Looking for Meaning

Looking for Meaning

By Arlene Appelrouth / aappelrouth@atljewishtimes.com

I’m sitting at a table outside the Corner Cafe at Lenox Square. I ordered a farmer’s omelet (no meat) and coffee and picked up a complimentary copy of USA Today. I had this big realization that I’ve become a lapsed journalist.

I used to be a news junkie, reading The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times daily. My car was usually tuned to NPR. At home I always watched CNN.

When anything happened anywhere in the world, I knew.

Arlene Appelrouth
Arlene Appelrouth

That was before Dan fell of a bike in Fernandina Beach, Fla., more than 3½ months ago.

I canceled my subscriptions to the newspapers except the Sunday New York Times. My Times newspapers are still in their blue plastic bags. I tell myself I’ll get to them eventually, but I probably won’t.

As I was reading the free USA Today, I got a bit alarmed when I saw that the Metro system in Washington might be shut down this month. My daughter, Michelle, depends on that transit system to get to and from her position with the Department of Justice.

She hasn’t mentioned a thing. Either she’s accustomed to this type of threat, or she doesn’t want to worry me. Or both. Or neither.

I read about ongoing issues with Donald Trump and Muslims, storms in Oklahoma creating a state of emergency, bullies in school, and the CDC mishandling pathogens.

On the opinion page was a column about millennials and socialism. The headline: “Millennials don’t get socialism.”

I don’t get millennials.

And I don’t care too much about that. As a baby boomer, I’m accustomed to my generation setting trends.

Who are these millennials anyway? Why has so much been written about them? Who do they think they are? Don’t tell me. It doesn’t matter.

I got a text and a phone call from my husband’s close friend Mark Rosenhaft. He was widowed 10 years ago and has promised to keep in touch and provide the guidance of experience.

He asked how I was. I told him I was OK. I’ve become weepy, but I know that’s normal. If I weren’t sad and crying, that wouldn’t be normal. I loved Dan. We were a team. We were supportive of each other no matter what.

Without him by my side for me to ask how he’s spending the day or if he slept through the night, I have to create a new morning routine. So I’ve been leaving my house early, heading to 12-step meetings. The coffee is good, and the fellowship even better.

People in 12-step programs are usually recovering from one thing or another. They take pride in being sober and make a commitment to take care of themselves. Especially if what they are recovering from is a dysfunctional relationship of any kind.

I like the honesty and integrity of the people who share their experience, strength and hope. That’s one of the slogans: Share your experience, strength and hope.

People at these meetings aren’t reluctant to reach out. Helping others is another value in these groups.

A man in his 60s stood next to me during the closing prayer. He asked how I was, and I said fine. He didn’t believe me. “You look like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders,” he said. “Is anything wrong?”

I thought for a moment before answering. “My husband died on April 7,” I said. “I’m getting accustomed to living alone and being a widow.”

He didn’t shy away from me. He asked whether I knew Mary, who was standing across the room, and said, “Let me introduce you.”

I didn’t know his name, and he never told me. But he walked me over to Mary and said her husband had died unexpectedly two weeks earlier. Mary and I talked about handling the loss of a husband. She began crying. We exchanged phone numbers, and she invited me to call any time, day or night.

Today, when I left my house earlier than any of my neighbors had picked up their newspapers from their driveways, I packed a bunch of things: my laptop, in case I wanted to write; my iPad; my phone; the chapter of a book I have to edit; a book about someone’s Holocaust experience I want to read before the meeting of the Holocaust book club, where Dan was a regular.

The book club leader came to Dan’s funeral and paid me a shiva call. Then she emailed me, issuing a personal invitation to participate in the club.

I ordered the book from Amazon and will probably read it and go. Am I carrying on Dan’s tradition? I don’t know. I’m looking for meaningful things to do to fill my time. Being at Lenox Square isn’t particularly meaningful. In fact, it offers too many temptations to buy things I don’t need and have no place for. But there’s something enjoyable about sitting at a table, watching as people walk by.

I hope you spend your day doing something enjoyable and meaningful. And if there are people in your life whom you love, be sure to let them know. You never know when they might fall off a bike.

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