Since last we left, B’s medical troubles have continued to decline, I still dig my new love, Led Zeppelin, and the theme of CHANGE hurricanes like a News at 11 Accuweather forecast.
Tail end of March, beginning of April, lucky girl me got to journey to Maui with my tribe for a week–I seriously dream of living there–and now I am presently in New York rounding out Spring Break as I re-connect for an extended week with the babies and East Coast tribe. Got to visit a colonial heritage farm in Conn., watched my daughter run a 10K in Central Park, walked around the village of Forest Hills, played in local parks, ate mostly healthy foods, visited my favorite French bakery for a latte and baguette three times, and stocked up on Pinot Noirs and a bottle of French, overly sweet bubbly. I could get used to my vagabond life, and I am making plans to be a full-time traveler and nester-where-I-most-feel-at-peace person.
I’ve carried angst for so long, but now, everything in my being is telling me to get off the train and enjoy life. Let it go, as my granddaughter sings, travel light. Several of my former colleagues who chose to step off the merry-go-round have been touting this philosophy for years. I know they’re right, but something keeps holding me back.
Today at the playground, I met two women; one a grandma who is five years older than me, and a daughter in her 30s whose mom recently and unexpectedly died. Both women spoke of regrets.
Catherine, the older, German grandma, shared her story as we entertained our pre-nap grand babies: “I shouldn’t be talking to a stranger, but I need to.” She told me about her sick husband’s terrible, neglectful medical treatment, feeling trapped, having no time because she’s constantly caring for others. She says other than her daughter, she has no one else to talk to. “My husband secluded me, maybe because we were new to America, Germans in New York City.”
She tries to confide her stress to her children, one a doctor, the other an accountant,
“but they don’t understand.” They’re busy, raising their own children. building a life away from Mom and Dad. . “They say they will help, but they do nothing, nothing. I am on my own.”
She longs to travel again, go back to Germany to visit her aging sister. But she can’t; she has to care for her husband who had a heart attack four years ago, and her young grandson whom she watches three days a week.”It never ends,” she said, gritting her teeth.
“If it ever comes to it,” Catherine said, throwing her hands in the sky, “I’ll take drugs. I am serious. I don’t want anyone taking care of me.”
I wonder if other people in the park think she’s yelling or mad. She moves in close, then moves back, raises her voice and gestures passionately.
“I have things I want to do, but I don’t see it happening.”
I tell her I understand. Life can be hard.
“You never think illness will happen,” she continued. “My husband can’t go anywhere except doctors’ appointments. And me, I need my hip replaced but I don’t have time to do it because everyone needs me.”
She kept looking at her phone for the time. “I have to take my husband back to the hospital. I was there for nine hours last night.” I get it, I really do. The stress of a stressed-out medical system is incredibly frustrating and wrong to average people like Catherine’s husband and B. Because of poor medical care early in the infection to his foot, now it has to be amputated.
The frustration to the patient, and those who care for them, is overwhelming and terrifying.
“I think I’m going to sell my house,” I told her.
“Do it,” she said, “while you can.
“To hell with leaving your kids money. It’s your life. You worked hard. You deserve happiness.”
Her little grandson was crying and it was time to walk back home for his lunch and nap. “I’ll send you positive thoughts and prayers,” I offered as she strolled out the playground.
I continue swinging Millie, who was snacking and apparently eavesdropping, as too was the mommy of 2-year-old Daniel. “I couldn’t help but think about my mother,” she said, her eyes swelling with tears. She died last month of septic and pneumonia. “She wanted to travel, but she never made the time.”
She lived in Georgia with her sick husband; she never felt she could get away, even to visit her New York grandchildren and daughter. “We were so close. I am still in shock,” she said, wiping away tears. “I cry every day. So does my father.”
I listened to her story, how her mother placed her family’s needs above her own, even refusing to go the doctor after a persistent cough wouldn’t go away. She ended up with a raging infection that was too aggressive to treat. After four days in the hospital, she passed. “I was on the plane with my son and husband. I never got to say goodbye.”
I glanced at Millie and noticed her staring at the grieving woman’s face.
On our way home, I explained to Millie that the lady was sad and missed her mommy. Millie could relate. She shook her head and sweetly said, “Miss Mommy.” I assured her that her Mommy would be home after work and that Daniel’s mommy would be OK. “OK?” she repeated.
Astounded by the empathy of a 2-year-old and the gushing vulnerability of two strangers, I am reminded once again of the preciousness of life, of time, and the importance of living life with a sense of purpose and assuredness, adventure and joy. Being eager, being excited about what’s around the corner, is the key. My dad knew it. He always had something to look forward to: “Where there’s life, there’s hope,” he used to say.
Being stuck, being overly aware of where the closest CVS and Costco are located might not be the ticket to self and spiritual growth. Gotta shake things up, keep it fluid, keep the limbs ready to pounce, say “Yes” to opportunities, especially when it comes out of no where, which turns out, is really somewhere, like the swollen maple leaves flying in the skyscraper sky on our way back from the 10K.
In a few weeks, I am going to jump out of a parachute, take a chance on The Great Next. It will feel like Frisbeeing my RUHS Seahawk mortarboard into the sky, and not fretting–-I mean it—about where it will land. It is, after all, made out of cheap fabric and cardboard. Disposable, compostable.