I was about 19 years old or so when I first met her. As usual I was lost in my book right there on a park bench, lost in another world. This frail, tiny bit of a being sat besides me with her beautiful white hair. I have always enjoyed a full head of white hair, vibrant, electric, mesmerizing!
She pulled out her brown lunch bag to eat a nicely wrapped sandwich. She was in the mood to chat, be friendly. Yes, I have a thing for seniors and babies as well. They can teach us so much about life, one how to re-discover what we have long forgotten about and another how to appreciate what we do have.
She asked about my age, my family without reservations and I did the same. I still have not forgotten her answer. She told me she was an only child, who came to the US after the war, an Auschwitz survivor. She showed me her numbers as if she was showing me a painting in a museum. I asked why she was eating alone and outside instead of home. She replied: “I never got married. I have no children and my family all died in the war. I am alone.”
At the time, I felt so sorry for her yet in awe of her. What is it like to go through life alone, responsible only for yourself with no one to turn to or depend on! We parted ways, and had many lunch breaks together during that summer. Such a brave soul she was! I wish I had asked her how she endured uncertainty, loneliness, aloneness, the secret to keeping her sanity.
I could not have imagined what she went through nor could ever taught meeting her would be the reminder I rely on every time I have to make decisions alone, where to go, what to do, how to proceed. It gets harder when you do have dependents. Your decisions affect them too. It is not solely about you.
My ex used to say I love to walk away, cut my losses and move on. I am great at cutting people off, moving from east to west, saying goodbye, letting go and never looking back. It is my answer to almost everything. If it is not working, leave. If it can’t be fixed or improved, let go. If you bug me or bring drama to my space, cut you off. If your presence brings me pain more than joy, walk away. I am good at letting go.
And maybe it is why it so difficult and the worst thing I have ever had to do in my life, holding on, making things work for us. I could pack my house in less than four hours and move to the next State. After all, I have no job, living off savings that are not being replenished. The day looms as the coffers empty out and something must be done. I am scared shitless. I have the answer, the usual answer. Cut my losses and go. Move. It is an answer that works. It fixes many things and will provide movement, growth, security, money what we do need to keep everything as it should.
I have been holding on to what hasn’t worked for about seven years, grinning and bearing, filled with uncertainty, crying every night because I know I am not appreciated where I am. I stayed though. I have been hanging on for dear life because they are happy. They are blossoming. They love it here, their friends, our church, their routine. And I love them. What more can I do to show them I love them!
So for me, holding on is worse than letting go. Much worse when in the end all it does is break you. ME! I will break for them. I will do what is does not come naturally, what must be done. I live for them. I breathe for their smiles, their joy.
That little lady looked content with her sort in life. She was free, not tied to anything or anyone. Are we brave for trying or brave because we held on when we had no reason to do so? I don’t know.
One thing is for sure when young minds depend on you, it is harder doing it alone. It would be so much better if you had someone you could turn to for answers, support, perspective. It gets scary too. Are you doing right by them, you wonder!
She would come to that park every day to be one with nature, to hear others’ stories, to connect. I wonder what became of her, who found her in her apartment on the day she lost her way, or maybe God was kind to let her go on a bench in the parks she won’t rot for days indoors; what became of her home, her belongings!
One connection. A lifetime of questions. Life sure is something isn’t it?