I am sorry, and I am not

I am sorry that I can’t quite get it together enough to put together meaningful anecdotes about my life lately. And I am saying this more to myself than to you, lovely reader. You are lovely, you know. Or handsome, if you wish.

My mother was just here for the night. She lives only an hour and a half from me, which is one of the most wonderful aspects of living in Maryland. My mother has always wanted to be called Maggie, and a few folks call her by this name but not many. In fact, she has always introduced herself as Margaret. She has had the same hairdresser for I am not sure how many years; it could even be decades. Margaret has a repertoire of recipes she enjoys to cook, which her husband has grown to expect. Any significant deviations are often unwelcome.

Yet, my mother is such a free spirit in other ways and is even more adventurous than I can be. For instance, she is the first one to volunteer for a new activity, like shooting a corn cannon at a local fall festival. She’s up for poker-playing at 10 pm. She’ll get down on her knees with my son, Asher, and squawk like a chicken if the game calls for it. She’ll even shoot a Nerf gun at Asher while trying to keep up with his running body, taking off down the sidewalk. She’s often all in, no matter what’s on offer.

At almost 73, her joie de vivre is downright infectious.

Maggie is even joyous despite the fact that there are a lot of sad stories in her family. In fact, my dad’s family is the same. My dad, himself, suffers from dementia and crippling pain perhaps from a love of skiing in his sixties, an old motorcycle accident injury, or God knows why else. I am not sure why some people have so much bad stuff while others don’t.

Before taking leave this afternoon, I poured Mom another cup of coffee and made her a turkey and cheese sandwich, a common ritual of ours before she gets on the road. We were talking about her sister, who lost her son almost exactly one year ago and the tremendous struggle to stay sane under such circumstances, particularly when there are other troubles with which to deal. I said that I wasn’t sure why there was so much tragedy, all around us, in the world, everywhere. Mom proposed, as she has many times in the past, that people just don’t know they have choices. Sometimes, they don’t feel they do have choices, she continued.

And I replied that this is the greatest tragedy. People act as if they can’t change their mind. They can’t make a new decision. I am not suggesting a person can claim their child back from the dead or that dementia or illness are necessarily avoidable; however, I believe more than anything that we always have a choice to change. To go a different route when life is particularly shitty.

When we are in pain, mentally or physically, we don’t have to accept there’s no cure. Or accept that our fate is inside a pill bottle. And we don’t need to rope in loved ones either, strapping them inside our own downhill roller coaster ride, expecting them to stay wedded to our chosen system of torture. They are free to get off the ride, to still have a life. In fact, it’s their duty to themselves, if you ask me. It’s every person’s duty to keep running even when your partner or loved one is out of the race. I read that somewhere once, and I have clung to it like a golden ticket.

We always have a choice. You. Me. Us. And I have come to be OK with putting myself above most others, despite how that might seem selfish to some. My life means something. My happiness. My soul. I am not sorry for that, not all.

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