A Contented Life

She had had the good fortune to be widowed at the perfect age, she said. At sixty-three she was old enough to have raised her children, paid for her home, and established a nice little next egg. And yet she was still young enough to have her health, to be physically active, and mentally sharp.

It was just over two months ago that her husband died suddenly on the golf course one sunny Thursday afternoon. It was not the cancer that killed him after all, but a heart attack. She had since put her home up for sale and made an offer on a nice little bungalow in an up-scale resort community on the Gulf of Mexico. Some of their friends were shocked by this behavior but, as she said, they had really been his friends.

For the first time in her life she answered to no one, was responsible for no one, and did as she pleased. Her generation had not reaped the benefits of Gloria Steinem and the feminist movement. They had grown up in a world that dictated what their future would be: daughter, wife, mother. She had, she said, earned her happy life the old fashioned way. She had done her duty as an uncomplaining and efficient wife, a loving and conscientious mother, and a patient and solicitous care giver in her husband’s last days. With his death she was at long last able to become the person she had always known herself to be.

Her children did not approve of her unfettered happiness. They would chain her down with familial guilt and responsibilities if they could. Her son was extremely annoyed with her because she manages her own finances without his help. But after all, she said, she has managed to run their home, educate them, and still put enough money aside to be financially independent of them. Considering how meanly her husband counted out the household allowance each week of their lives together, it was a miracle what she had accomplished.

Today had been an exciting day. She had accepted an offer on her home and it had been a good price. She closed the front door behind her and placed her purse in the corner cabinet where she always kept it. A glass of wine as she prepared an omelet for her supper would be nice, she thought, a small celebration of the day’s events.

Just outside the kitchen doorway she stopped. A half empty baby bottle sat on the kitchen table. She took a couple of steps closer and saw an over-stuffed diaper bag on a chair. A folded play pen leaned against the chair.

In the sun room beyond the kitchen she saw her daughter pacing as she patted the baby nestled on her shoulder. The baby had been crying and its little body gave a small jerk with the occasional hiccup. Her daughter looked at her watch, paused, then resumed pacing.

She stood quietly for a moment deciding what to do. Without a word to her daughter, she turned down the hallway toward her bedroom. From the closet she removed an overnight bag, the emergency bag she had kept packed and ready all through her husband’s illness. She returned to the living room, bag in hand, and retrieved her purse. She glanced one last time toward the kitchen and the sun room beyond then left the way she had come.

She would check into the Battle House Hotel, she decided. What better way to celebrate her good news than with a nice dinner and a glass of fine wine. After all, the offer on the little bungalow had been accepted.

©Rebecca Campbell Barrett / Nov. 2009

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