An elderly woman reflects on her years of waiting
Lovely, he was; the most handsome boy in our village. The best catch any girl could possibly have hoped for. Tall and dark with deep brown eyes, my friends so envied me the day I was married.
Oh, we were so, so happy. It’s hard to imagine now that it was possible. Seven years of such happiness before he was taken from me. “A simple accident”, they said, “It could have happened to anyone.” Except it didn’t happy to anyone, did it? It happened to the best husband anyone could have ever wished for; it happened to the only husband I ever wanted.
Some said I wasn’t quite right in the head afterwards. Easy for them to say, with their husbands coming home each evening and their children running around their feet. I was right enough, right enough alright.
Then they started mocking me. “Annie’s become religious”, they would say. “There’s Annie, off to her prayers again”.
Maybe I was a troublesome sight, a young woman in her 20s amongst the elderly women who prayed every day. What else was I to do? I had no children to care for. My husband’s brother saw that I had no need for money. Mind you I wasn’t rich, but I certainly wasn’t poor. My prayers became my life.
Did I think about the future then? What was there to think about? A young woman whose husband has died, what future could I think about? I didn’t expect anything. I just lived from one day to the next.
I think there must have been times when my brother-in-law wondered what he had taken on, looking after me all these years. Making sure I kept my own house, and that I was decently clothed and that I never went hungry, it must have cost him. He was a good man, just like his brother, and he rests with his fathers. My husband’s nephew has kept me these past years.
I’m eighty-four now, over sixty years a widow. Sixty years! Can you imagine what it is like being on your own for over sixty years? It’s not that the family didn’t care for me, they were very good. No, it’s that I liked being on my own, I liked the quietness. I liked the time with my own thoughts.
Perhaps it was the quietness that started it, this feeling that I was being spoken to. My mother used to say I was a terrible daydreamer, “Phanuel,” she would say to my father, “I sometimes wonder where we got that girl. She has her head in the clouds all the time”.
The ones who used to mock me would say to you now, “What else would you expect? All those years on her own, all those years saying her prayers; sure, she would hardly know a real voice if it spoke to her”.
I am not worried by what people might think, after sixty years I have learned not to worry about what anyone thinks. I know what I hear.
There has been a point to it; there has been a point to these sixty years of loneliness, these sixty years of walking through the streets in the cold and the dark to be there for the prayers each morning.
When I saw that child, I knew the moment had come. In the arms of that young woman was our freedom. They can laugh at me now, they can say “Old Annie has lost her marbles”, but I tell you, I have seen our future.