Sick Alone

October 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm (Life) (, , , , , )

I was home sick last week. Alone. I spent twenty hours in bed on Wednesday just sleeping and over two days had no more than a cup of oatmeal to eat. I left the house once. To go across the street to buy necessities: tissues, toilet paper, white bread, ginger ale.

Not sure what I had. The symptoms were all over the place: runny nose, fever, aches & pains. Mostly, I was tired and didn’t want anything to eat or drink.

virusAnd this concerned me; that I wasn’t eating or drinking much. I worried about getting dehydrated and confused. I know how quickly one can die. I remember Jim Henson – one day kind of sick, the next day too late to go to the hospital.

My Eldest Sister is a nurse. She’s been attending a lot of the pandemic preparation seminars. She has me worried. I’m not over concerned about the H1N1 flu, and I will be getting the vaccination once it is available, but I do worry about being sick and alone.

I was worried about getting confused and making bad judgments because I’m sick, tired, and feverish. There were times this last week when I wasn’t sure when the last time was that I took medications.

I usually can easily live alone. I can entertain myself for decades, even without television or the internet. Right now, I have a year’s worth of books stashed in my apartment – about two hundred or so. I have a high tolerance for combating boredom. I can, and do, entertain myself. I read, I write, I make up stories in my head; I watch television, own my favorites on DVD and have toys to play with (shh).



Loneliness is not usually the problem. Though, truth be told I never felt this alone in Montreal. Where I had no family and only a few friends, but we all were alone and that meant we felt obligated to check up on each other regularly.

What really concerned me this week was basic survival. How could I get food, water, money, when I couldn’t leave the house and I know no one in the city that I would feel comfortable asking to run these errands for me? If I were back home in the small town I grew up in, the grocery stores would deliver and let me buy what I needed on credit. I wouldn’t need to worry about having less than ten dollars in my apartment.

I’m starting to seriously consider having an emergency kit. I have a case of water now left over from the last time the city turned off the water without letting us know. I have the necessary medical supplies, thanks to my sister’s worries. I have a freezer full of meat and enough food for about two weeks but it all needs preparation and what if I can’t cook, for both medical or practical reasons.

What would I do then?

Honestly, I don’t know.

When I was a young woman, new to the city, I lived downtown in an apartment on the third floor. Every once in a while, an elderly neighbour (probably in her 70s or older) would show up needing help opening a tin can. I always helped. (I hope this helps my karma in the future). I learnt, over the course of my two years there, that she lived alone on the first floor. The lone elderly woman in a building usually filled up with university students or young workers new to the work force and city. My apartment building, where I live now, is also mostly university students and lone middle-aged workers too poor to afford a house. I know maybe six of my neighbours by sight, two by name. I don’t have the sort of courage that it takes to go door to door asking for help until someone smiles and helps.

That old woman died alone in that apartment building just before I moved out to Montreal. I think about her. Who was she? Why did she have no one? She died alone. They cleaned out her apartment and threw most every thing she owned into the dumpster behind the building. This is how Garbo entered my life. She belonged to that old woman and I felt something of hers should be rescued and passed on to someone who would try to remember an old woman she never really knew!

GarboThis is Garbo – she is named after Greta Garbo (because all of us prefer to live alone!).

This is why I think it’s time I had a preparedness plan and kit. I’ve looked over the list and it’s nice to know that I have at least half of it already. I also know that I need to keep what few social connections I already have, nurtured. I need to keep in contact with my family and learn how to make new friends. Alone is fine, but the older I get, the more I realize that I also need a community to help me nurture myself.

Yes, I am a healthy, independent woman. I can live in harmony with myself. The trick is learning to feel a little bit less solitary in the wide open spaces alone and to learn how to be a contributing community member and still be comfortably solitaire.



  1. centria said,

    I think it would be scary to be sick alone. It seems like so often we have to figure out a balance in life…one that gives us the solitary space that we need…and yet allows us the friendship or community or relationships we need as well. Not an easy balance to find! Liking your blog, Kathy

  2. solitaryspinster said,

    How true. My main problem has been that either I’ve been moving around or I’ve been so close to family that I get no me time.

    I’m trying to learn how to develop a community now that I’ve finally “settled” somewhere.


  3. Dazed said,

    I think being sick and alone is hard. But I also hate being sick around people. I think it’s that I hate feeling like I need people and need to be taken care of … but I like to be taken care of. I’ve been sick down south here for several days now (headaches, sleeping insane amounts of hours, nauseous off-and-on, congested … overall, sucky sick) but I don’t have enough sick time added up to be able to take enough days off work to recover. Reminds me of old work somehow. 😉

    I’m so sorry that you’re sick, too. Or were sick. It’s sucks, and it especially sucks when you’re alone. Good thing you at least posted in Facebook but I wish you would’ve sooner. If you don’t share, I don’t want to bug and then we don’t find out things like this.

    Maybe you’re similar … don’t want to need to be taken care of but do want to be cared for? You are at the very least always cared about.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  4. Opening Jars : An Elderly Rant « Solitary Spinster said,

    […] once a week, this little old lady (click on the link to learn more) would trudge up to my apartment and knock on the door. She would […]

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