There comes a moment in life when you must accept that some of the people you love the most are absent from your life. 

What is absence, anyway? It’s a feeling of loneliness, of not being able to have the company of someone, to touch or hug him or her, to be away, parted from that person you love; to miss that person, so much that your heart aches and there is such a void inside you that, it seems, nothing is capable of filling.

For some time now I feel there’s too much absence in my life.

Back then, when the house was full of life and noise and movement, absences were short. The boys would go to their father for a couple of days, but they would always come back. Nuno and I never lived together, so each of was in our respective home, but we knew we were there for each other, we got together all the time, spent weekends together at the beach house and, finally, there was always that phone call before going to bed. Sometimes, just to say, Hi, I’m here, good night. But it felt good, it filled whatever void you might have in your heart.

Then there came loss. The loss of Nuno and all we had had for more than ten years. At first, anger did not let me feel his absence, I thought I was done with him, that it was over for good. But over the years, like a darkness, his absence grew on me, until it became a monster. Then, as months passed, my little birds flew the nest. They had spent the lockdown with their father, in their big house, but at the time I did not really miss them, because they came to see me and have dinner all the time – and I knew, of course, that this was a temporary situation. I was alone, but never felt lonely; they were not here, but I didn’t feel their absence.

Alas, things were never the same. Because of his new work, my son Afonso never came back to Lisbon again, he stayed at the beach house. He didn’t literally “leave home” because he was still living at one of my homes, but I only got to spend the weekends with him. And then, a year after, Pedro decided to go and work abroad, and that was when I literally felt lost, and the constant feeling of absence came to stay. For good.

Some time ago, I was in Amsterdam with him. I had just arrived and was savouring the feeling that I had five whole days to spend with him. I felt happy and fulfilled; even on the days he had to work, I just stayed at home working or watching television with the knowledge that he was coming home, that I would be seeing him later, talking to him, seeing him across the table or sitting next to me on the couch… there was no feeling of absence or loneliness. Even as I went to sleep, I knew he was there on the other side of the door, and it filled my heart with joy. But, as always when you are feeling happy, those days flew by, and even he was telling me that, and wishing I could stay longer. But it was not to be. I had to come back to my lonely life, the one I must get used to, but somehow still haven’t – not yet.

Tonight, Afonso is coming to dinner. I haven’t seen him in two weeks. It will be a balm to the void of his absence, but then he will go back to the new house he shares with his girlfriend and again there will be this silence, this hole, this feeling that I’m all alone in the world.  Small moments fill the void, small moments of togetherness make the absence more bearable, but it is always there, and will not go away.

As for the other great absence in my life, I’m afraid I will go on feeling it too. No matter what I feel, say, or do, there’s a heart turned into stone that will not open to love again. Some time ago I read, somewhere, that at times we stop living just because we are too afraid of pain, and I believe that is Nuno’s case. He’d rather not take any chance and he doesn’t want to be hurt again. And it seems nothing will make him change his mind.

There are other absences in my life; that of friends who live far away and I don’t see as much as I would like to; that of loved ones who have left to other dimensions whom I will never see in this life again; that of people who were once so relevant in my life, but somehow disappeared, some brusquely, some slowly… those who went away because they wanted to, and those I sent away. And those who simply faded away.

Yes, there is much absence in my life. I suppose it will increase as I grow older. Old age is a lonely place and, if absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder, I will be sorely missing all those people I have loved, and love, because they are no longer by my side.

A different summer

Going on sixty

Beach baby

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