Mary Beth Writes

Yesterday I walked in the Prairie Home cemetery (which is only a few blocks from here). Cemeteries are beautiful places to walk; green and quiet. Time to reflect if one is feeling reflective. Or if one is feeling uncentered (who, me?) a cemetery can pull one back to the middle of what to think about and care for and pursue.

I saw a tombstone with the names of three daughters who died. Sophronia. What a beautiful name. What would those parents have given for vaccines and antibiotics?

Les Paul is buried in this cemetery. Those dots are guitar picks.

The photo I didn’t take was of an old man sitting in his parked car. The car was shiny clean and he was dressed sharp; navy shirt with a collar, gold watch on his arm resting along his car’s opened window. It seemed as if he was just sitting there thinking about or talking to someone. I said good morning to him, he replied with a cheerful hello.

There are many reasons why a nicely dressed 80ish man might be parked in a cemetery at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. But the obvious reason is the one that broke my heart.

Loneliness is hard. Loneliness takes one’s breath away. It empties out the place where one’s spirit lives. Sometimes it is a headache, a backache, dry eyes that are not looking for anything.

I recently read a review about a graphic book that explores the theme of loneliness. The book is “Seeking You” by Kristin Radtke. I have it on order at the library so if it’s good, I will let you know after I read it.

One of Radtke’s observations is that our culture has themes for loneliness. There’s the powerful, lonely man (John Wayne) who rides alone, take care of everyone else, then goes home to his empty bunk.

For women we have “the lonely princess” stuck in her castle who needs a prince to awaken and rescue her. (Any movie with Julia Roberts, for example)

Manly loneliness is powerful. Female loneliness is powerless. Good Grief. How many widowed women do you know still grieving their loss who keep going, keep contributing to their community, keep hanging out with friends, keep cooking healthy meals for themselves and sometimes for others? (Some of you are that person.)

And then there was Len’s grandfather, who, when long-suffering Helen passed away, immediately stopped eating anything except salted walnuts and stopped drinking anything except no-name bourbon and 36-packs of beer. Good at loneliness?

We recognize these stereotypes and most of us see their emptiness. Well, probably. Len and I started watching Mr. Robot and Lord Love a Duck, it’s about our new American cowboy - the lonely computer genius. Here we go again.

This is the sentence in the interview that really caught my attention. “Stories are how we draw ourselves closer to one another, and how we remember, and sometimes how we reshape.”

Stories versus loneliness. Telling ourselves who we were, who we are now, what happened back then, how we used to interact with our loved ones. Deciding for ourselves how and who and what we choose to remember – and who we intentionally choose to forget. Shaping and reshaping our stories.

“You're both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You're the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You're the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody's something, but you are also your you.” John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

How do you tell your story of being lonely? Are you a victim? Are you a person who fights through the brambles and thickets of loss to share, offer, laugh with, be kind to others? Are you a person in a relationship who often feels lonely? Do you look at your partner or kid or BFF and wonder if they even know who you are?

We are in a new and different quarantine. Until we know who is vulnerable, and how vulnerable, and until our kids are safe – here we mostly are. More alone than we expected to be. Still shaping and reshaping our stories.

...

This is the review.  

Comments

This is very good! Struck a nerve. The old man in the cemetery on an early Sunday morning brought tears to my eyes. Love the sentence about stories. I took a screen shot.
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks so very much.

Ah, loneliness. She and I have been come quite familiar with each other. It has been a journey of reshaping, and learning, and coming into one's own; embracing the story of who I was, and moving forward with what is, and who I am. Thank you. Patricia

My grandmother was the widow you described. After my grandfather died at age 61(I remember thinking he was old...now I've outlived him by a year and oddly don't feel old myself) my grandmother just kept on keepin' on. She cried every year on the date of his death and often when she spoke of him. She never dated anyone again although by today's standards she was still quite young. The blessed recipients of her need to stay busy and not be alone were my sister and I. Her home cooked meals were phenomenal as were her desserts, mainly cookies. I spent most weekends at her house by choice. Although we did not attend the same church, I often accompanied her to events and potlucks at hers. She wisely took my sister and I separately on vacations to close or faraway destinations so we each had special time with her. My parents were divorced and my mother worked full time plus. She had a boyfriend who took up much of her attention on the weekends. Looking back I can see that my own house felt lonely much of the time. I thank God daily for my grandmother who gave so willingly and lovingly. An end note: I had the blessing of having my grandmother until I was 39 years old.
Mary Beth's picture

This is beautiful and powerful. thank you. We are just back from a surprise (other kid-watching entities fell through for two days) caring for our little grandkids. I thought about your letter, and how powerful accepting grandparents can be in kids' lives.

How wonderful! Grandchildren and grandparents gain so much from their relationships with each other.

I've got Seek You on my nightstand, ready to be my next read. Let's confer after. I'm extremely interested (invested?) in this topic. Side Note: we take our dogs to a nearby cemetery to run around because we can walk to it and it's fenced in. Some neighbors object--but I remember reading that cemeteries were originally designed to be almost like family parks. I think it's sad that the ONLY reason most people visit them is to grieve. We have great fun there and many special memories (our kids ride their bikes there too) despite not having a personal connection to anyone buried within.
Mary Beth's picture

When one of our kids turned four, we did half their birthday party at the cemetery very close to our house then. It had a pond with ducks and geese and the kids ran around like nuts in that pond area. No one was traumatized. One would think folks "resting in their eternal repose" in cemeteries might like to hear kids running around. Also - I have Seek You also! I've read half of it and it is really, really interesting and good!

Add new comment

CAPTCHA

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Cabeza de Vaca & Company: A 500-Year Old Story for Our Time.

I’ve been thinking about Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca for years and I’ve also been thinking about him for a week.

It’s crazy out there in the world right now and people are, I think, kinda sick of each other. Racism, sexism, and classism are the muck we walk through to get to our cars while our climate is turning into flying monkeys. And the rich keep getting richer.

So let me tell you about a guy I admire.

Three Things 9/11/2021

The photo is from a trip to Arizona that Len and I took several years ago. His employer had said he had to take vacation time.  We sat here in our office not knowing where to go or what to do; it came up that fast. We looked up cheap flights from Milwaukee,; Phoenix popped up for $150 round trip. That was how we decided.

Of course, we rented a car and stayed in motels and ate in restaurants so no, it wasn’t a $300 vacation.

Three Things 9/3/2021

1. This morning I was texting with Franc about our heritages. He was born and raised in the Midwest although his ancestors are from Puerto Rico. Being the child of children of a Caribbean Island means he probably has Taino DNA as well as African and European. Heck, he probably has Phoenician and Viking and Pacific Islander because island people and sailors have always thought each other cute.

Three Things 9/2/2021

Regarding Texas: I’m so angry today.

From The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler

Hessler is making a case that a significant reason for the failure of Egyptian governments is because citizens are not looking for competent political leaders. They vote for men who lambast the “corruption and immorality” of present leaders. They vote for those who promise a “return to our traditional Islamist values.”

Three Things 8/25/2021

One:

Where did these damn fruit flies come from? I borrowed a 400-page book from the library yesterday and just finished it an hour ago. ONE fruit fly bumped me every twenty minutes through the whole damn tome. I hit at it every time it zipped past but I never zapped it.

I’ll get him (or her?). I put an inch of apple cider vinegar into a glass, covered it with plastic wrap, punched some tiny holes, set it next to our fruit.

Bugs bug me.

Two:

Is it really August already?

I woke up this morning feeling wistful. It’s the third week of August. Where did this summer go?

I have not ridden my bike even once (there are giant construction trucks all over my favorite route). We’ve hardly entertained friends at our Bistro (the apron of the garage that I painted last year). We’ve not traveled other than to see our kids. My six tomato plants are producing an unenergetic number of tomatoes. Didn’t see the Perseids. Didn’t serve umbrella drinks by our pool. Oh wait, we don’t have a pool.

Tag Cloud

9/11 17 minutes 500 Words AARPtaxes AAUW abortion Acadia accident Accountable Advent anniversary antlers apples Arrows Ashland August Augustine baby balance Baldwin Barkskins Beauty Becky Becoming Esther Berry birthday bistro BLM BookReport boy scout Bread BrokenDays BuyAngry Cabeza de Vaca Cahokia calendars Canada cat romance cats cello Choosing Christmas cilantro Cinnabuns circus clouds Clowns clutter Colonialism comet ComfortZone CommonSense consumerism Cops Corvid-19 Courage Covid-19 Crazy creditreport creosote CrimeShows death Debate December DecisionFatigue decluttering depression Destination Today Detroit disasterprep dollhouse Dreams Duty Easter eBay Eclipse EmilyDickinson Esquipulas exit polls eyes Fable FairTrade farmer firealarm Fitness Five Flexible flu Fort de Chartres frame Franc FrancGarcia friends frugal Frugality frustration Ft.Ticonderoga Gannets Garden GarfieldParkConservatory Gaspe genius geode GeorgeFloyd ghosts gorgons GovernorThompsonStatePark groceries Guatemala guns happiness HaveYouEver? Healthinsurance HelleKBerry heroes hike History home HomeRepair Honduras Hope HouseinBlueRiver hurricane impeachment Innkeeper integrity InternetPrivacy Interview InviteMe2Speak James Baldwin JoyceAndrews Judy JulianofNorwich justice Karen Lamb LangstonHuges LaphamPeak laundry LeeLeeMcKnight lemming Len Light Lincoln Little Women LockedOut Loki loneliness Love Ludington Macaw macho Manitoulin MargaretFuller Maria Hamilton Marquette marriage masks Mayan MayaWorks meme Memories MilesWallyDiego MindfulChickens Mistakes moon Mother MothersDay mouser movies museums must-haves Mustapha Nancy Drew New Mexico New York City Nomadland Ocotillo OscarRomero osprey Outside oximeter PastorBettyRendon Paul Hessert PDQ Penny persimmon poetry Preaching privacy Protest Quern quest Rabbit holes racism recipe recipes Remember Reruns responsetoKapenga Retirement rhubarb rime RitesofPassage Roses Ruth SamaritanWoman Sanctuary Sandhillcranes Santuario de Chimayo SaraRodriguez sculpture Sermon ServantsoftheQuest sewing Shepherd Shontay ShortStory sick sickness Slower snow Social Security SofritoBandito SpaceShuttle spring square feet staining stele Stereotypes StoryStarts stress Survival swim taxes teenager thankgsgiving Thanksgiving TheBridge ThePerpetualYou ThreeBillBoards ThreeThings TidalBore TimeBeing toddler Tom tortillas Trains travel Traveler Tubing turtle Twilight Bark Tyrone UnrelatedObservations urgency vacation vaccine Valentines vanilla Vietnam VivianWokeUpDrowning vole WalkingAndSeeing Wampanaog war WarsanShire weather weaving wedding WhyAttendChurch Willa WillaCather Wisteria
Ad Promotion