Source: Huffington Post
I’ve never met Leslie Delamater Anderson Aitken, but we’re friends on social media. We’re both in our 60s, we like to write, and we’ve been stand-up comediennes. However, her life didn’t turn out as she planned, and now she writes about dealing with loneliness. She relates this story as a reminder for us to reach out to those who didn’t receive flowers and gifts on Valentine’s Day. She calls it “Fading Away.”
by Leslie Delamater Anderson Aitken
I was 23 and married for a year when we moved to our first house in 1976 in southern California. Across the street, an aging widow lived alone in a tiny home only 650 square feet that she and her husband had built in the early 1930s. Her name was Avie, she was in her late 70s, and she had lived alone for more than 40 years.
She was short in stature, partly because of a severe curve in her spine, probably due to osteoporosis. She had been quite the gardener in her day. There was a big blue spruce in the front yard, a rarity for the area, and also a Cedar of Lebanon in the back yard, a persimmon tree and a black walnut tree, along with many very old rose varieties. She even had some lilies of the valley and a couple of rare Jack-in-the-Pulpits.
I would wave at Avie when I saw her outside wearing her big sun hat and watering her yard while balancing with her cane. I said hello a few times, but never really spoke to her other than the occasional greeting. One night her house was broken into by a couple of young thugs who knocked her to the ground, put a love seat on top of her, and stole a can of pennies. They fled out the back door, leaving it open.
A neighbor heard her very faint whimpers, and he told me later he thought it was a cat under her house. He found her and called for an ambulance. Avie never returned to the little house that she built and shared with her husband and where she planted her gardens. She went to a nursing home and passed away the following year.
Through the years, I’ve thought a lot about Avie, and I felt guilty because back then I was young and too busy to reach out to her. I should have stopped to talk with her as she worked in her yard and I never considered the many days and nights that she spent alone, never wondered if she was lonely, never asked if she needed any help with anything.
Now my children have grown up and moved away, and I am divorced. I have only left my house twice in the last two weeks, and in that time I have only talked, in person, to two people who know me. In that same two weeks that I have only eaten two meals in the company of other humans. Those were when I was so lonely for human companionship that I went to eat at a restaurant, not so much for food, but just to be around other people and to hear other voices than my own talking to myself or my pets.
Have I inadvertently picked up the long forgotten baton of solitude left behind by Avie Abbot? How did this happen to ME? And is this how we start to just fade away into the oblivion of someone that people used to know? I’m reminded of a verse in a familiar song: “I am … I said to no one there. And no one heard at all, not even the chair.”