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In support of Second Blessings

Published February 26. 2011 09:00AM

When we went dancing the other night at a local Elks club, the cars in the parking lot told us the place was packed.

Sure enough, we couldn't get a table. Every chair in the place seemed to be taken. An acquaintance saw us roaming around looking for a place to sit and pointed out a table with empty seats.

The couple sitting at the table was friendly and told us to join them. Soon, the woman told me why they were sitting alone while their friends and relatives were jammed together at other tables: they were being ostracized.

No one would sit with them, she said, because they wanted to show contempt for her relationship.

Nancy told me her husband had died four years ago. "For more than three years, I sat alone, night after night. I never went anywhere - except for the rare times when my daughter invited me alone with her husband," she said.

She started to tell me about the loneliness in her life but I told her I understood because I, too, had lost a beloved husband.

Then Nancy's life changed when she met a man who had just moved to her neighborhood. First they started getting to know each other as friends. Then he asked her out. He told her that he liked to dance and offered to take her dancing on their date.

"Right from the start, we clicked," she said. "He's so much fun to be with."

She didn't tell me how old she was, but she did say her granddaughter is 21, so she has to be old enough to know what she's doing. But her daughter doesn't think so.

"She told me she can't accept the fact that I'm seeing someone. She loved her father and doesn't want to see anyone take his place," said Nancy.

Nancy added that she had a lot of heart-to-heart talks with her only child. "I told her how lonely I am and what it feels like to sit alone day and night. She doesn't care. She said she would never talk to me again if I kept dating," she said.

It's now a sad stalemate. Nancy refuses to be blackmailed back into a life of loneliness and her daughter refuses to have anything to do with her until she capitulates.

Obviously, from what I saw that night, the battle lines are drawn and others are taking sides.

She says she's not going to give up her newfound happiness and I saw that she was happy with her new beau. But I also saw the sadness in her eyes as she kept glancing across the room at her daughter and her friends.

I told Nancy about a friend of mine who was in that exact position. Let's just call her Mary because she doesn't want me to use her real name.

Mary's husband had a series of strokes and he required constant care for many years before he died. I always admired how Mary took care of him and how she kept her sunny disposition. When her husband died, she was surprised at how hard his death hit her. "I thought I had grieved all I could during the years he was sick," she said.

Years later, I was thrilled when I got an email from her telling me she was "seeing someone" and he asked her to marry him.

It wasn't a case of happy ever after.

Her grown children told her she would never again be welcome into their homes or their lives if she continued to see the guy.

"I can't give up my family," she said, when I heard from her again.

I feel so sorry for her. I can't understand how grown children would rather see a parent lonely than to see her happy with someone else.

When I met David after being a widow for four years, my two daughters were thrilled for me. My younger daughter admitted it was hard, at first, to see me with someone else. But, she liked David right from the start and tells me repeatedly how happy she is to see how he and I thrive together.

Indeed, I feel like a kid again. I thank God several times a day for the blessing of David.

Knowing the joy of having a partner at this stage of life, I feel sadness for the shortsighted family members who want a woman to opt for loneliness rather than a new relationship.

I've shared these two real life stories with you for a reason: They are not all that uncommon.

People are living longer and are looking to maximize their remaining days as much as possible.

When we were out dancing last night, we sat at a table with a guy who said he "was just getting back to dancing and getting into the swing of things." He came alone but he was having fun dancing with several single women.

Here's what impressed us: He is 90 years old.

"Good for him!" said my husband. "In my parent's time, we would never see situations like this. When a spouse died, people just sat home until they died, too."

Spotlighting this issue will no doubt ignite feelings on both sides.

But I'm clear on where I stand. I believe in living life fully, regardless of age. And if that involves what I call Second Blessings, that's even better.

Tell me your thoughts.

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