Last night my oldest daughter Garima left for Geneva, where she lives, after a three week long stay. As her visit drew to a close, the usual sympathetic comments from friends and relatives fell on my ears like acid rain:'It's going to be lonesome when she leaves...Oh well...she'll only come back after a year...Lucky you, your youngest lives in Delhi, some consolation, etc. etc...'
I made the appropriate noises and inwardly gnashed my teeth. Right, it's a truth universally acknowledged that Aged Ps are condemned to the unrelenting gloom of a solitary existence when the little birdies spread their wings and fly off to distant places. Particularly mothers. My own mother was consumed by loneliness, living by herself in a deserted neck of the woods and I was consumed by guilt that I couldn't do enough to relieve it.
Over the years I have encountered so many discussions on the miseries of an old age sans the comfort of your children's loving presence that I sometimes wonder how people retain their sanity at all. Just a few days ago I read a rather chilling short story, "Toga Party" by John Barth, about an aging couple who enter into a suicide pact because they cannot bear the thought of living on without the other. Their children live far away and don't care enough.
All this makes me almost feel guilty that I can be quite comfortable in my solitude. Of course, I miss my daughters and my two grand kids. But I can enjoy my own company too, thank you! How else would I manage to write a word? Or read? Or simply daydream?
Solitude sets you free to be yourself, without the pressure of living up to roles that you have acquired in the course of your existence or been compelled to. It gives you space to breathe as deep as you wish. That's the way I feel.