Unfledged

That was weird.

This morning, for the first time in my almost-53 years, I went to the grocery store and bought groceries for myself. For only myself. TV dinners were on sale. I found myself thinking, “I should get some of those for… oh, right. Never mind then.”

It’s only been a week, so I’m still not adjusted. I’ve come home every day to an empty house – another first. No child, no husband, no boyfriend, no parents, no sisters, no roommates of any kind. I am the only human who lives here.

Well, there is the dog. One bit of mercy, at least. He didn’t leave me. He still greets me at the door when I get home. But no human is here nor will one be here. I wake up to an empty house, I leave an empty house, and I come home, eat supper, and go to bed, all in an empty house.

In the past week, I haven’t slept well. My stomach has hurt far more than usual. My head aches, empty yet congested with too many thoughts at the same time. And I keep imagining monsters. Every noise, especially when I’m in bed, makes me jump. What is it? A gloved hand, reaching around the door, coming to strangle me, and no one’s here to know. A stranger with a knife, looking to cut someone.  If I died, who would know? How long would it take them to find me?

Meanwhile, back at the grocery store, I could have bought anything I wanted, but I didn’t. I bought some fresh vegetables, fruit, chicken, and ginger ale, trying to keep it mild to settle my stomach. I did not buy TV dinners or Dr. Pepper or any of the other things I don’t eat but that have been part of my list for so long. I have to remind myself not to pick them up.

At home, I’ve been cleaning. Sweeping, dusting, moving some furniture. Life is different now, and having a house that looks different will help me remember. It’s hard to get used to being alone.

I have to remind myself.

They warned me not to post about what happened because it might “hurt someone’s feelings”. But not speaking of it would hurt my feelings. Whose feelings are more important? Whose matter more? I’m female, I’m a mother, I’m supposed to be the bigger person and swallow my own pain so it doesn’t make it worse for anyone else involved. I think that’s why grocery shopping was so weird. Women, especially mothers, should put everyone else first. Going to the grocery store is a womanly chore. You should buy food to nourish your children, your spouse, your parents, and anyone else who happens to be in your home at dinner time. And while you’re there, buying food for everyone else, it’s okay to buy a little food for you. Much better to buy the food while you’re there, saving time and gas money, than to make a separate trip to purchase food for yourself. That would be unacceptably selfish.

Going to the grocery store only for yourself is such a selfish act. It’s so anti-female. Anti-mother. I’m supposed to buy food for others, I’m supposed to protect others’ feelings. I should never worry about my own. A woman must feed everyone else first, then she can eat. Make sure everyone else is happy and safe and fed, and then… hmm. What then? When everybody else is gone, what do I have? What do I do?

Most children grow up and move away, but most parents know about it. No one warned me. They didn’t give me a chance to prepare. Maybe I could have found something else to focus on instead of being left with nothing.  For almost 21 years, I’ve been a mom. But now it’s over, my feathers all plucked and stolen, and I cannot fly.  I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to think. I wander in circles and forget to remind myself why.   

It’s just weird.

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