Sunday, February 15, 2009

Without a Valentine

Some days -- notably, American holidays -- are intended for pairs, partners or families. Without a partner, without close family links, it is no wonder that holidays bring on depression in lonely souls. It's easy to lock yourself up (literally or figuratively) and feel sorry for yourself.

It takes more effort to think of those holidays as times for reaching out to others, known and unknown. By reaching out, the overwhelming awareness of what you don't have -- no longer have -- perhaps never had -- is lessened by the joy in the faces and voices of those to whom you reach out. The shadows disappear for awhile in the light that fills your life, at least momentarily.

So Valentine's Day was a solitary day. My mother commented at breakfast that she used to have heart-shaped cake pans (they are now in my pantry in California), used to put heart-shaped candies on the table set with red-and-white linens. But not any more. It was not clear whether it is too much effort, or if she has lost the spirit with the loss of affection for my father.

But I made my weekly telephone call to a solitary friend in California, and heard her voice brighten. I visited my father, and saw the joy in his eyes that I -- someone he recognized as belonging -- had arrived. I talked to a cousin in Colorado, a daily event that goes a long way to keeping me sane. We help each other grope through the shadows of widowhood. I am making friends at the nursing home where my father is resident. Mr. Ally, who has the bed next to my father, spends all day in front of the elevator where his daughters have assigned him as greeter. He beams when I greet him by name. Charlotte is another long term care patient who sits most days in her wheelchair near the nursing station. She seldom speaks, only sometimes acknowledges, but when she smiles and waves it is another reward. I can make a difference.

Reach out. Look for positives. Give thanks. Pray.

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