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SINGLE LIFE

Widower, 62, Seeks Escape From Loneliness After 36-Year Marriage

March 11, 1988|CATHY CURTIS | Cathy Curtis writes regularly for The Times.

It's one thing to be single. But when the memory of a beloved spouse blankets every day with sadness, being alone can seem almost unbearable.

Ed, who lives in Westminster, wrote to Single Life:

" . . . I lost my beloved wife last April. After a happy 36 years, (during) which (we) were faithful to each other, I have no desire to meet a younger woman and can't imagine one wanting to become involved with (someone who is) 62.

"I would like to meet someone 55 to 62 to join me for dinner, theater, hiking, a ride in the country. It is very lonely going to dinner or theater alone.

"At the time of the memorial service, the minister mentioned that during the difficult grieving period, friends should be in contact with me. (But) only those who have had similar losses have contacted me. Otherwise, people do not know how to approach one who is grieving."

On the phone, the former banker--who retired to spend more time with his ailing wife before her death from cancer--said what he is seeking now is "primarily companionship."

"It's hard for people to approach someone," he said. "The friends we had--a few would call, but there was not too much compassion from them. . . . A few have called and invited me over for dinner (not that I'm looking for free meals; I certainly can take them out).

"My daughter tried to be helpful, but she lives in Hawaii. My son lives in Ventura. They have to go on with their lives.

"I'm not looking for someone to replace my wife"--here he began to weep, as he would every time he spoke of her--"but just someone to go to dinner or a movie with rather than going alone. I have no desire to remarry."

Now working three days a week for a friend in the wholesale-retail business ("It keeps my mind occupied"), Ed sometimes goes out to lunch with a woman who worked for him in his banking days. They don't discuss his wife, which makes things "easier," he said.

"But when I'm home, it's not too easy. . . . Every time I think of her and talk of her. . . . "

Ed thinks people who have never experienced the loss of a spouse can't understand his grief. "They don't know what to say, how to phrase something so the person doesn't break down."

But he admitted--remembering his own awkward responses to grieving friends--"it's a learning process for me, too."

Asked if he would like to meet a widow, who might better understand his feelings, he seemed unsure. "Certainly someone easy to get along with or someone easy to have respect for," he said. "It all depends on whom I were to meet."

But Ed's main desire right now is for companionship; romance is still out of season.

Ernie, a career counselor who lives in Anaheim, has been married twice ("And I'll keep doing it till I get it right," he said jovially). His first wife died of cancer after a 17 1/2-year marriage. After six years on his own, he married again. They were together for five years. But his wife developed a drinking problem.

Refusing to confront her problem, she ran off with a mutual friend, also an alcoholic, who eventually died of a liver disease. She and Ernie were divorced, and he no longer knows her whereabouts.

He agreed that it takes "at least a year or two" to get over the pain of the end of a loving marriage. But in his case, he found it harder to deal with his second wife's health problems.

"You can't help cancer; you're helpless," he said. "I had more difficulty going through (the experience of living with an alcoholic). . . . I felt I'd done everything right. We had a wonderful relationship. I couldn't accept the fact that she was an alcoholic. I cried and cried for weeks and weeks. . . ."

Having endured the death of one of his children and two bankruptcies, in addition to the sad endings of his two marriages, Ernie said, "Everybody goes through pain and disease and tragedy, and it's how you react and how you cope. You have to believe in something.

"I sat home and I cried and said 'poor me.' (Then I realized) I gotta get out and start doing something. I gotta risk. If the first guy asked the first girl for a kiss and she said no, we wouldn't be here."

He said he feels "good about myself. I don't expect everybody to like me. . . . I know who I am and I don't have that much time left and I want somebody to share my life with."

But finding that "somebody" isn't easy. Ernie wrote to Single Life:

"I'm 65, 5-feet 10-inches, 143 pounds, a well-groomed, trim, sincere, affectionate, mature, professional businessman, well read and traveled. I'm self-confident and have an outgoing personality, with a sense of humor along with a positive attitude toward life.

"I'm not ashamed to say I'm 65. I don't look it, I don't feel it and I don't act it. I believe you don't grow old by living a number of years. You grow old by losing your zest and enthusiasm for life. My various interests include bridge, music, movies, dancing, reading and travel.

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