When I was 40, I bought myself a diamond ring.
It was beautiful, five diamonds, very expensive. I didn’t have a lot of extra money in those days, but I saved, and I scrimped, and I paid a little down each payday until I could take it home.
I suppose I could have waited for the right guy to come along to buy it for me – or one like it – but that wasn’t the point. I didn’t want to wait for a man or the possibility of marriage for a diamond.
I could get my own.
For a woman my age – born in 1950, the heart of the Baby Boom years – it was an important distinction. I grew up in an era when women waited. They waited for the perfect man to marry, or someone who would do. They waited to get married before buying a house. They waited to be happy – and happy meant being in a relationship that led to an “I do.”
I’m not knocking anyone who went that route. It just wasn’t for me, early on. Not that I was against marriage. I wasn’t. I just didn’t want to delay life until … if … when I might get – and accept – a proposal of marriage. Plain and simple, I didn’t want to go through life in a holding pattern, waiting for a man so I could feel complete, missing out on what was – because I was waiting for what might come.
In 2017, this is hardly a radical notion. But in my day, when I bought my first car, I had to have a man co-sign the loan. Same when I applied for my first credit card.
And when I tried to buy a first house at the ripe old age of 27 – six years on the job – it was before equal lending laws took hold.
I was turned down for the loan because – and I quote three bankers in town – I was “just a girl.”
We can talk more about that another day. You don’t want to get me started; sorry. I digress.
But I bring it up because I wanted a home. Whether I was single or had plighted my troth to my true love made no difference. I didn’t want to just light somewhere, waiting for the next step, filling the gap until I was a twosome.
So you can see why a diamond ring was more than a piece of jewelry. It was a statement, a pronouncement, a sign that I was living life to its fullest. I bought Christmas dishes and used them, even if I only had scrambled eggs for supper, even if I ate alone. I decorated for every season, not because I was trying to make the cover of a home decorating magazine, but because it made me happy when I hauled out my Thanksgiving turkeys or put Valentine wreaths on the front door. I didn’t wait to have a family in the house to put out Halloween stuff or put up a Christmas tree with a minimum of lights.
I even used the good soap, and you know what that means. I wasn’t waiting for a special occasion to smell sweet.
As you can imagine, I find myself in an unfamiliar situation since my husband, Art Wolffis, died the end of October. Once I was single, unwilling to wait to make a life for myself.
Now it seems all I do is wait.
I wait for the exhaustion to lift. I wait for the sorrow to ease. I wait for the tears to stop – or start. I wait to see what’s next, and I wonder if I’ll recognize it if it’s right around the corner. I wait because that’s all there is to do right now: wait until this time is over.
One day last week, I filled out a form that identified me as a “widowed person,” a new label, a new name tag to wear in public, and alone. That night, I got out the good dishes, a table service for one, and I sat at the dining room table for the evening meal. I made myself a chicken breast, baked potato and a big salad. I ate slowly, deliberately, taking my time – and I waited for the woman who once bought herself a diamond ring and a house to call a home to show up.
Because she will.
I just have to wait awhile.
Susan Harrison Wolffis is an award winning writer known for her engaging writing style.