When I was fifteen years old I liked biting my nails. I loved gnawing at every little piece, twisting my mouth until I could no longer feel any stubborn bits, until my fingers throbbed in pain. But I didn’t care – I pressed them against one another until they were numb. Biting my nails was a childish thing, evidence of my anxiousness. But when I was thirty, I would sit with all my tiny glasses of colored paint, and with their tiny brushes I would paint my nails, every day a different color, because I was no longer a child or anxious, and I needed to show that to just everyone.
When I was fifteen years old I liked noise. I loved loud music, rowdy laughter. There was never any silence in my life, and the quiet sounded like a punishment. At thirty, silence was an intruder that had become my ever-present partner. It was there when I woke up and there when I ate and there when I lay down. The silence, however, had never been so deafening.
When I was fifteen years old I liked the heat. I loved wearing lightweight clothing and feeling my hair sticking to my sweaty face making me prettier – or so I thought. And the sun was so welcome and it darkened my skin and left tan lines that I loved to see in those strategic places. At thirty, the heat annoyed me and I cursed, among clenched teeth, the sun that had once been so desired. Because now it chastised me and again it left lines, but these now were called wrinkles and took hold of those spots in the face that worry and bitterness made a point of marking.
When I was fifteen years old I liked the cold. I loved feeling the icy wind, blushing my face and turning my lips red. I loved warming up my hands by placing them on my warm belly and under all those heavy clothes that waited for months in the closet for their chance to come out. At thirty, the cold hurt in my bones and my feet felt like deprived of all blood. I placed my hands on my skin, which now shook the whole time, but not even all the clothes in the world seemed able to warm up that frozen soul.
When I was fifteen years old I liked people. I loved parties, meet ups, those gatherings that popped up everywhere. I always wanted to be surrounded by people, and nobody ever upset me. At thirty, people disappointed me and wounded me without even knowing, and I, confused, would withdraw and protect myself from further hurt, and my withdrawal confounded and hurt the people who I disappointed and wounded without even knowing.
When I was fifteen years old every morning was such a delight. I jumped out of bed smiling at everything that day and the ones ahead would bring me. My present was exhilaration, and my future the promise of so much more. At thirty, every morning was agony. I would open my eyes and find out that nobody, once again, had listened to my prayers, and I once again was awake. My present was damnation, and my future the threat of so much more.
Thirty-five years have gone since I was fifteen, and twenty since I was thirty. And now I do not look at that girl and at that woman with the wisdom the years have brought me, because I do not have it. If there is anything I can give them, that will be the only treasure I own, which I have named surrender. That might be what they call wisdom after all.
Surrender. Come, Life, come make me laugh and then make me cry, come give it to me and then take it all way, come make me believe and them make me doubt, come make me bleed and then make me stop bleeding, come, come, come. And then start it all over again. I surrender, I submit myself, I accept. No – more than that: I want it, and I want it all. Because now I understand that receiving only what I desire is nothing when compared to what I really need.
And then I reach out my hand to that girl and to that woman, and I whisper in your ears to close your eyes and feel whatever it is that you are feeling. We are not in control of anything anyway, so feel it, feel it all, with no boundaries. Because you, the girl, happy in your ignorant expectation of such amazing accomplishments, could never imagine the afflictions that lay ahead. Lucky you. Just like you had no idea, my friend, how happy you would still be, when you wept in pain, at the height of your disappointment at the tree of great achievements that had the ground covered by rotten fruit. Again, lucky you. It was all just the way it was meant to be. The excited and innocent laughter of those first years was no less necessary than the brutal and overwhelming suffering of the years that came later on. It was all magnificent and terrible just the way it was supposed to be. Yes, because that is life, isn’t it? It is pure joy, it is stabbing pain, it is full trust, it is sneaky betrayal, it is feeling that everything is finally fine, it is a rug swept from under our feet. Ad infinitum.
And now I look at the past fifty years and who knows how many more ahead, with a cup of coffee in my hands, in absolute surrender. My body tired, indeed, but strong and scarred, my eyes failing to see as well but seeing better than ever before, my wrinkles deep, from the sweet days in the sun and from the tormented days in the dark. And now, when I hear everyone say that uncertainty has thrown a cloak over our worlds, when I hear everyone wonder what it is and what it is not going to be of all of us, I fall silent. I don’t know. But then I remember that I never did, so I surrender, and I feel at peace.
My Mother’s Last Words (repost from Dec. 4, 2016)
Stuffed in a metal shelf in one of the rooms of the busy ER treatment center along with a wrinkled copy of Mature Focus and a Golf Digest from 2009, the golden-spined children's book "Mary Has a Baby" seemed an unlikely selection for the elderly mother and her daughter who occupied room # 7 for hours as tests were done.
The mother afflicted with dementia had been brought by ambulance that morning when she could no longer walk after eating breakfast prepared by her caretaker that morning. Her daughter drove quickly to be by her side and wait expecting to take her home as had happened many times in the last few years.
Blood draws, EKGs, IVs all completed. The chest X-ray and head CAT scan carried out. All that was left was the waiting. The mother whose her ability to read or form sentences ended some time ago was left repeating or in silence.
The daughter decides to read to her and picks the children's book, reading the story from annunciation to resurrection with her mother sometimes moving to turn the pages gazing at the colorful illustrations while at other times drifting in and out. By the end of the story, the mother was sleeping soundly.
A doctor appears quietly at the door and motions. Outside he whispers the mother has stage 3 sepsis and nothing can be done but admit her to the Hospice Unit and make her comfortable.
The daughter returns and sits for what seemed like forever quietly watching her mother's breath rise and fall beneath the bright yellow hospital gown that signaled to everyone she was a falling risk. The IV monitor went off, its bag empty. Beeping the mother awake, calling for attention.
The mother opened her eyes wide and clear.
"It was a good thing Mary had that baby" the mother said beaming.
Startled, the daughter, confused, said, "Mary? What Mary?"
She sees her mother look at her genuinely annoyed. Just like when she was a child and should have understood what she was being told but didn't her mind working hard trying to cover it up.
"I wonder what she had?"
Then, my mother's last words, "It was a boy, of course. She named him Jesus."
He was much more than my pet. Actually he was my trained service dog.
I got him from a breeder when he was 4 months old and had a trainer work with us three days a week for fifteen months.
During his gangly puppy stages, Tigger survived the most severe case of puppy mouth warts the vets had ever seen! They were so bad he couldn’t eat his food and I had to spoon feed him canned food until the vet surgically removed them! Then two months later Tigger got a huge knot on a toe. I thought it was a bug bite. Nope it was cancer and he had to have that toe removed. They said it wouldn’t come back. It came back on two other toes and they also had to be removed.
All before he turned three years old!
He was a trooper though, and I made sure that since he took very good care of me, he had a very comfortable life. He had his own couch, and blanket and his own little Tigger toy.
Tigger helped me for 12 years.
Its been two years now, I had to have him put down because he had a mass in his chest. I had him cremated and his ashes sit in a special spot.
Ive never gotten over him.
Tigger. Gentle giant. Great Dane.
40 inches at the shoulder