“What Do You Do When You Get Lonely?” column for Nov. 4, 2014

What do you do when you get lonely? Is there some secret magic trick to make it go away?

October is history, and if you’re like me, you might be trying to remember which end of a turkey to stuff. But before moving on to other holidays, I want to talk about what I did on Halloween.

What did you do? I hope it was fun. Me? Take a wild guess. Did I (a) host a party for neighbors and friends; (b) dress up like Dolly Parton and try to sell autographs; or (c) make cookies for trick or treaters and eat the whole batch myself?

OK, I didn’t eat the whole batch. It started like this. We had guests for a few days, old friends who are like family without the fistfights. I wanted them to stay for Halloween night, but no. They had to leave our house in Vegas to drive to Reno in time to see their granddaughters’ costumes.

I couldn’t blame them. I wanted to see my grandbabes in their costumes, too, miles away in California. Unfortunately, for that I’d have to depend on emailed photos or Facebook.

So my husband left for work, our friends left for Reno and I stayed home alone to sulk.

Let me be clear about this. Being alone is not always a bad thing. Actually, I rather like it. Sometimes I even crave it.
But loneliness isn’t about being alone. It’s about wanting to be with someone you can’t be with. You can be lonely in a crowded room missing somebody who’s not there. I’ve done it. Maybe you have, too.

On Halloween, I like to be with little people all dressed up in funny costumes, demanding candy from their elders and feeling full of themselves.

By sunset, I was missing those little people a lot. Not just my grandchildren, but my grown children, too, back when they were little on Halloween. Have you ever missed someone at a certain age, even though they’ll never be that age again?

I tried to keep busy, swept the porch, rearranged the pumpkins on the fence, put on my fancy cat mask, and made a batch of cookies in the hope we might get a trick or treater which, sorry to say, we never do.

Keeping busy was distracting, but it didn’t change anything. It never does. I was still just a woman in a cat mask, all alone on Halloween. My husband was working late. The street was deserted. The doorbell was silent as a deaf man’s tomb.

Pretty soon, I was missing not just little people, but big ones, too, some I haven’t seen in ages, others I’ll never see again. At least, not in this world.

I ate a cookie. It didn’t help. I ate another one. It didn’t help, either. So I ate six more. Why is it, when your heart tries to run from something, it can never make a clean break?

Finally, I remembered something I learned long ago: You don’t have to be in the same room with someone to know you still care for each other. People leave, but love remains. You leave a light on for them in your heart, until you see them again.

So I stopped running and started thinking about the people I was missing, one by one, little and big. I gave thanks for each of them, for all the ways they have blessed my life and for the fact that they’ll always be a part of me, even if we’re apart. It’s hard to feel lonely when your heart is full of thanks.

Then my phone dinged with photos: Randy as a red-haired cowboy. Henry as a grinning Super Grover. Charlotte as a warrior princess in pink. Wiley as the best-looking Spider-Man God ever put on the Earth.

I wish you could’ve seen them.

It was getting too late for any hope of trick or treaters. But I kept my cat mask on, just in case. My husband would be home soon to eat pizza, laugh at the photos of our grandkids and help me finish off the cookies.

I left a light on for him.

I always do.

Even when it’s not Halloween.


  1. Being a grand mom is a blessings and you are such a sweet mom and grand mom Sharon . I can feel sweetness even from your column .

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