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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Drama: Leaving Home at 64

Written by  Rochelle Furstenberg

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Drama: Leaving Home at 64

Lynn is 62 years of age and has been married to Elliott for 38 years. He is two years older than her, a writer who teaches at a college nearby. Lynn is a librarian. They raised four children. All but one of them are well-established in their professions and have young families. The youngest son Jeffrey is still finding himself, traveling around the world, doing odd jobs. Lynn worries about him, while Elliott seems to identify with his freedom.

Lynn introduces herself:

Aside from my worries about Jeff, I enjoy our expanding family. I thought that Elliott did too. In general, I thought we shared the same religious beliefs, attitudes toward life. I admit we have lived a quiet life in a rural community for the last ten years, but it was Elliott who pushed for the rural life so that he could concentrate on his writing. He felt disappointed as far as his work was concerned, agonized over the fact that he hadn't accomplished what he had dreamt of doing. I am a reserved person, perhaps not demonstrative enough, but there was affection between us. I had no idea what was in store for me. One day Elliott turned a corner.

Elliott introduces himself:

I am 64 years old, and I'm bored. Life stretches before me like an empty desert, a wasteland. Sometimes, I want to scream. I want something to happen, even to break something to experience life, excitement. Soon I'll be dead. I can feel the grave closing in on me. Shakespeare was right. Slowly, we lose our senses; we're left "sans everything."

One day Elliott phoned to say he wasn't coming home. He sometimes stayed in the city for a faculty party. Lynn rarely joined him for these events.

Elliott: Lynn, I'm not coming home.

Lynn: I'll be babysitting for Terry tonight anyway. What time will you be home tomorrow? Remember that the carpenter is coming to talk about expanding your study.

Elliott: Lynn, you don't understand. I'm not coming home anymore, altogether.

Lynn: I don't understand.

Elliott: I'm leaving you.

Lynn: But what about the children, us as a family.

Elliott: They're grown up.

Lynn: What about me? We loved each other. I left my family in England to live in America with you.

Elliott: That was years ago.

Lynn: But what happened. What suddenly turned you off?

Elliott: I'm bored. I can't stand your mousiness, your self-sacrifice for the children. I'm tired of the marriage. Nothing's happening. I feel like I'm a nothing.

Lynn: In other words, you're not happy with our sex life.

Elliott: It's not only that.

Lynn: There's someone else? One of those adoring divorcees in their forties who take your adult education survey course in literature. And talk to you about the meaning in life, rubbing against your knees.

Elliott: Come on Lynn.

Lynn: It's true, isn't it? How can you throw away 38 years together, all the memories, life experiences together, for a last fling. I can't be treated like some disposable nothing. The years have given us weight. They've anchored us.

Elliott: People change. I'm not the same person I was when we married, or even that I was last year. I just can't stand coming home, eating the same food I've eaten for years and years. Discussing the same kind of things with you. I can predict everything you're going to say. And our sex is like a warm bath. There's nothing electric. I know every twist and turn you're going to make. How it's going to start, how it's going to end. I need some surprises.

Lynn: I thought there was something nice about how comfortable we are with each other's bodies. How we move together so easily. We're not all angles and edges like jumpy teenagers.

Elliott: You call it comfortable. I call it dead.

Lynn: You're afraid of aging, death. I see you worrying about your health, swimming, jogging, things you never did. That's all fine. But it won't dispel the sense of nothingness. Only believing that something lasts, your work, your children will dispel that feeling of nothingness, the boredom you're complaining about. What about our family- the children will never forgive you. You'll be alienated from your grandchildren.

Elliott: I can't live vicariously through my children. I have to have the taste of life in my mouth.

Lynn: Elliott, let's go to therapy together.

Elliott: It's too late. I asked you to do so years ago. Look Lynn, we're not the first couple to split. If everyone else can do it, I can do it.

Lynn: Of course - I forgot. You must be in fashion. Show how glamorous, how swinging you are. And all the attention you'll get, that you never achieved as a writer. That'll create a stir, break the boredom. People will point to you behind your back at the faculty club, and look at your girlfriend with curiosity. You might not be a great writer, but you're "interesting". That is, you'll be interesting for a week or two, until the next sensation comes along.

Elliott: I'm sending Stan over for my clothes.

Lynn: Coward , you damn coward.

Elliott's inner dialogue:
How did I last 38 years with her? Under her quiet manner, there was always a sarcastic tinge, putting me down. And she tied me down with all that family stuff. Her self-sacrifice. Her heavy religious stuff. If it wasn't for the fact that it would have killed my mother, I would have divorced her years ago.

Lynn's inner dialogue:
My God, is he crazy? Throwing out a lifetime for nothing. I feel like such a rag. Everything we built together. Finished. And how am I going to support myself . I didn't develop a career because of the family. It's so degrading. All those years, I was careful with money, so we'd have something for our old age, and now it'll go to some slut. I didn't travel because of the kids, and now he'll use the money I saved on his girlfriend. What a fool I am. He's disappointed with himself. He's a failure. Ambition, the hope of success used to keep him going, give him something to live for. But he can't keep on beating the old horse of ambition, if it doesn't bring him anyplace. So he blames it on me. Says he's bored.

Last modified on Friday, 15 April 2011 19:02
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Rochelle Furstenberg

Rochelle Furstenberg

Rochelle Furstenberg has been writing and magazine editing for more than 30 years. She has a master's degree in Philosophy and studied toward a doctorate in English Literature before launching her career in journalism, with a focus on the arts and contemporary culture, women's issues, and religious and social topics. She has published in The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Hadassah Magazine, The Jerusalem Post and elsewhere. Rochelle is married, with children and grandchildren. She was the director of the WholeFamily Senior Center during the year 1999-2000.

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