Today’s title popped into my head as shades of Macauley Culkin, that Home Alone kid who gave Alan and I so many laughs the night or two we happened to pop into watching an old movie. This past year has been a year of letting go, with my husband in a nursing home. His dementia had made it impossible for me to take care of him at home. He passed recently, and even though I’ve been living with myself for the past year, it is still a hard goodbye. Visiting him had become the major purpose of my life this past year, so he wouldn’t feel quite so lonely not being where he wanted to be, at home.

So I’m home alone, except for my big protective dog, and while there are not two shady crooks trying to break into my place, the ups and downs of having to manage life by myself manage to wreak havoc in a similar way. I used to tell Alan while he was in the nursing home, that he was my rock, and I was missing my rock in a big way. Alan had all the practicalities of running life down pat. So my thing became asking myself the question, “What would Alan do?” I got many good answers that way. Another part of the equation became the miraculous meeting just the right person who knew the answer I needed. If I listened and acted on the idea, things came right. My biggest problem sometimes is not considering all the data presented to me. When I make an error, I may have to spend considerable time undoing the stupid thing I’ve done. Not fun.

Alan lived life quietly, but he always seemed to me to live large within that quiet framework. Maybe he was not always that way, but it was who he was when I met him twelve years ago. I was leading a healing group in a small village where he had decided to retire in order to be closer to his family and the ski slopes that he loved. He, too, was an energy healer. We met when the group I was leading attended a workshop he gave at the Catskill Mountain Foundation at the tale end of 2009. He called it “The Healing and Mystery Workshop.” I loved the way he could put words together. I did not know it then, but he had a degree in Creative Writing. He had also managed to earn his Master’s in Psychology at the school then titled Institute of Transformational Psychology. Alan held many roles, professional and private, in a life that was not afraid to take on something new or make a change when the old got stagnant. I attribute the many good things he did in his life to his innate curiosity, an ability to ask disturbing questions that always got at the truth, and the effort to always do his best at whatever project he undertook.

Alan was a good husband, but not always easy to please. He set high standards, and once he had a set idea about something, he was insistent upon working things out that way. He would listen to my good ideas and suggestions, but inevitably I had to listen through his ideas first, just so he could assure himself I understood the concept. Both of us like to be right. Always he was my go-to person when I needed to simplify the complexity of my own thought process. During one of our deep conversations in the nursing home, he said this was why we worked so well, that we are both creative people who approached ideas differently.

Despite the challenges of this past year, I am grateful that I had this remaining time with him. We got to say everything that we needed to say. We expressed our love freely and well, not being under the same roof to constantly trigger each other. We had time to say what needed saying, and when the dementia got to the point Alan had few words to express what was in his heart, we had music. We spent many hours listening to music that we both loved, from Classical to 60’s Rock and Folk. Alan had at one time lined up musicians for an Upbeat Cafe hosted by the Catskill Mountain Foundation.

Circumstances could prove serendipitous in putting things together to provide happiness for Alan, despite my sadness that he was in the home. On his birthday, I made his favorite cake and it just happened that his brother was available to visit that same day. Alan smiled for a week on that one. These small things left happy memories for me to reflect on now that he has crossed over.

I opted for a simple cremation, because the family lives far apart. His daughter arranged for the family to get all in one place for a Zoom Memorial in which she asked all the attendees to provide stories of Alan, as I had not known him as long as they had. There was the time he put his cat in the lake to see if he could swim. The cat could, but was mad at Alan for the water insult. There was Alan’s generosity as a host. He provided exquisitely cooked food to friends and family who came to see him. There was his love of skiing and gift of teaching skiing. When we came together, Alan had not done much gardening, but entered into the fun wholeheartedly when I expressed the wish to grow things again. Together we put up a fence to keep out the deer and laid out what they call a “lasagna garden” because of the way you lay out compost, fertilizer, mulch, and peat moss in layers you can directly plant in without tilling or breaking the soil. We did some traveling, most notably to Buffalo to encourage the completion of my father’s estate. It took a while and a lot of perseverance, but in the end the lawyer whom my father had named as co-executor had to repay the estate $18,000. The lessons in all that Alan taught me by the way he lived his life is that there is very little you cannot achieve if you put your complete attention, body and soul into the effort.


One response to “Home Alone”

  1. My heart goes out to you. I lost my husband a few years back!

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