First, let me say, that though I had planned on philosophizing, introspecting, and waxing elephants all month, you can thank my parents that they completely distracted me and kept me from thinking about myself the entire Month of March. I know, sad. I’ll try to cram it all into tonight, my one last harrah in my forties.
(I think I’ve written about this before, but I don’t feel like going back and looking for it. So bear with me if I have.)
As you know, this past weekend was spent moving Mom into her new place at Prairie House. To be blunt, it’s kind of the last stop, right? Mom’s decline started three years ago when she had open-heart surgery. We knew then that her days were numbered. She is now on hospice for the third time since then. (She kept getting better and getting kicked off. We have joked with her about that, getting expelled from hospice!)
I think the term ‘midlife’ has nothing to do with getting into your forties and fifties, halfway through your life, but more to do with being caught in the middle. On one hand we are starting the process of ushering a parent out of this life and into the next, while on the other hand, we are watching our children establish their homes and usher into this world the next generation, our grandchildren. At the same time we are experiencing great joy and the most fun, we are sad and grieving.
We are caught in the middle of life; the coming in and the going out.
2. I have a brother who has disappeared from the face of the earth. He is in hiding and unless he reads my blog he doesn’t know that Dad was so sick that he was shriveling up before our eyes or that our Mom now lives in Assisted Living. He doesn’t know that Mom and Dad no longer live under the same roof for the first time in 55 years. Unless he reads my blog he doesn’t know that Mom is on hospice.
Last night I had a long conversation with the mother of his child. He doesn’t acknowledge his little boy who looks exactly like him, and at 5 years old, is asking why he doesn’t have a dad. If my brother reads this he won’t like it, won’t like that I’m writing about him, but you know what? I’m turning 50 tomorrow, and I think I’ve earned the right to tell the truth. And the truth is that in 50 years I’ve learned a few things.
I’ve learned that family comes first. The family you came from, and the family you create. Together, they are number one no matter what. You’ll make mistakes with both. You’ll let both families down, the one you came from, the one you create. They’ll both hurt you from time to time, and both will let you down. But in the end, when the shit hits the fan, (sorry Dad, it’s the 50 year old coming out in me a day early), what we have left is family. So, even though it feels as though we’ve been cut off, and my human nature wants to say that I’m done, I’m excommunicating him, I’m done trying, if he comes around, I will rejoice and welcome him with open arms.
Because, in the end, who we come from and who we make is more important than anyone else.
On a lighter note:
Today I received an email from my Brother-in-law, Marty. He wanted to remind me that he was the first to wish me a happy birthday. Last month he sent me this email in response to a post I wrote about someone telling me it would be all downhill from here:
“Thanks for a wonderful and encouraging blog post… Here’s to the beginning of the next half,
Let’s pray it is all downhill.
Downhill as in a coast to the finish line.
Downhill as in the wind in your face and bugs in your teeth from smiling.
Downhill as in the top of a chair-lift looking with anticipation toward the fun ski-run ahead.
It’s all downhill from here.
Do you love that!? Don’t you wish Marty was YOUR brother-in-law!? So great and so encouraging. Thank you Martin Keith.
Last week on our way to Mom and Dad’s house, I received this email from my Father-in-law. It’s by Erma Bombeck, one of my favorite authors of all time, and sent to me at a timely moment.
“IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER – by Erma Bombeck
(written after she found out she was dying from cancer).
I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.
I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle..
When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, ‘Later… Now go get washed up for dinner.’ There would have been more ‘I love you’s, more ‘I’m sorry’s.’
But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute; look at it and really see it; live it and never give it back.. STOP SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!”
If you made it to the end of this uncharacteristically long blog post, thank you for putting up with me and my ramblings, and I leave you with this photo, one of my favorites, of me and my oldest and dearest friend, who has been there through all 49 years and 365 days (this is leap year), my sister Cheryl.