Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Ides of February

We are just 10 days away from Betsy turning 6 and it's all so unbelievable, to think I spent most of my life without a child - life before Betsy lasted 40 years - but now I have absolutely no memory of what that life was like, well almost none.

In honor of the occasion I had the strangest dream. I dreamed a giant white bird lie dying in front of me, giant as in bigger than a sea turtle, bigger than the base of a huge snowman (or woman), all feathers and white but when I looked more closely it was my dying mother (of course) and she was struggling and uncomfortable as she had been during the last week of her life. She mouthed something to me I couldn't understand at first but then saw to be "I'm thirsty" or "I want water" so I offered her a drink but she could no longer swallow and so the water dribbled down her mouth and onto her chest making her even more upset. I felt terrible. Look what I'd done.

This scene is in no way foreign. I'd say it happened with both my mother and grandmother in the weeks prior to their death at least once a day - and worse things, harder things, bizarre things. Like when my mother suddenly opened her eyes and said to me "Bye" in what sounded like the rudest of ways.

"It probably took her the whole day to be able to do that," Lucy said by way of comfort when I told her that 5 years later I still wonder if my mother was being sarcastic. "Byeee."

Or when I raced to her side thinking she was bleeding from her mouth, only to find it was strawberry Jell-o.

Oh I've got a million of them. The ambulance ride from NJ to MA with my newly stroked grandmother.

It's my daughter's birthday and I'm all awash in visions of death and dying. But life is all birth and death, birth and death. Sometimes it just hits you hard over the head like the racquetball I inadvertently nailed my lover with on her chin, that we are young and then old over and over again. And when you're middle-aged like myself you get a good view of both sides of life.

And a dog friend of ours just died.

And wouldn't it be nice to have my mother and grandmother (she'd be 102) here to help prepare Betsy's party?

But the sun she is rising outside my window and there is much life to be lived. Not to mention deciding between Barack and Hillary to be done. All in a day's work.


Ms. Moon said...

I think that we, at this time and in this culture have the least personal experience with death of anyone in history, which is one of the reasons it seems so vastly mysterious to us.
Death and dying are, as you say, just a part of the whole.
And as I believe Kurt Vonnegut pointed out- there is just no stopping it.

Char said...

I, too, was with my mother as she was dying I find it to be one of the more special moments in my life in a weird sort of way. I am the last of 4 children and every special day in my children's lives I am jealous of my older siblings who had my mother there to help with the birthday party, pick out 1st Communion dresses, and weep at graduation. She lived to be there for most of the grandchildren but my oldest was 1 when she died and I was still pregnant with my second. I am grateful that she was there for my first's birth and baptism though. Hope Betsy's birthday was awesome...

Sara said...

It probably did take all day to say that one word.

And, why that one?

Why that way?

Having my mother's last words to me ingrained in my mind, I understand.

birthdays, anniversaries... ah, times to remind us how powerful the moment can be.

that or to refill the prozac.