Tuesday, September 6, 2011

100 Years…

This is where I give you some good excuses for being totally silent for the past two weeks. Besides a hurricane and it’s long and drawn out aftermath, I have none. I’m a West coast girl, and I was not prepared for the likes of Irene — even if she wasn’t a “real” hurricane, as I’m told by all the veterans out this way. Nonetheless, she was a bitch and I’m glad to be finally done with her. Kids are back in school, the yard is starting to look normal again, and I may even be back in the office soon if they get that sorted out. But this is not a hurricane post.

I don’t know if its the rainy weather today, or the fact that I’ve had more than a week at home with my kiddos with their school shut down for repairs, but I’m feeling a little sentimental. The one thing that I work on a lot — in the personal realm — is trying to enjoy the moment, especially with my kids. I spend a lot of time moving around, cleaning up, organizing, and it eats up many of the precious moments when they’re busy being little boys. It eats into the time when I could be just sitting and hanging out with my husband, too. That guy who lives here. Sometimes I spend so much time doing these “important” things, that I feel like I am missing everything really important. Afterall, on my deathbed, will I recall that on September 5th I did a really thorough job of cleaning the kitchen sink — that it smelled clean and shone like new? No. Definitely not. But I might remember the fact that this was the day that Lunchbox said his first “sentence” — “I eat.” (Appropriate, no?) And I almost missed it. I’m lucky he said it in the kitchen while I was scrubbing the sink. What else am I missing while I’m off doing busywork and my kids are growing up?

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease. My mother is her only child, and I’ve watched for the past five or six years while this has torn her apart. Grandma was doing okay for a while — she grew up in a world that dictated that women should always be polite and put on a good face in front of strangers, and her professional life dictated that she be always proper. That served her well in covering the fact that she didn’t remember meeting my husband before and wasn’t sure who my kids were. Sometimes she wasn’t sure who I was, but usually she knew me and just subtracted a few years from my age and had me back in college. But now she doesn’t know me. And she sometimes doesn’t know my mom, which I know is killing my mom. Mom says that she said goodbye to Grandma years ago, and that this woman is not her mother. Nonetheless, she feels obligated (is obligated, I guess) to visit her weekly, make sure she is safe and as happy as is possible. She takes her to lunch and doctor’s appointments, to get her hair done… and Grandma always went happily. Until recently. Lately she’s forgotten to be proper and polite, and she has been mean. So things have been tough for Mom.

And last week Grandma fell and broke her hip. She had surgery to relieve some of the pain, but odds seem good that a full recovery is not in the tea leaves. Mom believes that since she has basically stopped eating, won’t take her medicine and refuses physical therapy, that the end is in sight. And that will be a blessing and a great loss.

I look at what is happening to my grandmother and feel devastatingly guilty for not appreciating every single second that I’m living this life with these amazing little people to keep it interesting. I feel guilty for ever being in a bad mood or not being 100% present for my husband or my kids. What else is there? In the end, what are we but the sum of the relationships we’ve had and the memories we’ve created?

I heard that song by Five for Fighting on the radio this morning — 100 years. And I thought about the message — maybe I do have 100 years to live. My great-grandparents demonstrated some longevity. But I wonder how much of it I might be aware of, if Alzheimers really does run in families? I’m at 38. That’s less than half. I could turn it around and live in a way that I can be proud of every day for most of my life if I start right now. I’m going to try. I don’t think I’m quite old enough to join the Red Hat Society, but that’s what I’m angling for…

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