Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Birthday Series #3 - not an easy one but an important one

Formerly announced title: "Now I really feel older than Mother and Tim"

Yep, in this post I have gone over my 2-3 paragraph plan, but in a way that doesn't count since almost all the words below spieled out of me yesterday while recharging in my building's downstairs restaurant with - yes - a Chardonnay. (I was not just recharging from the workday but gearing up for the long drive home, and worse, an expedition to Town East Mall in Mesquite! Amazing I accomplished that, plus writing, with just one Chardonnay.)

Maybe for a growth experience I should type this with the draft markings - a few question marks and blanks - left on. Yeah! Maybe. Except I will have to check the reference years - can't stand to be sloppy with that.


Mother died at 48, Tim at 47. I had to look up those dates again - maybe the dates don't matter - but when I turned 48 (Mother) and 47 (Tim) (and also 49, since my math got vague, especially when them not living/dying in neat year increments but half years too, 48 1/2 etc.), it felt like it mattered.

Tim always looked calendar-year (ageless?) young to me, his only aging came from 6? years of cancer treatment. David, now 52, has some gray and a slightly receding hairline. (Not that we talk slang to each other, but - sorry, bro.) Dave has kids - Tim and I don't. Maybe that's a connection to the aged look?, or so friends with kids tell me.

Turning Mother's age of death literally? (should I edit this to, metaphorically?) felt like passing through a doorway.

So having experienced that, it surprises me that facing the 50 doorway, I feel - really far away from Tim and Mother.

My dad turns 86 the week after I turn 50. I can't make the stretch of feeling an age connection with him, although in terms of longevity there certainly could be one - shared genetics, even some shared mindset, the kind of cynicism that I think I've read some studies show can affect longevity. Expecting to be disappointed at least some of the time, not going into as deep a trough as some people might when bad news hits. Now, compared to my "grew up poor and didn't know it" dad I am a vastly spoiled princess, but there is still a link somewhere, to do with rolling your eyes at life. So with my dad on the 80-plus end of the age continuum, I still feel closer to - two dead people. They were older than me in life, but in death we have arrived at a ____?

I have enough imagination to think what a mother who died in 1974 might be like in 2011, but I am way too critical of my attempts. She liked the TV show "Maude" - would she have continued this liberal trend? (I am so glad I remember that - it's not a flimsy memory and it sustains my liberal self - for really pithy episodes she shut the living room door on us and watched it in private - yes, maybe I'm proud of that too.) Or would she have stayed near or gone even closer to her small-town, preacher's daughter ___?

Over the years I have done some info-gathering with relatives and friends who I had thought were close to her, but - from my (data-hungry) perspective, none of the sources provided much. She was a private person, and sometimes after dialogues? (interviews, such as they were) I was left with the sense that I actually knew her better than a lot of others - but the problem is/was, I was a 12 year old girl. Tim, who of course? is also gone, seemed to think he was an expert on Mother. As mature a brain as he had, I didn't think his 16 year old male self was the best resource so I never really grilled him in depth. And now - again, obviously - he's gone as a resource.

My dad struggles to answer specific questions - we stopped talking about Mother soon after she died, there was such a culture? of pragmatism in the family? - she's not coming back. My dad struggles to access such old data. In his writing about his past (his childhood, his early working years) there is a gap between his few mentions of Mother in their dating years and his stories of the last few decades that start out, unquestionably referring to my stepmother, "My wife and I." As a former therapist once said (quoted?) to me, in rueful truth, women grieve, and men replace. Yes, I know this is simplistic but I believe there's truth in it. It relates to healing, survival - but in my case, it relates to loss.

(A faded image of Mother, taken in Uncle Harvey's living room, as she was starting to fade - this was a few years before she died - it's only in this year of MY life that when I regard the image, she looks to be in not-bad shape - a vibrant wife, sister, daughter and mother, maybe just prematurely gray, maybe just busy with her life.)

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