Surviving without support system
It has been more than four years since my wife died and I am still living alone in the same lowly bungalow and sleeping in the same bed she died in.
I’ve thought about moving many times, even started packing up a couple of times, but the will and the energy vanished. And so here I remain, not entirely alone, with my cat Bella — the same pictures on the wall and the same photos on the mantel and my wife’s clothes still in the closet — including the red coat she wore the day before she died. Everything is the way she left it.
Memories keep me going. And I have my responsibilities — looking after Bella, filling her food dish and water dish every morning, feeding the birds, the overflowing bird feeder also providing breakfast for squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs and deer—
—friends one and all, even the gang of garden snakes (technically ‘garter’ snakes but I prefer to call them garden snakes) that live under the porch steps.
Surrounded by this wildlife, I am Guglielmo of Assisi, as I have my coffee on the back patio, secluded and protected by the rampart of a rocky hill at the end of the backyard and the towering trees that surround the house. This is a house of Zen contemplation and spiritual reverie.
I like the location of this house — in a hamlet (that’s the official designation; cool word hamlet) — one hour and 40 minutes by train from Grand Central Station in the core of the Big Apple — whenever I want to take a walk on the wild side.
One thing is for sure, I know Bella doesn’t want to move from here. She’s a Zen cat from way back. She loves this house, with its six rooms and nine windows. I wrote about that on these glass pages, how she’s writing (don’t ask me how) her autobiography ‘From Window to Window.’
‘Leave this house for a crappy apartment with maybe one or two windows,’ she said to me. ‘No way, cat daddy.’
So be it. I stay here with Bella and the ghosts of my wife and my son and my two brothers. They join me at cocktail hour and we all get drunk. Well, Bella doesn’t get drunk, but she enjoys the company.
I am aware that by living alone with a cat that cannot dial 911 and where no one ever drops in and where phone calls from distant relatives are few and fatally far between, I run the increasingly age-driven risk of being stricken in my own home and my body going undiscovered for weeks. That bothers me — the indignity of that.
But still, like Bella, I say to myself, ‘Leave this house? Over my dead body.’