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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It took me a long while to consider the title for this blog. I wanted something that defined me both as a person and a writer. A name that would also perhaps speak to a particular audience. Why “The Astronaut Wife?” Since my early days of blogging, I have leaned toward more of a confessional style of writing, to some degree. I write as much truth as I can muster at each phase of life. In addition, I also come from a conservative Southern family, and I have grown very far from those roots. You could say I have rocketed to the moon in terms of my upbringing. I have rocketed away from debilitating family dynamics, from worldviews that held me beneath a rock. In my thirties, and now my early to mid-forties, I have learned to live more comfortably with both sides of the moon and write just as much about the raw, dark places as the light ones. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s quite likely I will lean more heavily toward one or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. Then, we get to the wife part, and quite frankly, this is where the feminist in me bucked and brayed. Identifying myself as “wife” has felt simply stymieing, particularly since becoming a mother six and a half years ago. But if the truth is going to be told, being a wife to my particular husband has altered my entire shape and has given voice to much of the inner deep. So in fact, becoming a wife was the singular most life-changing moment for me in my journey to the moon and back. Fellow travelers, you can feel safe and comfortable here. What matters more than what you might “get” about me is what you might take for yourself.

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