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Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Risk of Single Life

Tonight I was watching "BONES", my favorite show, and have to admit I identified a bit too much with both the victim AND Dr. Brennan, except for the fact I'm not a brilliant scientist (and all that goes with that.)

I won't give anything away, but in this week's plot Brennan's victim was a doctor like her, dispassionate like her, gave her life to her work, and had nothing/ no one  else. The victim disappeared, and in spite of her notoriety and brilliance, eventually the trail went cold and the police stopped looking.

A couple years later, here comes Bones and Boothe and the rest of the crew to find this missing woman.

I admit it: I would have identified, too, and in fact, I still identify, even now.


It reminds me of my first death investigation, two weeks into my job as a rookie cop.

We were called to an apartment building on a "check the welfare". When we were present, the Caretaker pointed out the evidence for our call (stacked-up newspapers), recited his calls to the resident and we demonstrated ourselves that he did not respond to knocks.

He keyed in, and there was the apartment resident, apparently asleep in his easy chair, the TV spouting game shows and mirth even though his own respirations has long ceased.  Next to the chair on one side was a magazine-holder filled with the normal subscriptions, and behind it was a box full of empty vodka bottles.

We asked our questions, waited for the Medical Examiner, and filled out the boxes on our documentation while we waited. He had clearly had a natural death so our investigation was routine.

Still, there was nothing "routine" about the fact of his life, and that it had gone away without a flutter. No one noticed. No one called, no one checked on him. There were no messages on his voice mail.

The first person to notice and wonder was the dispassionate building caretaker who saw, after several days, that the newspapers were not being collected.

He wasn't married, didn't have children, was apparently retired, and apparently spent his days reading the newspaper, sipping vodka, and watching game shows.

I remember going out to the balcony of the apartment with my FTO, who knew I'd lost my father over a year prior.  He had to notice that I was occasionally blinking too much to make sure the tears did not arise. My Dad's drink of choice was vodka, too. It didn't appear this was the cause for this man, but I wondered if my own father would have died in the same way had he not been living with his mother and caring for her at the time.

That man died alone, and no one noticed. He was apparently not loved by anyone else, for if they loved him, they would have called, they would have stayed in touch, and they would have, most importantly, noticed that he was gone.

No one noticed he was gone.

And now I can't forget him.

Still Pondering...

I remember that tonight, because I am a bit of a hermit myself, and between that memory and tonight's episode of "Bones" this facet of the RISK of single life is brought home yet again.

I am single, have no children, and my social connections are mainly Sunday (some Daily Mass, which rotates according to my schedule), Adoration once per week, and...work every day.

Working in Insurance for nearly 5 years soured me on the phone like nothing else ever could, and so my phone rarely rings unless it is a loan company, the bank, or my mother.  I don't often call my friends, and as they aren't teenagers, they tend to not just call for no reason, either.

Adulthood, as a whole, tends to be very isolative as we "evolve" into our lives either as married people or otherwise single adults.

I don't have a boyfriend and am not looking (for obvious reasons), so no one is calling me 30 times per day. I don't text on my pre-pay cell, so even if I did have a boyfriend he'd be forced into my own archaic forms of voice communication.

Some time ago my boss called me on a day off to see if I was coming in, having forgotten to check the schedule in my office, and having forgotten I'd worked that weekend. I appreciated her call...at least she realized I hadn't called and hadn't come in. She didn't assume I'd just quit; she was honestly checking to see if I was OK as, according to what she knew of me, I'd broken a pattern: I didn't show up and I didn't call to explain why.

Still...I can't help but wonder:  If I disappeared, would anyone notice?  Am I involved enough with my friends, with my parish, with my community (including my immediate neighbors) for any of them to realize I might be trapped in my bathroom with my big toe stuck in the spigot while the water in the tub freezes if the furnace is broken and I can't get out?

That is the risk of single life:  Are we visible?

Are our married friends paying attention, do they care, and if they do care, do they have the time to notice if we've somehow gone out of sight? Are our other single friends less self-absorbed than we ourselves are, and would they notice if we don't show up?

Would we notice if our other single friends disappear?

What amount of time of being out of sight  is reasonably "acceptable"? 

I remember having to be accountable to people (like Mom, roommates, etc) as to where I was going, when, and why. I remember going out with friends, and if we went out together, our rule was to leave together unless we otherwise knew exactly where and with whom someone was leaving.

On the other hand, who do we as Singles go to? We have freedom, right? We can go anywhere, do as we please, and no one is standing over our shoulders, telling us where we have to be and when.

Isn't that somewhat of a recipe for disaster? Think about it.

We singles, we may not need babysitters, but we do need to look at our lives and we DO need to question whether or not someone else would notice if we weren't around. We DO need to consider whether anyone would call for help for us, would even KNOW to call the police to knock at our respective doors to "check welfare" if we haven't surfaced in awhile and aren't answering the phone and responding to messages.

Gosh, I know if I was stuck with my big toe in the spigot, as embarrassing as such a scenario would be, I'd prefer being discovered like that by a benevolent friend to being cryogenically concealed and discovered only by my mortgage company looking to collect, and then sold as a mummy to the U of M in order to make up for unpaid mortgage debt.

We singles, we do have to seriously consider, if we are a single living alone, whether anyone would notice if we were gone, either just plain missing or missing without a reason.

To be clear, I am not writing here for the benefit of the countless readers who may come across this post, but rather, for those who, like I, live in relative oblivion, for whom no one really takes account.

It is something to be pondered. Not everyone is an A-type personality, in everyone's face about their existence. There are many of us floating around, B-type, preferring oblivion, but to what risk?

Advent is a wonderful time to ponder about why God created us, Who he calls us to be, and remind ourselves, as singles, that He notices every drop of dandruff, every appearance of sweat, every moment of sipping directly from the milk carton contrary to Mom's wishes for our gentility.

We need, as Singles, to know that if we get our respective big nasty toes stuck in the spigot in the bathtub that someone will ask questions within a week or so. We need to know that if we trip and fall down the stairs, breaking our necks at C-7, someone will call the ambulance for us. We need to know that if we disappear even from social networking, that after a few days, someone will do so much as not send an email, but actually CALL us on the phone, or even show up at our door to see if maybe the newspapers are piling up.

Our culture becomes more and more depersonalized. 

Relationships are held more and more online, even those among we who know each other directly.  Consider that danger:  What do we base upon an email? A text? Twitter? Facebook? Plurk? Blogs? When do we actually become PERSONAL in care for one another, and when do we actually go knocking on someone's door?

Maybe most people don't have to consider this but we Singles...we do.  We are alone. We pray the Prayer of Esther:  "Help me, Lord, for I am all alone, and I have no one but Thee."

We singles...to whom do we pray,  whom do we trust in this earthy life, and  Who actually cares enough about us to know we are lost?

Think about it. Pray about it.  And resolve never to become one of the Unknown.

That is the greatest risk of Single life.

1 comment:

Ray from MN said...

Am I the only other single in your world?

I think about the problem you raise occasionally. But I do nothing about it.

There are a lot of singles these days. And if they're not employed, as I am, retired, there aren't many people looking for them.

Maybe what the world needs is some kind of "Facebook" for the single, just to check up on each other.

Or a "Google Alert" where Google would check to see if I have been posting on my blog, using my internet addresses for messages or tweeting or posting on my Facebook account. Or checking on the number of unread messages in my email "inbox." That wouldn't be that hard to design, for a computer geek.

When I went to the hospital with pneumonia last May, I didn't expect to be staying and didn't have any telephone numbers with me to alert friends. I thought I just needed a refill for my asthma inhaler.

Finally when I felt better I got a telephone book and found Terry's number and he started passing the word on my incapacitation.