A neighbour of mine, a recent widow, recently died. I was sad to hear about her husband; I was shocked to hear about her.
"Did she die of a broken heart?" I exclaimed.
It would seem so. And I was surprised because she had adult children, young grandchildren, the home she has lived in for seventy years... But no. She just died. One day she stood up, she fell down and someone called an ambulance, but that was it. May she rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon her.
I knew a widow--my grandmother's best friend--who cried for her husband on her deathbed. Her husband died a lot later than my grandfather did--the widow never really had time to get used to it. Poor woman, it was really a terrible shock, even though the couple was in their eighties.
This will make Benedict Ambrose laugh, but one of the thoughts I had yesterday, as I gave up on a terrible weekend and £55, was how terrible my life could be if my husband died. Imagine if I had gone home from a weekend of being blanked to an empty flat, no kind man to tell me that he would never blank me himself, all the rest of my family at least three thousand miles away. Ick.
Naturally my emergency plan is the Benedictine of Ryde, but I cannot be sure they would go along with being my emergency plan, so my next recourse would be Canada, where my family is, and where I sincerely hope I could find a job among whatever Catholic organization I haven't alienated yet. Hopefully I could keep my "It's so much better in Scotland" remarks to a minimum although--to be frank--what could be more Toronto than loudly dreaming of some country far, far away?
I know a Single woman who has just turned 60, and when I last saw her, she was walking to the bus stop, going home from a night out at the theatre. I was going home from the first dance this weekend, and I recognized her by her beautiful long silver hair, piled in an elegant bun, her chic outfit and her high heeled shoes. She told me she had just put her 92 year old friend in a cab. It was hard for her to remember her friend was 92, and to stop heedless people into crowding past her friend, unaware that the friend's youthful appearance hid fragile, 92 year old bones.
The more I heard about this 92 year old, the more amazed I was. She was just back from a writer's conference up north; she had given an address, having written dozens of successful novels herself. And she loved dressing up, going out, and going the the theatre with such younger friends as my 60 year old friend.
Thinking now about this pair of chic, theatre-going Single women, aged 60 and 62, I feel rather pathetic. One is a retired art teacher who lives on her pension, paints beautifully and has got a splendid exhibit up. The other is a successful paperback novelist. Of course, they are Scots, and this has been their city for decades, but their survival--emotional or financial--does not at all depend on a man.
Oh dear, that sounded very feminist in a "fish needs a bicycle" kind of way, and let us hasten to remind ourselves that Gloria Steinem was rarely without a high-status male of one kind or another and eventually married--some time after she had plastic surgery, I recall, although apparently she had a really good excuse for that: folds of fat making contact lenses impossible, or something.
However, I am impressed that these Edinburgh women have managed to get it all together in a way I have not, and I hope that some of their self-reliance rubs off on me before it is too late!