Patti Smith, inarguably one of the coolest rock chicks of all time, recently lost a beloved friend and wrote; “grief is not an affliction, it is a privilege” and I found it so moving and timely…this was just days before my father was turning 81 and I had been thinking, too much probably, about the future, and more specifically the depth of grief I will be suffering, sometime… It seems I have been dealing with something called Anticipatory Grief. It’s real, and basically means being sad about something that has not even happened, yet, but that I know is going to happen, eventually, and it makes me feel sad, and frankly overwhelmed, and I get upset and sometimes even will cry, as if I were suffering literal grief, but am actually just thinking about it! It’s terrible, and a waste of energy but it exists and I am experiencing it, often, these last months.
I am WELL aware that many people my age don’t even have parents anymore but I am struggling, if I think too often about it, with how I will go on living in a world without my dad and mom in it…I guess that is why keeping oneself immersed in the present tense is the best way to have a peaceful life!! Don’t worry about what will eventually happen, and don’t dwell on what has already happened, right??!! Also, it’s time to note that our family motto is “tomorrow you could be run over by a pie wagon” so it is also possible, because ANYTHING is possible, that I could very well die before my parents do! That would be easier on my suffering, but I feel pretty sure that it would make my granddaughters suffer mightily, so I shall not wish for one way or the other, because all of it will happen, but has not happened yet…
It seems so silly, I mean if we are alive we all die, eventually, we all know this, but I suppose because I have had so little experience with death I am now scared because it is coming. I am not at all afraid of death or dying, I am afraid of losing people I love, & they are not at all the same emotions or feelings. It started in November when my beloved aunt took a terrible fall and cracked her head and was lucky that it did not kill her…but seeing how hard her recovery has been, from an unexpected fall, really threw me for a loop. I have always said she was like or second mom, so losing her is in my mix of future worry too, and then last month an older gentleman who I really liked, a lot, the dear companion to one of my clients, took a fall and died from complications a week later, and it all happened so fast and I suppose made my thoughts about losing my family the front and center of my musings…perhaps if it were sunny and 87 degrees I would not be having such dark and gray thoughts these last weeks!!! That’s it, I will blame the weather!!!
…But back to my point…I was thinking a lot this last week about how lucky I have been to have family like I do…if you follow my blog or have ever read other essays, you will know that we are a family that does not agree on very much, at all, BUT the things we do agree on are sufficient to keep us having good and friendly relationships and frequent interactions. I talk to my mom and my sister and my aunt almost every single day and I see my family at least once a week or more, we are all fully IN each other’s lives. We don’t talk about that which divides us, period. I have two degrees in feminist theory/women’s history and criminal justice, I am the single blue M&M in a bag of only red candy if you get my drift, but there is no yelling or arguing like in some families or like in the movies…I do me and they do them, and we just find a way to get along. We do not listen to the same talk radio station and we do not watch the same news channels, and we are of opposite opinions about most subjects, but we find a way to have common ground and that really is a privilege isn’t it??!! I love my family very much and they provided me with one of the best childhoods of pretty much most all the people I know, and continue to be good to me, to my daughter, to my granddaughters…it is undeniably hard sometimes, to know that what they think is so different from what I think, and how completely and utterly impossible it is for me to comprehend, but then I remind myself that they probably feel EXACTLY the same way about me!!! “How could we have raised someone who thinks like she does??!!” is probably EXACTLY what goes on in their minds!!! My dad, my mom, and my aunt & sister all probably think this every day! Tit for Tat!!!
Over the last seven or so years I know so many friends who have lost friends, and family members who have stopped seeing or speaking to one another because they have such different opinions about so many things. It’s true that the orange president we got for those four years was one I never wanted and certainly did not vote for, but he was one my family did want and did vote for…not begrudgingly, like they actually liked him and supported him, AND still do (I know) which was actually very hard for me to deal with, in too many ways to mention…that he was such a gruesomely terrible public speaker was only one of the countless things that I loathed about him, and when it became abundantly clear to me that what I read, and heard, and watched was completely different from what my family read and heard and watched, I had to make a choice, and my choice was to find common ground and stick with that. I used bold lettering here because it is part of my past, my present, and my future. I will stick with common ground for as long as I live. I literally chose love; the love I had for my family was bigger than any issue or circumstances or period of time…I was not going to let their flags and bumper stickers and autographed postcards and hats (seriously, yes it’s true) ruin the otherwise good relationship I had with all of them. I cared too much about how much I loved them and how much they loved me to let anything divide us…from womb to tomb they are my family and I have never once, not even for a day, felt unloved, in my entire life…what a privilege to have ALWAYS KNOWN I WAS LOVED…I could have been born to some real loser/out of work-abusive-angry-in debt-alcoholic family, but I wasn’t, and for that I am lucky, and I know I am lucky, and continue to feel grateful for all they have done, and continue to do, for me…The older I get the fewer friends I have who have any family at all & I don’t take it for granted. They can tell me the sky is green, and that purple is the worst color in the world, and that my silver roof is stupid, and that my house and daughter are ugly, and that my job is meaningless, and I would still love them and want to have a relationship with them…what I mean is that I made a choice to NOT LET ANYTHING ruin what I had with them. Womb to Tomb commitment to love.
I went to see my dad on his birthday and to deliver the homemade macaroons I make for him. He looked like he always looks, in his work clothes (11 years after retirement) happy with a smile, and busy in his garage working on some sort of project, build, repair, or tinkering. On this particular morning he was rebuilding the pump on his log splitter and also working on the design for a head and foot-board modification on pieces that I got for free from a friend’s storage unit and that we want to make fit with my current bed (which he made for me in 1999) He is one of the happiest and most content men you will ever meet and I have never, not once EVER, gone to my mom and dad’s house and found my father sitting in front of a television! He stays busy from the moment he wakes up until it is time to sit and watch some news after dinner…surely this is where I get my work ethic and energy from!!! My mom too, always cheerful and chipper and running errands or reading a book or working at her desk…When I arrived with the cookies they were their usual smiling selves and greeted me warmly and while I am sure they have ZERO interest in my sculpt and strength workout that morning, they let me blabber on about how much I love that class, and while I am sure they have ZERO interest in, well, probably most of the stuff I say when I am with them, they act like they are interested in my life and that is one of the biggest ways that they love me. It is a privilege to be their daughter and the grief that I will eventually feel might very well kill me, but it’s not today, it was not yesterday, and so that is it I guess…I just “press on” as my mom says and keep “making plenty of deposits in my karmic bank” as my dad says…I guess it’s just the circle of life that none of us can do anything about, womb to tomb in a big round circle and some circles last a few years and some last a century…time will tell…they are my people and I am part of their world, no matter what kind of flags they fly.