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Being single at age 70

The love of my life died suddenly after 52 amazing years together.

We traveled the world, living in many countries on assignment for periods ranging from two to four years. We retired happily to our home in Lake Oswego in 2004, surrounded by our family and friends. Life was good.

My health was and is excellent. Audrey my late wife, sadly, was not so fortunate with many progressive illnesses that did not allow her to have the same active lifestyle that I enjoyed but, we never allowed it to interfere with our ability to enjoy a full life, filled with joy and laughter. We were blessed with our own friends as individuals but mostly friends that we both enjoyed as a couple.

Suddenly for the first time since my 18th birthday, I had no partner. Also I had lived at home until I married my Irish wife, meaning that I had no clue how anything in the kitchen or utility room worked. HELP!

So, what does a new life mean to a 70-year-old? Is my life over? Do I remain fixed in time and live with the memories of what I had and how life was? Do I quietly or, if you are of that temperament, noisily rail against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes, proclaiming the misfortune and injustice of it all? Or do I quietly, when my brain eventually slows down from the shock of it all, take stock, and think who am I and what should my future be?

These last questions, if you think about it, hold the answer.

The future is what you — this strange newly single entity — needs. Hardly knowing how to boil water and having no clue about washing clothes — never mind ironing — does not help.

If you are really lucky like me, you are surrounded by warm, connected, supportive, non-dependent, loving and caring family and friends who want to defend, support and protect you from all the scary unknowns out there. However all of this support comes from a view of how they see you. You are now only half of the entity that everybody knew. So who are you, to you and to them, and is it different? What do you want, and can you be sure, as a “brand new you,” that you really know what you actually want?

It sounds complex and overwhelming, and it is. You could decide to continue life with minor preference choice changes; for example, should I be going to libraries versus going shopping at thrift stores; spend time outdoors versus staying indoors, etc., and remain confined within the life you have lived, consistent, stable and safe.

If you decide that you feel the need to approach life as you did when you were 17, then you have a problem. The good and bad news is that you are 70. In theory, you should be wiser, oh dear!

If, like me, you have had a blessed life full of loving, meaningful connections, then how can you be a single guy and do new things? Meet new people, even a possible future partner to share what is left of your life, and still maintain your father, grandfather and friend connections without losing any of their integrity? How will all of these beloved connections view it and deal with it?

I do not know the answers to these questions, yet. Only time can reveal them.

My philosophy for life has not changed with the death of my beloved life partner. I love life and life in return has loved me. I intend to face each day in the knowledge that I am blessed that I am still alive and able to step into whatever adventures may fall my way, good and bad. I want to live life to the fullest and bring all of my family, old friends and new friends along for the ride that will inevitably eventually conclude. With apologies of my abuse of part of a famous Dylan Thomas poem, I will not “go quietly into this good night.”

Roy Houston is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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