparring partner, I had no choice. When sad or lonely, I turned to friends or family, but when grumpy, I took long walks with my dog Willow or turned to my journal. Ralph Waldo Emerson would applaud my self-reliance.
The new me worked to protect Seneca Lake from gas storage, a problem we hadn’t imagined when Vic was alive. I volunteered with Hospice and led hospice bereavement groups. I wrote about loss and bereavement instead of women’s health as I did in my Before life. I was honored to move into the belly of grief with others because I know some of the terrain and found renewal and possibility there.
“I’ll find a way to be OK without you,” I often assured Vic before he died. I’ve kept my promise.
Do you have Before and After moments in your life, a reference point where everything changed? I hope you’ll also enjoy these stories about my life After: My Mysterious Home and My Hector Home: Protecting the Forests of the Finger Lakes.