Reality Check

We didn’t get that much snow last night. We did, however, get enough wind to make it look as if a blizzard had landed and knock out the power for an hour. The roads are still slick and I’m sure the curve on the road that we take to the big park and day care has been blown in by the unrelenting west wind and snow traversing the open fields.

I decided not to take Oakley to day care. First and foremost, because of the weather and that the secondary roads we take are not that well tended. When I took Oakley out for his first potty run this morning, the majority of the drivers I saw on the main road were picking their way to their destinations with caution even though the roads looked plowed. It’s important that he sees his friends and teachers, yes, but I am not willing to have us risk hitting that one patch of black ice or snow and ending up in the middle of a field or a ditch.

The second reason was his hips. I’d taken him on Tuesday. I’d been home long enough to eat a bowl of soup for lunch when his teacher asked me to come pick him up. He was acting unhappy and having problems sitting and lying down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had diarrhea.

On my way.

What really amped up the suck factor was that this was the first session after Ms. L. had closed down day care for two weeks because two of the teachers had shown COVID symptoms. They’re both OK, thank the Mystery. I had hoped that the afternoon would give Oakley some fun and frolic and me some space to vacuum and tidy a bit, but that was not to be.

So I arrived. Oakley did not look as happy as he was when I had dropped him off. Ms. L. had videoed him struggling to sit.

I watched the video. I looked at Oakley as he leaned into my shins, his way of hugging me. And in the bright light of the reception area, I saw a lot of white hairs blending into the chestnut ones above his eyebrows.

Oh, my, God/dess.

Oakley is aging.

Just like me. It’s fine for me to get older, but Oakley, my companion, my guardian, my fur child? The bundle of legs and fur who’d put his head in the hollow of my neck and fallen into a snoring sleep on the way home from the adoption event where we’d found each other?

Yes. Him.

Oakley had been fine at home that morning, so it’s likely it was just one bad day caused by the weather. He’d torn it up with pups less than half his age at the last day care session. Well, some dogs age out of day care, and if it’s time to let the twice a week sessions go, it’s OK. No, it isn’t, but it is what it is as part of the aging process. Ms. L. reassured me that he will always be welcome on Ren Faire weekends or other occasions warranting a stay at sleepover camp.

OK, thank you. Go home. Give the homeopathic anti-inflammatory. Give the anti-diarrheal. No, baby. 1:30 is too early for dinner.

He went to his spot on the sofa and fell into a nap. I went on line and ordered more anti-inflammatory pills and another product by the same manufacturer specifically for arthritis. One of my friends had given it to her dogs with success, and I’m hoping for the same with Oakley.

If not, one of the vets at our clinic has experience in a couple of modalities that will help. We’ll figure out the best work arounds, like shorter but more frequent walks, herbs, cold laser treatments.

The arthritis pills will be here Monday, please Mystery.

Until then, short walks in the yard. Not a hard thing because of the wind chill. And anti-inflammatory pills every four hours.

And dream of warmer days ahead.O

Notes to My Younger Self

two adult women beside each other
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Here I sit, about a month give or take before my next birthday. It doesn’t end with a five or a zero, but it is significant for an astrological reason. It’s the end of my Saturn return 

What is a Saturn return? Astronomically, Saturn takes about 28 years to complete an orbit around the sun. Astrologically, it returns to the sign where it resided when you were born and sits there for a couple of years. Saturn has to do with all things involved with being an adult. It has to do with taking responsibility for your life choices while forgiving yourself for past failures and mistakes. And death, not necessarily your own, but that of people you’ve cared about, and what no longer serves you. 

In the throes of my first one, I completed my master’s degree, had a “normal” job. My father and maternal grandma went on to the next life within six months of each other. I realized that the job wasn’t right for me, and began living an artist’s life. 

As I wrap up my second one, there are many regrets that I wish that I could rectify. Not Oakley and Orion, never ever. Before them. I wish I could advise my younger self about boundaries (it is OK to say no to positions in groups; it is OK to leave circumstances that sap your soul). Your dreams are yours. Do not change them to appease and placate others.  I wish I could tell her that the relationship advice in magazines like “Cosmopolitan” is not healthy and actually is pretty detrimental. Career wise, it is OK to have an honorable job that supports you, even if it’s not what you were expected to do by your parents and other influences. And that the tremendous pressure about attending church, especially the one she went to in order to appease her family, is not about grace and salvation as much as money and controlling women. That she is her own best authority on her body and to listen to it, and listen to it well, especially in matters of what truly nourishes her and the size her genes dictates. Most of all, it is fine to be single, and if the guy in question does anything to cause discomfort, it is OK to take off in the other direction. 

And now I look to the future. The adulting has to do with accepting and preparing for my next return by making sure I have a will and related paperwork in order and managing finances to secure my later years. 

Once done, it’s time to create and play.

And develop a new set of dreams. 

 

 

 

Becoming Matriarch

 

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Some rites of passage involve celebration and ceremony to welcome new phases of life, new roles and positions. They are planned, welcomed.

Others happen unbidden and unwanted. Quietly, they slip into a day with no warning to confer a change of status.

My brother called Wednesday morning with the news that the last of our mother’s cousins had passed to the next world. She was 92, and by some act of grace her sons were with her, not an easy thing in these pandemic days. Mom was an only child, and her cousins played the role of aunts and uncles for us.

A sigh. A bit of chocolate. I hadn’t really been in touch with them in ages, so the sense of loss was palpable, but not overwhelming. She had cared for the three of us in the chaotic days after my mother’s unexpected death, drifted off for a while, then returned to support us along the path of grief after our dad’s passage.

Go about the evening and next day when my brother called again. He’d been digging on line for information on family members for his genealogy project. Dad’s last cousin, the one who’d been like an aunt to us (Dad’s younger brother lived in Washington and to the best of our knowledge didn’t have children) had died a few years ago. Somewhere in her late 80s, maybe early 90s.

A chill passed through as a weight came onto my shoulders. A weight as if someone had dropped a cape onto them.

In a heartbeat, the three of us became That Generation. The elders. The matriarchs and the patriarch, keepers of wisdom, storehouses of memories, clan leaders.

And in that same heartbeat came the realization that I will likely be the last one standing of the three of us. My sister is 15 years older than me and my brother 10 years older than me. Both are in pretty good shape, and may they be so for a long time.

Odds remain that I will be the last one who holds memories of my mother seated at the piano playing Debussy; my father cooking dinner; coffee with Grandma at her grey Formica kitchen table; Gram cutting the crust off of toast for fussy eaters. Remembering the creaks, the scents of their houses. Looking out of Gram’s windows to see the  velvety green Berkshire mountains seemingly close enough to touch. The traffic on the major street that passed in front of Grandma’s porch.

Oakley went for a long walk around the lot as I processed that. He didn’t want to, but if I have to take on this unexpected role, he had to take me for a walk.

Deep breath, replenish with the green scents of the first grasses and clovers. Now what do I do? The answers shaped themselves into two sets of questions, one for the care of my direct descendents and their future families; the other for the care of the wider world.

The responses to those included keeping myself in optimal health; getting my affairs in order; making sure my journaling includes family and wider world history; and continuing to do what I can from the soybean field to fight against hunger, inequality, and environmental damage.

I felt the invisible mantle shift. Suddenly, it didn’t feel as heavy.

 

 

The Mortality Dialogues

The last leaves cling to the trees, defiantly bright as the wind tries to strip them from the branches and pile them on the ground in a tapestry of yellows, oranges, and crimson. Despite a couple of chilly days, 60-plus highs reprieve us from the inevitable crash of the temps as the month winds down. This will not last forever, I know.

Nothing does. A couple of weeks ago on a dark windy day, my stylist trimmed the last of my autumn-toned hair ends. I colored my hair through my forties, various shades of blonde, a lighter brunette, even red once. As the journey into my fifties launched, the cost in time, upkeep, and money to have a younger woman’s hair became questionable. When she was done, the final three inches of what had turned brassy and dried lay on the floor around the chair with a few snippets of the original dark brown, now with streaks of stars running through it.

I felt better. I looked younger, too, ironically,  without the silly brassy puff that sat on my head when I pulled my hair up and back with a clip. Took myself out for a latte to celebrate.

As I stood in the windy parking lot with cup in hand, I had an overwhelming urge to call a close friend. Not unexpected, as are season changes, but still a surprise, was the news that her father had passed the night before. He’d been in his last decline for the past six months. We chatted; I extended condolences while I watched the clouds cross the sky.

The clouds parted last weekend. Hubby came home to tend to business related to retirement. Get signed up for our own health care insurance. Get finances in order. We discussed everything calmly, no real reason to get upset. Made decisions, budgeting, when to sign up for this benefit, that investment, structuring this withdrawal. And then he said it.

“You’re probably going to outlive me by a long time.”

I got a little cold.

He, being a man of science and math, had a point with the calculation of the odds. His mom was in her early 80’s, but spent the last years in poor health. His father was only 40, and his end came from a head injury. His grandma was in her 70’s.

My family, however, was a different story. Both my parents smoked two packs a day. The last thing I saw my mom do the day she died was puff away on a cigarette. My dad smoked until his first heart attack and successfully quit, but did a lot of damage to himself with the diabetes and the drinking. Neither made it to 70. Three out of my four grandparents made it into their eighties and way beyond. Grandpa G. was a noncompliant diabetic and passed in his 50’s. Gram G. was 80-something, and the leukemia couldn’t be helped. Grandpa L. was 96. Pneumonia. He was getting pretty fuzzy at the end. Grandma L. was 98. I really believe that she’d still be here if she hadn’t broken her hip. Until her last week on this side, she was was as sharp as a tack and still slicing and dicing politics with the best of them when she wasn’t watching boxing of professional wrestling. (For the skill and expertise, you know. Yes, Grandma, I really would love to buy the Mackinac Bridge from you.)

My meditation teacher once said that impermanence is a gift. Watching the leaves fall is bittersweet, but the new ones will come in next April. It saddens me that my friend’s father made his passage, but my God, he had cancer and midstage Alzheimer’s. And while this week passes in a blizzard of paperwork and revamping budgets and the chill of remembering that we will not be here forever, we have the relief that Hubby has taken back his soul and made room for his true passion of woodwork.

We have another retirement-related meeting tomorrow. While we don’t know quite what’s in front of us, we can see a little further down the road. It’s still long, but we know and from some orientations can see that there’s an end.