Sunday, April 25, 2010

Unbound Ties

I used to have friends. There were my friends from work, grad school, my work with the PTA and a volunteer at the boys' school, the school where my husband taught, fellow parents on the teams my husband and I coached and from the other groups my husband and I participated in - he sang semi-professionally and I was a CASA (court appointed special advocate for abused and neglected kids). So I'd often go out to meetings, dinners or lunches with these various groups of people. And I very much enjoyed seeing my husband perform. There was plenty of healthy interaction among adults including the exchange of knowledge and ideas. I felt respected and valued in the world and that I was a contributor for the overall good of man.

After my husband's death it didn't take very long for these ties to sever. Immediately the connections I had with my husband's school and performing groups ended. Then as it became more and more time consuming to volunteer, I stopped doing so and lost those connections as well. My shortened free time was spent between parenting on my own, working part time and doing what I could for my parents (mainly my mom prior to her death).

I'm relating all this now in a way to prove to myself that I used to be a stimulating member of society - I had it once. But that circumstances ended up making it very difficult to maintain social interactions. And now I feel as though I really have so little in common with those I used to socialize with.

Sitting on the bleachers during games I overhear snippets of conversations. One that grabbed my attention was that of the volleyball team mom talking about her various trips/vacations the past few months. There was skiing in Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan and then some place else too. Now I have only been to Michigan for a week's vacation in the past seven years. Hearing this woman talk made me feel sad as well as jealous.

Then there was the mom talking about the major stress she was feeling because of the remodeling going on with her home. "Let me tell you about stress," I wanted to say but I know it is all relative and relates to the experiences you are facing. Still...

After all this time I no longer look, see or perceive the world in the ways I did before widowhood. I am certainly not the same person by a long shot. A woman I had lunch with (chicken salad on croissants) at her home only a few years ago looked right through me when we passed one another at a recent band concert. Another "former" PTA and sports friend recently asked me where I had moved and since then hasn't spoken a word to me.

It is weird to participate in a world you used to be a full part of but now are there only on the fringes - almost like an observer looking in. I no longer feel that comfortable speaking up in conversations - what could I say to the woman whose family has been fortunate enough to get away four times since January? I no longer own a home so the woman stressed out with the workmen doing the remodeling wasn't much of a conversational draw for me. What could I contribute?

My oldest son was in a remedial math class with about 18 kids. He told me that all of his classmates were lower income kids. When I attended the school's open house I was the only parent visiting that classroom! When I first moved into this apartment complex I looked in the high school phone directory to see who lived here. With only one exception, all the families attending my sons' school are headed by single moms, myself included. I bring this up because I believe it is so hard to be an only or a single parent. There just isn't time to volunteer or sadly, to attend a school open house. And then those friendships become too challenging to maintain and you stop getting included anyway.

Friendships by the wayside - another casualty of widowhood.

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