I’ve got a lot of different trails to run down in my mind. Having been with my sisters for a couple of days, visiting relatives and revisiting memories makes you begin to examine your perception. It also makes you examine how you are perceived.
I came home from my short visit and a friend who I have known only a short time passed away. She was a year older than I am. She had pancreatic cancer. The obituary in the news from the University where she worked spoke of her life and work. She accomplished so much and had a lot more to do. Her illness claimed her three months after her diagnosis. I helped a little during her illness. There is not much one can do and everything seems inadequate. The family is on their way out west to bury her body. I have their dog.
While with my sisters I was at times more silent than I may have been in the past. Talks of children, babies, families are full of emotional barbs for me. My sister showed me the funny picture of my nephew that pops up on her phone when he calls her. I have one of my son that he too put on my phone. He did it secretly so that when he called there he was – his nose looking like a giant pickle and his eyes wide. It annoys me when funny memories make me sad.
My sisters have every right to talk about their children, laugh about them, lament about them, worry over them. I talked a little about my daughter, but it felt like it was all just falling short of something that I could not put my finger on. I would draw back into my shell, keep my hands busy and listen.
There are days when I feel like I could fly apart, explode into a million pieces and scatter across the universe. I felt like that yesterday when I dropped my sister off at the bus station to return to her home, and later when I found out my friend had died. I felt that way when I watched my friend’s husband gently, tenderly remove her jewelry. I parted with my friends mother yesterday too. She is ninety-five and I am afraid too easy to fall in love with. I don’t know if I will see her again.
There is a commercial where a little girl explains about wanting “more of less stuff.” That’s me, always left wanting more of “less stuff.” Wanting explanations about past events that have no real evidence except in my memory which is flawed. Wanting explanations about present situations that I have no control over.
My mother and dad are both gone so there is no working on that relationship any more. My sisters and I talked about our own individual relationships with our parents and our own perception of the relationships we thought we had observed. It was interesting to discover the flaws in our perception. What we thought was going on at times was not all that it seemed. Not one of us escaped unscathed and I am sure it set us all on our heels as we considered our relationship with our own children.
It is difficult to really get to know anyone. Maybe it is impossible.
I wish I had gotten to have more time time to get to know my recently deceased friend. I wish I had more years with my son. With one, I had only a few months and with the other 29 years, neither amount is enough – I want more of the less stuff.
The moral, I think is probably cliche and obvious. You need to make the most of every little thing you have. Gatherings and visits, road trips and late night conversations. So many little things – so much of the things you only get snippets of to piece together to make a picture you can live with.
I drove my friend to her chemotherapy appointments. We talked about the mundane and then at times she would talk about the things she was concerned about. She was so very sick and weak. I could see her weaken and knew she was not getting better. She knew it too, but she was willing to try. She was also able to recognize when it was time to stop. I was not able to take her to chemotherapy because of a class I was teaching two weeks ago and by the next appointment time she went to have a CAT scan. It was then they recognized the reality. A week later to the day – she was gone.
The last time I saw her I told her I loved her and she told me she loved me. We kissed. That will have to be the less I can have no more of.
I hoped I helped her mother feel confident – at least for the moment – about her decisions to go back to her home town or near her nephew. She will probably return to assisted living. She does not want to be a burden.
Life is messy and death it seems- lasts much longer. We are blip on the radar, making our important plans, overestimating our influence and fading into memory.
The family members of my friend have hard days ahead. It feels like trying to run through Jell-o. Everything has changed. I wish it could be easier.
My friend was quiet and intelligent, she had an inner strength and a strong moral compass, a lot like my son. I really do hope for heaven or something after this life – where spirits meet in the Love that is God’s will. I hope they celebrate having all the “less stuff” like a great sea to swim in till we meet again.