I never imagined that I might ever have anything in common with a fluffy-haired, false-toothed septuagenarian woman. Except perhaps
a penchant for Battenburg and the odd hair on my chin.
Yet there I was, my hand cupped around her tiny shoulder, uttering the words: We’re in this together, you and I.
She is known as Nana Shirley. She’s the village Nana, and is as much part of village fauna as the village Idiot, the village Drunk and the village Bike. I, of course, am the village Young Widow. A new character in the soap opera of village life.
Nana Shirley lost her husband, Len, recently. They’d been together over sixty years, childhood sweethearts, had never known anyone else. Len went into hospital for an operation and never came out.
I came across Nana Shirley walking down the street in her slippers. I smiled and continued past her, but then stopped and turned back.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m all right, pet,” she replied. “It’s the night-times that are the worst. When everyone’s gone. Well, you’ll know…”
I did and do know. It’s why I drink.
Young widows mourn the future. Old widows mourn the past. I used to think the former scenario was the worst (as if it were some kind of competition).
But I realised, standing there with my arm around that little, newly-bereaved woman, tacitly welcoming her into ‘the club that no-one wants to join’, that the death of a beloved spouse is heart-breaking, regardless of age.
Turns out Nana Shirley and I are in it together.