Parking in the Center of the Garage

I've never lived alone until now. My mother, who made the decisions for the whole family, thought it was not proper for a young single woman to live alone, so I lived with her until I was married. My husband and I were married for fifty-one years, and although he was away many times during his army career, I had our children with me and was not living alone in the strictest sense.

When my husband died, our grandson lived in our home and remained with me for more than a year, but recently he decided he would make the responsible move out on his own. Now, at seventy- plus, I am living alone, in complete charge of my home, my cat, my car and myself. I can park on the left side of the garage, on the right, or in the position I prefer, smack in the middle.

I have learned that lunch can occur anywhere from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and can consist of a salad, a sandwich or popcorn. Dinner can be anytime from 4:30 to 10 p.m., and can feature such delicacies as meat and veggies, bacon and eggs, or even cheese and crackers. For those of us living alone, dinner is usually stir-fry, or the more properly labeled "one-dish meal." The important thing about dinnertime is that it should not interfere with my regular evening tryst with Tom Brokaw.

Living alone, I can eat fully dressed or in my pajamas and socks. My dining table is round with four chairs. I rotate my seating - sometimes on the north side, sometimes south, west or east. No sense sitting in the same chair all the time. This way I can see the dining room from all perspectives. No one is offended if I read or work a crossword puzzle while eating.

I haven't moved to the center of the bed, since my cat, Lucy, prefers the right side. Also, the radio is on the left, and judging from the few times Lucy has taken over the controls, her selection of music does not fit my taste, so I will maintain my claim to the left side.

Bedtime is another adjustment that has occurred in the household. I can snuggle in at nine or midnight. Who cares? If I awaken in the night, I can read or view a movie without disturbing anyone. Although I have learned that late, late shows on HBO or Showtime are a bit too risqu for my tastes, the American Movie Classics channel occasionally has a tearjerker from the '40s that suits me perfectly.

I have to admit there are some negative aspects to living alone, such as having to wait for company to come to move large pieces of furniture, eating the same meal two or three times until the leftovers are gone, having no one to hold the cat while I perform a delicate procedure with the clippers, and having to remove the dead bird from the dryer vent myself. There is also the gable that needs to be painted from the tall ladder, the lost key to the shed that I couldn't possibly have been responsible for, and the clock on the VCR that continues to show the wrong time. There is also the matter of how to retrieve the cotton in my ear from the failed cotton swab and the notes I've had to post on the basement walls identifying each fuse and the water turnoff. There is no one to remind me what it was I was going to write on my "to do" list, and no longer an excuse to buy cookies and ice cream.

However, the deodorant and hairspray are always where I left them. I have time for myself to contemplate things, even if I have forgotten what it was I planned to contemplate. I have, in fact, established a new identity - not daughter, wife, mother or grandmother, but a separate person in my own right ME - still a work in progress.

Don't get me wrong; I love company and am thrilled when family or friends come for a short visit. But I really do love parking in the center of the garage.

© Louise Hamm


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