Keep On Stepping: The Peculiar State of Widowhood's Challenge
Battle of Clontarf, oil on canvas painting by Hugh Frazer, 1826, Isaacs Art Center
The peculiar state of widowhood throws up many challenges, like what to do next. Two things, courage and movement, can help us decide.
Consider the old proverb: To get through the hardest journey, we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.
So I stepped. And it worked.
Following the death of my husband, I decided to stay on in Ireland for about a year and think of what I might do with my future. I was there because, when he was diagnosed and knew there was no cure, my husband returned from France, to the imagined bosom of his Irish family.
I knew I would eventually sell the house in the hills of southern France and move to another area of that beautiful country, or maybe go and live in Spain or Italy.
The first thing I did was to try and sell the big Citroen car we had brought over from France. I wanted it out of my life, even though there were so many wonderful memories attached to it. We had, during our years living in France, flung our bags into it so many times and toured vast areas of that huge (in European terms) country.
But nobody in Dublin, or indeed in Ireland, wanted it. Large, ultra-comfortable it may have been, but the left hand drive plus cost of importing it were major drawbacks. So the car sat in the underground car park, dust covering the bodywork, leaves blowing in, settling around the wheels.
Eventually, with no interested buyers, I offered it to someone. As a gift. But even they weren't interested. It was simply too big, too difficult to judge the road from the driving position.
Then, out of the blue, a friend of my brother's, living in Eastern Europe, was interested. A deal was done. The engine was perfect. I washed and polished the body until it gleamed.
On a stormy wintry morning, in a great silver flash, it was driven from the apartment complex onto the coast road towards the ferry at Dublin port, then a short sea crossing to England, later a ferry to France, and then, the long journey through perhaps five European countries, and a new home.
Back in the apartment, with a heaviness in my chest, a lump in my throat and a feeling of utter desolation, I wanted to crawl under the duvet.
But I did not.
Pulling on a woolly hat, scarf, gloves, heavy jeans, rubber boots and a waxed jacket, on that wild morning, I went out and walked the legendary Bull Wall in Clontarf, a long, long seafront walk, loved by the citizens of Dublin for hundreds of years. This is the area where the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, was slain in a battle against the Danes in 1014. On that particular morning, I felt I was battling too.
Turmoil. High tide. Harsh winds. The sea crashed over the wall of the promenade. Flotsam, jetsam, pieces of driftwood tossed about on the waves. Seagulls screeched and called, blown about by the force of the wind. Impossible that day to cross the old wooden bridge and go down to the golden sandy beach.
Walkers saluted and grinned as we passed each other, perhaps in recognition of some shared spirit of adventure, or possibly our eccentricity.
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