A Late Lesson
We were a love match. School sweethearts. We married young and within a few years, together we opened a men’s haberdashery. We worked hard and slowly made a success of it. A few years later, we had a son. He was a clever boy. We put him to work in the shop when he was old enough to wait on customers and handle money. You could say he grew up there. My husband expected him to take over the business. Our son had other ideas. The store was stifling for him. He had no interest.
Eventually, he went off on his own, pursuing a line of work more suitable to his talents.
We had a falling out. It was mostly with his father, but since he regarded us as an indivisible unit, he stopped talking to me, too. He moved far away. We never repaired our relationship. We were not close. I barely knew his wife or his children — my own grandchildren.
My husband didn’t seem to mind this loss too much. If his son had no use for the business, he interpreted it to mean he had no use for him, either. The business was his baby. Over the years, he nurtured it, dedicating many hours to making it thrive. I was always at his side, doing whatever I could do to help. But the vision was his. He knew where he wanted the business to go, and he was good at finding ways for it to get there. I did not resent that my own dreams never had the opportunity to manifest because, to be honest, I did not have any big dreams. I was content being a mother (until I wasn’t any longer), and being my husband’s helpmeet. This provided me all the satisfaction I needed in life. The business grew into a successful enterprise which allowed us to live an agreeable and secure life.
We grew old together, still working side by side in the shop. We continued to live, as we always had, in a comfortable apartment above the store. Over time, the world changed and it was harder to keep up.
Business had not been good for a few years already when my husband suddenly died.
I was completely lost. I had little idea how to run the store — what to stock, how to negotiate with suppliers, how to balance the books. We had almost nothing in savings – every last coin had been spent trying to remain afloat. My husband had been good at treading water. I began to drown immediately. It did not take long for the store to fail completely. Without any source of income, I soon lost the apartment, too.
At 83 years old, I was alone, without a home. I reached out to my son who was kind enough to send me a pittance, just enough to pay for a roof over my head, but not much more. I was grateful not to have to sleep on the street but in all other things, I was completely at the mercy of strangers. Most were not very merciful. I was sick and frail. I was consumed by the pain of loneliness. I’d worked hard my entire life. I’d been the good and faithful wife of a good and faithful husband. I’d lived in relative security and comfort. I did not understand how all this misfortune had befallen me so quickly. I resented the world for taking everything away from me. I became increasingly forgetful. Confused. It was easier to let go of reality which had become simply too painful to bear.
I was dead within two years. Two years which seemed to stretch out to an eternity. Two years which, looking back, defined my life more than the eighty three years lived before it.
Sometimes, life lulls you into a stupor and doesn’t give you the lesson until the very end.