It happened the other day, I tuned into a local Texas country and western music station on my way to the Laundromat (a part of the RV life style) and bounced down the road to Elvis singing about “lonely street” in the song Heartbreak Hotel.
Remember his crooning “I found a new place to dwell, its down at the end of lonely street, at heartbreak hotel.” Perhaps it’s the December time of year. Within the last week or so I have had several long conversations with strangers; widows and widowers, divorcee’s, a woman, lonely, though living with her husband in a campground filled with people. Lonely men, lonely woman, we encounter people’s stories so often in campgrounds and count our blessings. People open up, tell more than they may have wanted. It just pours out of them. They are friendly but the nuances of their loneliness are hard to miss, their eyes often cast with a longing stare.
One widower stands out in my memory. He had traveled with his wife and supported her as her Alzheimer’s condition progressed for several years. How hard it was when she passed, but he found solace in continuing what they had done for years. He showed us a sort of shrine that he has kept in her memory in the kitchen of the RV.
One man told us of his divorce with uncertainty in his expression, as if he did not quite yet believe it. He wanted to travel, she was tired of life in a trailer, so they each went in their own directions. He got the truck and trailer, but she “is costing me lots and lots of money,” he complained. He volunteers (work camps) in campgrounds and lost no time in expressing his pride that day in having scrubbed and cleaned the bathrooms. No need to feel sorry for him, his other duties get him out and about the campground, doing repairs, ground work and other chores he enjoys. “Best of all”, he says, “I get to meet and greet people like you, from all walks of life who give me some reprieve from the loneliness.”
A woman decried her loneliness to me, seemingly opening up her inner soul to a stranger, even though she and her husband are together work-camping in Texas all winter long. Her husband goes off daily doing his work and she stays home trying to keep busy, not choosing to work-camp and wishing they’d resume their travels. “Forget staying put year after year in the same place,” she complained, “I still want to see the country.”
It is possible to be lonely, even among other people. We reach out to folks when we can. “Come in for a drink, join us for a walk, sit with us and share stories. “ We count our blessings, of course, that we have our health, great energy and a quest for adventure. None of us knows how long we have or what status we may face down the road. But facing Elvis’s lonely street gives pause for introspection.
How true it is that there is strength to be gained through other people by reaching out for human contact. Perhaps that is the power behind the urge to open up to strangers; receiving human kindness may be the pathway to turn down the next road away from lonely street.
Ann Carol Goldberg