In November 2001, my husband of 27 years had a brain aneurysm. After his brain surgery and an agonizing six weeks, I was a widow. I was devastated and so alone. The future loomed before me like a giant dark cloud.
Over the next couple of years, I had the freedom to grieve. During that time, I met four others widows. Every Tuesday night we dined together on a meal salted by our tears. We moved through a deep depression, to laughing about our flawed marriages, to learning about Match.com and, eventually, launching our oldest member into a new marriage.
Freedom transformed me, moving me to become healthier, reach out to new friends and renew my interest in all types of live music. I could be me, new and old, all rolled in one. I bought a smaller car that fit my 5-foot-2-inch frame. I moved from the Victorian house desperately needing work to a new condo downtown. I blast the stereo, never watch sports and eat a pound of asparagus for dinner (followed by a pint of ice cream) if I feel like it.
Freedom allowed me to forge a new bond with my son, which has evolved from shared pain to the joy of each other’s company. I see in my son’s eyes the gentle soul of his dad and hear in his voice the twisted wit of his father.
Freedom has also brought me a new love—and his 13-year-old daughter. Both have opened my heart and mind in ways I could not imagine.
Freedom for me is the newfound knowledge that I can live alone and thrive. I am happy with the silence, the mortgage in my name and the reduced requirement to compromise. I am free to talk to myself and leave my clothes strewn about the floor.
What I really know about freedom came at a terrific cost. But that’s the nature of this gift. It doesn’t come cheap.
The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Ami E. Rodland is a reader from Madison, Wis.