Local Community Life Lifts the Sad Spirit

My street is a local tourist walk

The first rule for travelling with grief (because it is impossible to shrug off  the process) is to get out of the house regularly.

Friends have been fabulous taking me to small social events, but it is a bigger step to take oneself out of the house and do something alone. Puppy Oscar has been  a big incentive to take to the pavement, which is what I did this morning by walking to the corner store for a pot of tea and raisin toast. Obviously it is just as easy to stay home and make oneself a cup of tea, so there needs to be an understanding that recovery is stepping back into community life.

A study of seniors aged 55 by the powerul lobby group, National Seniors, bears this out. It has revealed that the type of neighbourhood you live in is related to your general health, mental health and quality of life. Let me tell you about something remarkable which happened this morning, at the delicatessen, which convinced me of the need to spend more time walking to places other than down the lonely path at the top of the Belair quarries.

I am sitting reading Saturday’s Advertiser under the veranda at The Vines shopping centre at Belair.  Puppy Oscar is sitting at my feet, looking cute as a toy poodle can be.  Various older people stop and pat the dog, but they don’t engage with me.  Then a youngish woman, of say 50 years of age, stops and starts talking to Oscar.

“Aren’t you just the cutest puppy,’’ she says when I offer the information that he is only eight months old.

She is wearing a smart track suit – pink pants and a crisp, clean white top with a pink motif across the chest.  I silently vow to buy a smart track suit comme sa for my walking exercises instead of the dull beige baggies and patterned cardigan I am wearing.

My eyes are  moist as I had been talking to Erica, the local chemist, who had prepared Olivier’s Webster packs each fortnight and she has lavished me with sympathy, which triggers tears. However, her  kindness helps me feel part of my  community.

The whippet-thin stranger with her fuzzy fair hair, asks me puppy’s name and says she is a dog-lover and that she has an email address, which begins “paws….’’ .

She seems so lively that I ask if she would like to join me, but she says she is a professional netball coach and is snatching something to eat between games.   I mull over how lovely it would be to feel so vibrant and I feel  compelled to explain my sombre mood, sharing that I am a new widow and trying to adjust to my new state of being by latching myself to café life.

“I lost my partner in February,’’ she confides.

I am gobsmacked that this lovely, friendly personality is a widow, too.

“He dropped dead at our garden gate from an aneurism in his heart.’’

This strikes at my own heart and now I am filled with compassion for her.

“That is absolutely dreadful!,” I say, genuinely shocked. “How old was he?’’

“He was 51.”

Being a journalist, it comes naturally to ask questions and I boldly ask her name. “Janine.’’ She responds.

I would guess she would not be 50 yet and here she is a widow.  And she has no children to cushion her aloneness. Only her professional life.

What an awful life blow.

“We have been together 16 years.’’

Janine is tearless, but her tone is coated in sadness.  I mentally count “five months’’ and ponder that she  can talk about this shocking event in her life in a calm manner.

What serendipity to link us together!  Two widows exchanging our stories on the pavement. And she strengthens me in the belief that I will recover like Janine in a few more months.

We part exchanging our email addresses and I hope we will keep in touch, despite the age difference.

I pick up doggie’s lead and turn to walk home, spirit slightly lifted knowing I am not alone in my feelings.



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