Robert on loneliness

I am eighty years young. I am now of the age when my friends are talking about their grandchildren and sharing photos with me down the pub or at church.

My wife, Julia and I tried to have children but it didn't happen. It affected us terribly, lots of tears and the pressure was a lot back then. It is a lot now. When I see cards for Mothering Sunday and Father's Day in the shops I feel very sorry for younger people but that's what it was like when I was younger, and it felt constant. There were few role models or examples of people who didn't have children. In our small village we were considered strange for not having children so we moved to a city.

We didn't have any explanation. I worked in a printing firm and thought it might be the chemicals we had to use when I started work in the 1960s. My wife thought it might be her fault but she was always careful. I treated her like china you know. My heart breaks when I hear of the funding cut for treatment. We had nothing and it caused us grief, it's the not knowing or never having the opportunity. People pay for their health through tax and.. well let's not go into politics but it makes me ashamed for this country.

Julia passed away three years ago and I am lonely sometimes. We became closer because of what we did not have. It was a happy marriage despite this and we had nephews and nieces who still bring me happiness. They are teaching me the internet. I suppose not having commitments meant we could travel a lot and I took early retirement so we had many adventures. But I would trade in all the views to have had a family.

I worry about what will happen to me. I have been to cooking classes so I can make a nice meal. Meals on Wheels was cut here. My wider family look out for me but I do not want to be a burden. I keep active. I walk every day and take dogs from the Cinnamon Trust with me and I have made new friends that way. I think that if I am visible then if I fell or was ill, they may realise and rescue me but I do have an alert system in my home.  

I used to paint and I went back to it when I was widowed and it's lovely. I really look forward to it. The group are so focused on their painting that we don't talk about families that much!  

It was through a painting club and walking our dogs that I read about the project and I found out from Berenice about Walk In Our Shoes and World Childless Week. I dare say I'm the oldest person taking part but I hope others will talk about it. I would like to meet other men like me and to know that my story means something.

First published on Walk In Our Shoes, a space for men and women to share their stories in confidence. This story was published with Robert’s consent and the hope that more men will write for both sites.