Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hermithood--the good, the bad, the ugly

I was sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch and feeling the effects of the heat. I had earlier gone out to the store, and so had taken off my shorts and put on long pants, which I was still wearing as I sat down to eat. I was alone in the house and considered just taking off the pants and finishing my dinner in my underwear. But thoughts of my father stopped me.

My father died in 1987. As he predicted years before, he died about three days before he was found by a neighbor. He had apparently been eating a piece of watermelon. It was a hot day and he had been sitting at the kitchen table (the same table at which I was sitting, as a matter of fact), and was stark naked, except for one sock. (His death was not a tragic one of the family, so the joke has always been that we aren't sure exactly which appendage was wearing the sock!)

For one brief moment, I understood his state of dishabille. He had lived alone for many years after his divorce from my mother, and especially in his last couple of years, when he had driven all of his family and friends away and his dogs died. He had become a hermit, complete with a sign on the front door telling people to go away unless he had invited them to visit.

Walt and Phil left San Rafael the morning after my mother's party and drove across the country, arriving in Boston on Friday, the day before Phil and Jeri were to go to a wedding. Walt is spending a few days in Boston before flying home later this week, so I am a hermit this week.

In truth, I rather like having the house all to myself (something that I used to have all the time before Walt retired--and have now again, now that he has gone back to work part time). But I got to thinking about the state of "hermit-hood" and realized that there are good things, bad things, and ugly things. These probably mostly apply to people who are recently hermited and whose state of hermithood is fairly limited. I suspect that the longer you live by yourself, the more these things sort themselves out.


  • Cereal for dinner and cold leftover spaghetti for breakfast, if you don't feel like cooking.

  • No guilt about watching movies in the middle of the day...you may watch movies in the middle of the day when someone else in the house, but you feel guilty about it, especially if the other person is cleaning house while you're lolling about watching a video.

  • Uninterrupted time to do whatever you're doing.

  • No guilt trips if you don't get on the treadmill, walk the dog or whatever else you should be doing.

  • No guilt trip about watching Touched by an Angel instead of Chris Matthews.

  • You can postpone going to the grocery store until the very last possible moment (like when you run out of detergent washing the latest dirty puppy laundry, knowing that there will be more in a matter of hours)


  • No help with the puppies...nobody to comfort the crying one who is waiting to be fed, while I'm feeding the previous one.

  • Nobody to stop by the store on the way home, so I don't have to shop.

  • Really crappy eating habits.

  • Nobody to share those cute moments with the puppies. Nobody to say "shhh...come here...look at this...." and point out a cute pile of sleeping puppies.

  • Nobody to rant and rave to.

  • Really, really boring life so that when phone calls come, there is no interesting answer to "what's new?"


  • Dishes stacked in the sink

  • Rapidly reproducing dust bunnies.

  • "Do I really need to take a shower this morning if I'm not going to be seeing anybody?"

It will be good to have Walt home again.

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