I worked for a man this weekend who was a widower for one month. He is 93 and his wife’s Memorial service is this coming weekend.
He told me he needed a companion, someone to fill the void I suppose. But it sounded so clinical and mercenary.
His buddy is looking for him. He had found someone in her twenties who seemed too young and one who was 93 who seemed too old so he was still putting feelers out.
There is another man I know, 85 and widowed. His wife died the year before. He had started going to the Senior Center in his community and met a volunteer there who is twenty five years his junior.
After three weeks he was talking about her moving into his home. She is going to meet the family over Thanksgiving.
I know how lonely aloneness can be. It can be a yawning chasm for someone who has spent a lifetime with a partner. Men seem to experience this more than women.
Most women can handle aloneness better. They have often felt alone in their previous relationships. Even those who had great experiences were comfortable in their own skins, maybe not every woman but most.
If an elderly person does enter a new relationship, it often progresses with speed. There isn’t a lot of hedging because mortality rears its head with no illusions.
It really bothered me how the first man was talking about his need for a companion even as he was arranging his wife’s memorial service. I suppose at 93 he didn’t need to learn the value of aloneness.
The freedom a solitary life brings can be very comforting. But people of a certain age may not be able to adjust. A man that has always felt like part of a unit may not be able to find pleasure as a single person. The former partner provided a cushion of support even if the wife did not feel as supported.
Being elderly can be a fundamentally frightening experience. A learning to ease into a confrontation with a mirror, facing the emptiness within may be more than a person can bear. It may not be enough to visit friends and know the members of one’s family, church or community group. Staring at the other side of the empty bed can be a bitter pill to swallow.