We all have a story to tell. Janet and I had never met in person, but we had connected on Facebook. I was looking forward to meeting her for our walk. It turned out to be a beautiful day at Butler Springs Park, early spring blooms were popping up, there was a gentle, warm breeze and we recognized each other immediately.
We all have stories to tell
After the initial first greetings, I asked Janet to tell me about herself. She started by telling me that there was not much to tell. As you all know, having lived life into our Boomer years and beyond, we have a myriad of stories and learnings to share. We don’t always take the time to look at them, until someone is ready to listen.
Janet initially wanted to be a nurse. She enrolled in college, but after one semester, she knew that nursing (all the sciences) was not for her. Lucky for her, she had begun working in a retail store and realized that she enjoyed the merchandising aspects of retail, so she changed her major to merchandising. That turned out to be a good choice and she enjoyed that for a while.
But the desire to help others, which is why she initially wanted to be a nurse, was still strong. She decided to study to be a dental technician and worked at that for a while. She was getting closer to finding what she wanted, but this still was not it.
Janet was raised in upstate NY, where the lake effect snows pile up each winter. She really wanted to move to Florida, and before she could make that move, her parents and her sister moved to FL. The incentive to move was strong, and she finally joined them.
Finding her purpose
Two important events happened once she got to Florida. She met her husband, and she went back to school. This time to get a degree in social work. Janet felt that she had found the right field for her. While in school, each student had to do an internship. One of her fellow students interned with a hospice group and when she described her work, Janet knew that is what she wanted to do.
She continued her education at FSU, where she got a master’s degree in Social Work, and she worked as a social worker with hospice in Florida and South Carolina. She and her husband moved to SC in 1998. They were married for 27 years before he passed in 2015.
Loss and grief
As you know from many statistics, there are more single women than men in the over 65 age group. After her husband passed, Janet knew that eventually she wanted another partner. She ventured into the online dating world and met Greg about 5 years ago. They were both retired and soon were spending all their time together. Then suddenly, just about a year ago, Greg became ill and passed away. Grieving his passing has been difficult because they were enjoying so much time together. “It was not supposed to be this way,” Janet said. When her first husband passed, he had been in rehab for months, so there was time to prepare. When Greg passed, it was more sudden, she was not prepared.
Starting over again is hard. She is attending a grief support group. She has joined Senior Action for the exercise classes and socialization. She has her church family. But it is still lonely. She would like someone to go to dinner with, see shows or even share walks. She feels ready to try online dating again. Of course, she is staying alert for all the scammers on the dating sites.
It was inspiring to me that she was doing all these self-care activities, senior action, exercise, church and now online dating again. I am not allowed to tell you how old Janet is. I can say that she looks great and is in great shape. In spite of her loss, she is staying hopeful. And as you can tell from her story, Janet is a lifelong learner.
We got to talking about “what’s next.” When you are in the grieving process, it is hard to know what each day holds. Thinking about what’s next sometimes seems impossible, and our mortality is more present as we age. I asked what she liked doing as a child. Playing outdoors, “swinging,” she said. Since we were at the park, we got on the swings. We didn’t swing high, but we did some swinging and we sat on the swings and talked, like two girlfriends, until it started to rain.