These days it feels as if my mind is ‘off leash;’ that is, it wanders more than it used to. When I was younger, I could carry all kinds of things in my head at one time. In fact, my mind was a fabulous layer cake; seven layers usually:
- Tasks to do that day
- Things not to forget to do, such as lock the doors
- Work stuff, all in neat orderly rows
- Home stuff, such as meal menus
- Pet stuff; feeding the cats, getting them to the vet for their checkups, etc.
- Significant other stuff
- Me stuff
But alas, these days my brain cake seems to have shrunk down to one miserable little layer….and that one is pretty crumbly. These days I am saying things like, ‘pass me that, oh, you know, that thingy you write with,’ or ‘I just met whathisname up the street,’ or best of all, my frequent ‘word salad’—when I mean to say, ‘I put gas in the car today,’ it comes out as something altogether different, like ‘mint tea and ginger snaps.’ Surely I am too young for this degree of mental foolishness….or not.
Then there is the annoying physical part of getting older. When I got interested in karate in my 30s, I went all the way to 4th degree black belt. I had my own school with two other instructors, and loved it. Over those years, I must have done thousands upon thousands of kicks and punches, not to mention being a punching bag for overenthusiastic students.
So now, mere days away from 65, I have not one, but TWO torn rotator cuffs, plus hip and knee pain. When I get out of bed, my body makes more sounds than a bag of microwave popcorn. I now fart whenever I bend over (always the lady), and when I do yoga or stretching exercises, I always have to repeat this mantra when getting up: “ow, ow, ow, OW!” Sheesh.
I also find that, in the six months since my mother died, my emotions have been all over the place. Oh, I’ve checked those websites about women losing their mothers and all the different emotions they go through. Intellectually I understand the mental hopscotch.
I thought I might benefit from therapy, and went to one session. I cried and gulped and wiped my streaming eyes and nose all through it, paid the man $100 and never went back. I realized that I was afraid that, upon reliving my experience, I might explode into millions of tiny shards.
What I feel now is a weird combination of grief, fear, worry, anger and something else I can’t quite name. It’s a lot like the Wheel of Fortune game, but with no stopping for too long on any specific emotion. I never know if my day will begin with tears, irrational anger, self-pity, self-doubt, worry or, or something worse. But then often some days I feel like the old me, the one who had a mother.
It isn’t like Mom and Dad and I didn’t prepare for this. As with everything in my family, we worked through all the details of dying and death. As we always have, we talked openly with each other, and dealt with this as a family. We said everything to each other; we declared our love over and over and over again. When Mom began to decline physically, it was with love and deep affection that Dad and I cleaned her, brought food in to her, talked with her, kissed her and watched her sleep.
When everything came to an end on December 16 last year, I could feel her joyous and ebullient spirit shoot straight up to Heaven, exclaiming “It’s about damn time!” She was ready to go and looked forward to her next adventure.
But there is just something about not having that physical presence any longer. I keep a favorite picture of her and Dad ballroom dancing right beside my chair in the living room. Both of their faces are lit up with love and joy and the pure fun of dancing together. That special smile, the one I had known since babyhood, lives for me now in my mind and in pictures.
Trust me, I know all the emotions that go along with the death of someone you love deeply. But knowing them and living with them are two different things. What I am going through now is nothing new under the sun—just new to me.