Joan Cardellino: Living Alone

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Joan Cardellino finds herself alone in her home for the first time and on the cusp of a new life.

It's the time of year when, pandemic constraints notwithstanding, young adults go off to college or move out of the family home in pursuit of a career or adventure. I find myself alone, finally, in my own home, and I am delighted to be able to organize my things and my space solely to my own desires. For the first time in decades, I wake to a clean and quiet home and feel happy. I know where the scissors are; I know there is soap in the bathroom; and I know that the kitchen is clean and ready for me.

My daughter is in the Midwest, charting her own course for the first time, my husband’s ashes are scattered in my garden, and I am reclaiming a bedroom and too many drawers to count. It feels like a lot; it feels like just enough; I feel guilty at having so much and also grateful and proud.

I am acutely aware of the privilege of having a whole house to myself. My husband and I purchased our home 23 years ago with the help of inherited money, but all the subsequent years of mortgage payments were ours. I just wish it weren’t so hard for so many families to find affordable housing in Oakland and I wish that feeling lucky didn’t also feel so unfair. I am learning to live with gratitude and joy for my well-being and using those feelings to fuel my efforts to bring greater justice and peace to my community.

Sharing personal living space with others is a challenge. My insecure daughter has an insatiable need for beauty products that exceeded the capacity of the bathroom cupboards and my dear husband rarely put anything back where he found it. Now that they are gone, I sort through the remains, find lost things, and remember the excitement for the various purchases: the art supplies, the hamster cage, the golf clubs. In the process of throwing away and donating items I am creating space for my new life, one where friends are my family and there is room to grow.


With a Perspective, this is Joan Cardellino.

Joan Cardellino is a retired State of California employee.