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 Week that I Wish Wasn’t

Well, it was a little more than a week.

9/3/16 was good. We went to Ren Faire. All good and magical things happened, except for getting separated from Hubby. I had to visit the nearby Flush House of Easement (ladies’ room). He managed to miss seeing me walk out. I didn’t see him and returned to the bookstore where we’d shopped before the pit stop. He’d left his phone in the car, so my call landed in the voice mail box. I did hang up before I said anything. We finally found each other and decided that we needed to go home if we were that tired.

9/4-9/7 Hubby’s back acted up on him. Not much to do except hot and cold packs and feed him Advil. He was supposed to be tending to some outdoors chores best done before the weather gets too unstable. Still not a bad few days. He learned a software program to help him design woodworking projects. Coupled with the Labor Day “Downton Abbey” marathon, it wasn’t bad at all.

9/7 my crown fell out. Luckily it stuck to a piece of hard candy that I spit out. At first I thought it was a big popcorn hull, but upon further inspection realized that a trip to the dentist was in order. X-rays, an exam, and the good Dr. S. and her assistant cementing it back into place with their combined body weight pushing down on the crown made for a rather interesting experience.

9/8 the upstairs air conditioner died. This is the third time in two years this unit has given us problems.  A rather rude tech came out, gave the unit a cursory glance, then told Hubby it was a bad coil and would cost $500 to be replaced. Without testing said coil. And not coming up with a good reason for the cost except to inform Hubby that someone had to pay his insurance. And charged $100 for the service call. We decided to 1. wait until next spring and 2. in the meantime find another heating and cooling company.

9/9 seemed like a good morning for scones. A misty rain fell; we didn’t have to be anyplace. I looked up recipes on my iPad. Suddenly a convincing-looking window popped up saying that there had been a firewall breach and my device would be immediately shut down if I didn’t call Apple with the codes right now. I took it to Hubby, whom you may retired last year after more than 35 years in telecommunication engineering. He called the number. They said that I could take it to the nearest Apple store to get fixed, or they could do it for us if they could have our IP address and a credit card number. Hubby hung up. He called Apple, verified that it was a scam, and downloaded a bunch of security software from them. It was harrowing and embarrassing. We debated calling the sheriff and the states’ attorney, but somehow that dissipated.

9/10 made it better. Another cool rainy morning. This time, however, I went to a non corrupted site and found a great scone recipe.

Hopefully, that energetic purge will be the last for a long time to come.