Crept up, wrinkles, jowls
gasping air, oatmeal, tea, cat
stranger to myself.
Rocked, cradled, baby
back and forth, cooing songs, sad
Is mom my child now?
all photographs are the property of the photographers.
The Time In Between
How would you feel if you woke up one ordinary sunny morning and realized that you were now old? No, really, old. It wasn’t from a horror film or a nightmare but it was just realizing what you were seeing up close, really seeing in the mirror. It happened to me, from one night to the next and I was absolutely horrified. That couldn’t be me, could it? Really? Getting older is something I talk about with friends, in the abstract, I talk to people around the same age that I am or family members, but not seriously. Sure we all have some gentle fears for the future and the unknown but we can all relate to it. Any fears we have go away with our yoga class and deep breathing exercises. Until the day, that one different day, months later, when you are not able to breathe and my heart felt pain all the time and those thoughts become wilder and it truly is alarming. My husband, Gary, called 911 and the ambulance came eventually. Oh, how I didn’t want that, all that fanfare, stretchers and backboards and people taking my pulse and giving me oxygen with the whole street outside, I hated it but I knew there was no choice, so I closed my eyes and with my wicked sense of humor, pretended to be dead.
When the doctor finally came in to see me in the Emergency Room and told me that my heart was perfect and that I had experienced a panic attack, I couldn’t decide if I was relieved or embarrassed at the diagnosis. All they did was hook me up to some oxygen and some sort of sedative and soon I was sleeping. When the doctor ( he looked about 14 ) said I was okay to leave he gave me a prescription for anxiety medication, little orange pills for when I felt this way again, which was probable,”for people your age” the young intern said cheerfully. He said “probable” not “possible” and “for people my age.” What the hell was that supposed to mean? Even though I was groggy, I hated him just for that.
It made me think alright, I guess I couldn’t deny any longer the little things that were happening to me. Like that I had no hearing at all from my left ear, that my muscles had atrophied so much that when I walked up a flight of stairs I wheezed and clung to the stair rail and that when Bootsie, our dog passed we didn’t replace her and we had been such dog lovers because dogs became too much trouble for us.
Gary started sleeping next door in the “extra bedroom” because of his snoring and sleep apnea and after a while, I got over the loneliness and I really didn’t mind having a room all to myself. I just stopped caring and this was easier for both of us. Time was whizzing by, seasons came and they left but the routines remained the same, it’s not as if they were traveling the world or doing exciting things, truly they were JUST the things we did every single day.
Wasn’t I just young? Wasn’t that just yesterday? First, playing on the street corners with my friends, then high school and college. Growing up to be independent and living on my own. Getting married and having the two joys of my life, our son and daughter, then they left us too. It all went in a circle but it kept spinning over and over again.I wore jeans and sneakers in college and I still wear them except now I need orthotics in my shoes. My pants are from the “mom” section and my daughter, when she comes to visit with me, rolls her eyes up in disgust.
Time passes, seasons come and go, people die and babies are born, things are fair and yes, unfair and we have no choice but to hang on for dear life. We need to choose to either fight fiercely for the ride or just give in. Today, Gary and I are going to the animal shelter, we have talked about it; we want to adopt a dog again, hopefully not a dog that needs to run around a lot but a dog that needs love, just like us. We will continue to live and fight, get out of bed and walk that dog, together, for however long we have. We’ll name her Trixie.
I never knew how high and wide the big white High School graduation tent was until I stood under it. I didn’t realize how massive it was until I wandered through it. I walked through the aisles under the tent saying “Hi” and “Congratulations” to people I hadn’t seen in years.
I didn’t know how I would react when my son’s name was read over the microphone yet instinctively we stood and clapped and cheered and roared. I saw a young man walk back to his seat in slow motion; I didn’t realize it was my son; his face looked so grown up. Teenagers age, I think, once they put on their High School graduation caps and gowns; he looked six inches taller and six years older too.
It’s all a blur, the speeches and the people you smile at, familiar faces that you have seen in elementary school recitals or a middle-school play. The friends that you hug warmly are the best, closest friends that you have, that you have talked to all year, day in and day out, wondering anxiously if you and your child would ever make it to this grand day. We hold on to each other for an extra minute, sharing this surreal moment, not believing we are actually, finally, here.
They officials on the podium made an announcement to please refrain from clapping until all the students names have been read. Yeah, right. I felt sorry for the first few kids whose last name started with “A.” Those parents were very well-behaved; it just took one family to start… There were further instructions from the podium to NOT clap for each student so I felt perfectly justified playing my silly game of selection. I did NOT clap for the kids that had ever been especially mean to my son (starting with kindergarten through 12th) and for the mean-spirited moms, dads and kids that everyone knew, were the culprits of spreading ill-will. It was like a silent victory lap for moms and dads; besides we all did the same thing.
I was proud of my self-control, all my sadness, tears, and sobbing began months before the actual event. On the day of graduation I smiled and laughed and was so proud of my son and the amazing young man he has turned out to be. I was also filled with pride when his three best friends names were called, we shouted and clapped for each one. I will, undoubtedly, miss my son when he leaves for college but also, I will miss his friends, “the posse” as I called them or “The Entourage.” I have no doubt that they will see each other when they come home from college, but this long, lovely chapter of best friends and video games, parties, dinners, dates and diners has ended. I will miss that and my special group of “The Moms.”
Just when I thought the ceremony was over, the President of the High School, told the students that they had officially graduated. The blue caps were flung in the air with unbridled joy and excitement. There was a deafening roar from the students and all my self-control evaporated in that moment; I burst out crying. It was so emotionally intense; it was captured in my mind and heart forever.
The graduates beamed so much that it looked like they were lit up from inside with joy and pride. They were shining, like new copper pots or brand new pennies, excitement dancing in their eyes. Congratulations to my son and to all his friends and classmates; Congratulations to the Class of 2011!
I just made 5 huge portions of baked ziti and covered them all with shiny aluminum foil. I put two small portions in the freezer, for my daughter (she’s a vegetarian) I made a big one for all of us to eat tomorrow night and made 2 to give to a friend. I also made chilled peach soup with spices for my friend and bought her a still-warm Italian bread from the bakery as well as a bag of brownies. I delivered the food, found room in our crowded refrigerator for ours and practically buried my head in the freezer to make room for the rest. I have folded three loads of laundry, have one load in the washing machine that I will soon transfer to the dryer. I loaded the dishwasher and ran it, and then washed various pots and pans by hand, rapidly. This is so not me, this is me on steroids; I could be a walking, no sprinting, advertisement about drugs: this is my body on steroids, this is my body without; what a difference! I am spritzing Fantastik on paper towels to wipe up spills, I am cleaning up the house. My movements make me dart back and forth and I am talking at a really fast pace. I actually think my husband prefers me like this, the “energizer bunny” onspeed and not my usual low-key self. He better not get used to it because in a few days it’s all over and I will be back to my old chronic pain and fatigued self. Unfortunately.
I know it will be depressing when I come 0ff of this steroid high but it’s amazing how good I feel. Rush, rush, rush. My fingers can’t type as fast as my thoughts are running, streaking through my head. My son, looks at me both amusement and concern: “Mom, calm down” he advises, but I explain to him that I cannot. I will however, be back to my usual sub-par pace in a mere few days. As for now, I feel chipper; a little too chipper. Remind me later, friends, when this wears off, what it felt like to read this, to feel this, to embrace this because every day I will feel less and less energized, more and more lethargic. I am the movie “Cocoon” for those of us old enough to remember. I am “Cocoon” the re-make, 2010.
Luckily, the bitchiness of the first day is over and I am no longer throwing darts, figuratively, at someone’s head. I am not sending off vapid e-mails and insulting comments, that was bad-me, ” Prednisone Bitch-Me.” Thankfully, she has left, departed, disappeared, leaving behind sparks and energy. It was as if wild-me had been let out of hiding after many years or I had broken out of prison. The energy is here, the meanness is gone, it was a good trade.
Perhaps I will go to bed late tonight ( can you see me tiring out quickly?) and do a few more chores, instead of what I usually do: read in bed, watch a little Food Network television ( or Bravo or Travel) and play on my computer. Luckily, I have already DVR’d a few shows, which I have never done before but accomplished that this morning after my first cup of really strong, aromatic, Bustello coffee. Now I know that I can watch these shows at my leisure, when leisure finds its way back to me, say in about 4 days or so. Right now, I can’t at all describe myself as leisurely.
The first night I was on Prednisone I was roaming the house, inside, up and down my 13 carpeted steps because I could not fall asleep, I was up until after 2am, now I know why. Last night, with my allergies so bad I had to take a Benadryl, I nodded off at about 12:30am. My usual bedtime sans Prednisone is about 10:30 and that’s on a really good night.
My mind races, my legs, that usually, carry the weight of the world, walking slowly and painfully in sneakers has all but disappeared. I am practically frolicking. It’s like a vacation from chronic pain, fatigue, fog, and lethargy. I am very alert though when someone is speaking to me I don’t listen as carefully because my mind is already formulating the next sentence.
I’ve typed this whole page in less than a few minutes but don’t give me credit. In a few days I probably look back and say how artificial the feeling was, how the energy was just too much. Will I do that? Probably not. I will remember how I felt with great fondness and longing. This is not what normal people feel either, this is steroids, pure and simple, artificial and dangerous and today, it feels good. I’m not going to lie.