So it’s friday and the weekend is upon us once again. Here’s my truth about weekends if you are single. They are basically not my favorite two days of the week. On weekdays I get up, go to work, exercise, eat meals, talk to friends, blah blah blah. On the weekends I notice how many couples there are and how few single people I see around. Starting Thursday night I review my calendar to see if I have enough events on it to travel through the weekend in a happy state. Here’s the reason why this is. SHAME! It is the shame of the single people. For those of us who live alone there is a common element of shame as we believe somehow we are defective for living in this state. We make excuses for it, we deny we are bothered by it, we act as if we couldn’t be happier to be sitting alone in a restaurant or movie theater, but actually we are all ashamed we find ourselves alone at this point in our lives. I know, I know…there are a lot of folks who will argue and say they are perfectly happy with their single lives. They have no desire to live with anyone else. They feel no shame whatsoever. I don’t believe them. I don’t believe if any single person is asked the question about their life they will answer in the negative. You wonder, what is the question? Here it is. If you could live with someone whom you loved and who loved you, would you want this? If there was someone home at the end of the day who was happy to see you would you want this? If you had a stroke in the middle of the night would you want to have someone there to call 911 for you? I doubt there is a single person who could honestly say they did not want this in their lives. I think all of us do better in a relationship even if the relationship happens to be with an animal (pet). Life is better and feels happier when we have someone in the house with us. Some friends who are married and don’t dare leave tell me I am wrong in this. They tell me how lonely they are living with their spouses. I ask them why they don’t leave and they say it is because of the money. They are afraid they won’t have enough to live with. I understand this as I understand fear. Having a lot of money makes life infinitely easier. Having a lot of money and living in a fearful state is not a good thing. Living with someone you don’t love because you are afraid of being alone is very common. Many people are in marriages where they feel little comfort and little joy. They stay because they don’t believe they have a choice. They stay because that is what they were raised to believe was the right thing to do. They stay and then they have affairs and lie about them. They stay and sometimes fall in love again with their spouse but it is often too late for the spouse. I still think it is better to live with someone else than not because there is a lot of stress to being single. It is easier on friday night to not have to plan for something over the weekend. If you are living with someone it really doesn’t matter if you have a plan as you can hang out with your partner and be fine. You don’t have to suffer from the panic of no plans!
I know this column will not be a great success with either the single group or the married one. Neither group wants to hear about unhappiness or loneliness for that matter. Most people want to read about solutions to problems they are suffering with. I have solutions to this problem as well. Sure, there are lots of solutions. Become religious! Go to church on Sunday! Join a walking club and walk all weekend! Volunteer! Make plans with other single friends. I think the biggest solution to this problem is to admit the problem exists. The first step is admitting to the loneliness and moving on from there. I meet people all the time who tell me how lonely they are but they only tell me after a long dialogue about how full their lives are. They only tell me when I admit how I may feel on any given day myself. I think there should be a single people’s hot line where we each have a call list. Just like people who are about to take a drink or use drugs and need help not to do this, we should have a number to call when we are lonely. There should be a matching service with other singles who want to do something at that moment! We could find each other and go out for dinner or to a movie. There would be no shame. As long as we no longer have families who care for their parents as they get older we need to find other ways for single people to find companionship aside from Match.com. There is a large group of us out there range in in age from 50 or so on up. We are the fastest growing demographic using the internet. Single people of the world, unite! We can conquer this.Call me!
You would have to be hiding under a log at this point in time not to notice what is going on in our economy. I am not an economist. Far from it. I actually failed math for several years and had to go to summer school. Once my seventh grade teacher caught me cheating by copying an answer from a fellow student during a math test. I was terrified but had been more terrified to fail math once again. I don’t have to look at anyone else’s analysis of our current stock market to feel things are not right. There are too many people out of work to balance our economy. I think Americans have such a short attention span for any type of deprivation that we are just going about our lives pretending we have good jobs and lots of money in the bank. I see people shopping again in stores and going out to dinner in good restaurants, particularly here in California. People are saying isn’t it great things are back on track. No one is saying lets keep our heads down and hope for the best which is what we should be saying. The stock market is so overinflated at this point there is no value at all. Stocks have gone much higher than they should have as the value in corporations simply isn’t there. Production has picked up incrementally but consumers shouldn’t really be buying. What should be happening is a hunkering down for winter and a real reluctance to spend more money. We should all be saving what we have and trying to figure out where to invest what we have before we lose it. Trust me on this. The bad times are not over. I think they are just beginning. I hope I am wrong as that would be a good thing. I can’t find one reason to believe I am wrong as I have no faith in our President or our Congress. Both forces would like to think they have actually turned things around. I have no faith in them. I have faith in the fact that all around me people are losing their jobs an dhave no savings to use for the hard times. There are so many peopel who have been out of work for a very long time. People are applying for food stamps left and right. Why is there this myth happening that all is right with the economy? I don’t get it. We should be telling people to save more and spend less right now in order to prepare for winter.
It has been a while now since I returned from Painted Post and the birthplace of my grandfather and I am still mulling over what I discovered on the trip. Someone asked me today what I had learned from the experience and I replied I had gained compassion for my grandfather and an understanding of his character.I hadn’t realized what I had learned until the moment I replied to the question. Sometimes in life we go on journeys and have no idea what we are looking for nor what we hope to find. That’s what my visit to Painted Post was for me: an odyssey. I think I wanted to find an explanation as to why we had all but forgotten my grandfather once he was dead. We didn’t honor his birthday or his day of death. We didn’t visit his grave. No one seemed to want to tell stories about him. There were no photo’s in our house of him, only a large painting which was eventually placed under a white wooly blanket in the attic. Nope, nothing…Once he was dead he was forgotten for the most part. Strangely enough, stories about him were missing in our childhood lore. In my original family we tell stories all the time about my father and my children are very familiar with his past and some of the funny or unusual things he did. We often tell them again when we are reminded of him in some way. We do this because we want to keep his memory alive and he was an interesting and funny man. I don’t think my grandfather was very funny or even a tiny bit funny. As a matter of fact I don’t remember my father telling one funny story about my grandfather.
Once I saw the farm where Grandfather had grown up I understood his character better as I could imagine the routine life held for his family in Painted Post. The land is extremely beautiful and I am certain the farm required a lot of constant work. I think a farmer’s life is soothing in its routine and stressful in the rigors of raising crops and tending animals. My grandfather was a man of strict discipline and dedication to every detail of starting a company. He kept up a schedule most of his life that any person would have trouble following for one week. I like to think every now and again he stopped, sat down, and enjoyed himself but somehow I doubt it. He was a child of rather new immigrants to this country who had changed their name from “Wasson” to “Watson”. The original name of Wasson was still on the deed to the farm which was displayed inside a glass case in the front hall of the homestead. I find this name change endearing and wish I could have been a part of the family discussion around this issue. I wonder who thought of the name change first?
It is interesting to wonder why certain families hold their history close to their heart, nurturing and protecting the stories through careful retelling and remembering ,while others let them die a quiet death.
I spent the morning at the Homestead with Dawn and Neil and was given a tour of the place. I saw the one room schoolhouse where my Grandfather went to school located on the property. I imagined him walking there each day probably under the supervision of one of his older sisters holding leather strapped books and maybe a lunch pail. I can’t imagine him with hair. I wish I had been able to find a picture of him as a young man. The only ones I have see are when he was in his 70’s and one that showed a younger man probably about 30. Of course people in that day looked older than we do today and they never smiled in photographs. They stared solemnly at the camera as if they were afraid of moving one inch.
There was a picture of my Grandfather with Grandma Moses in the old schoolhouse and I remember that he owned a few of her paintings. I have always wondered if he was a chauvinist as many men of that generation but have the feeling my Grandmother kept him on the straight and narrow. There is a story about how during the war IBM lacked enough factory employees and my Grandmother suggested hiring more women which they did. IBM also had some of the first female executives in the business world. Everything I saw made me want to know more about his childhood in this peaceful valley where he was raised.
Why, I wondered, did he decide at the end of his life to buy his childhood home and create this place where people might gather and enjoy the spiritual nature of life? He left specific covenants as to how it should be used and a generous amount of money to support it. I am grappling with the very strange idea that none of my family cared to visit after his death? Why is this? Why didn’t my father bring us here to show us the farm, the schoolhouse and what had been created?
I am going to think about why the death of my grandfather was a true death in that his memory was not perpetuated by his offspring. Some years ago I was driving around with my daughter in an attempt to entertain her as she had suffered a head injury and wasn’t supposed to do anything strenuous. We were on a highway driving rather aimlessly when I saw a sign for the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and I remembered my grandparents were buried there.
We exited the freeway and drove to the cemetery parking in the small lot outside the caretaker’s cottage. The caretaker let us know we had only a half hour to see the graves as the place was closing for the day. He took us inside and looked up the correct plot in a thick, dusty book finally showing us on a map where my grandparents graves were located. Annabel and I got back into the car and with Annabel as the navigator we drove through flower beds, shade trees and many leaves still unable to find the right plot. The caretaker had noticed our lost path and came down to guide us correctly to the plot. He told us it was “right down the path from Carnegie.”
The plot was untidy with overgrown trees and a lot of weeds covering the stones. I asked him why it wasn’t in better shape and he replied the endowment had been for $10,000 in 1957 and that had almost run out. There was a lot of room for others to be buried there as my Grandfather was an optimist. His wife was buried about 6 inches lower than he and there was a small headstone for my baby brother. None of my grandparent’s children had chosen to be buried here. The plot seemed enormously sad to me .I imagined my grandparents choosing it and making sure their plot was equal if not grander than those around it. Believing they were creating a place for their family to come to and remember them. Believing they were creating a final resting place for a large clan. Imagine how they would feel should they be able to see what remained of their dream and how lonely a sight it was. What happened?
Once I began to be curious about my grandfather information started coming my way. It was as if a window had been uncovered in my mind and memories I had from my childhood became alive. I could actually remember his voice and the look of his knarled and veiny hands. I could see his house in New York City and remember the small red velvet seat in the elevator which ran from floor to floor. I remember his chauffeur and the elegance of his feet. I remember sitting beside him in a car looking at my feet in shiny May Jane’s just grazing the edge of the seat, kicking slowly up and down with each foot. I remember listening to a lecture he was giving to family about a painting in his townhouse in Manhattan and wondering why everyone seemed so fearful of him.
I felt happy yesterday morning as I left the Radisson in Corning after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon in honor of men of old. I carefully imputed the address found on the internet into the GPS system in my car only to be told by the lady under the dashboard I would be traveling on unmarked roads and would have to use the map for guidance. I laughed aloud at this statement from a computerized source and wondered who was channeling information this morning. I skipped the highway and drove along country roads with a small river to my left. The mountains were still hung with the green/blue light of early morning and the slight mist of frost. My computer guide had informed me the address I was seeking would be 7 miles from the start of my drive. After 6 miles I saw a large sign on the edge of the highway stating “Watson Homestead” and I took a sharp right hand turn onto the asphalt. Traveling down the country with Rosie on my lap I felt happy and excited and as if I were on the verge of an amazing discovery. I drove past several red barns and a white house before seeing a sign, another “Homestead” sign about cabins. I kept on driving down the country road feeling certain I would find what I was supposed to find at the end. Rounding a corner I saw a long and low building which hugged the hillside and a curving driveway up on the right. As I drove up the driveway I imagined what life was like for my grandfather some 100 years plus ago. There were horses in the field and a soft cold rain was falling yet the valley was harshly beautiful and very peaceful. I pulled up to the front door of the homestead, put the car in park, and looked around me for a sign of life. As I had not notified anyone I was coming I wasn’t certain of what I would find. I wasn’t worried, just curious as I knew I was in the right place. The place was not what I had imagined as it was so impressive. I thought I might find a small white house with a plaque on the side but I had found a community from the looks of things.
I walked into the front hall of the homestead and looked around seeing pictures of my grandfather in several wall cabinets as well as a few “THINK” signs posted above the doorways. A woman’s voice called out to me asking if I needed help. I looked around and saw a sweet face. I announced I was Thomas Watson’s grand daughter and I was here to see his birth place. I couldn’t think of any other way of introducing myself. She replied ” I have been waiting for you!”
Believe it or not, we both hugged each other and cried. She told me she had been waiting for a family member to visit since the place had been incorporated. I told her I didn’t doubt this as I had not known the homestead existed until two days before my visit.