Now all of a sudden, it feels like it’s been a Long Time.
In just a few weeks, it will be seven years since my Mother died and in so doing set into motion the enormous Life Upheaval that I more or less chronicled my reactions to here on this blog.
At the same time, my father — who will be ninety years old in July — has just announced to the family, via email of all things, that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, that it has spread to the spine “and other parts of the body,” and that this all he knows right now. Tests, tests and more tests are scheduled out to July 11, the day after his birthday.
He’s keeping his spirits up, perhaps for his wife’s sake and perhaps for mine. He doesn’t seem to be feeling sorry for himself; and speaking as a champion of self-pity, I don’t know that I would feel sorry for myself if I was in his shoes. My reaction has frankly been a selfish one.
Because no matter what the months ahead bring, another road marker has been driven into my own life; and every time that happens to a person, past road markers are thrown into clearer perspective.
It’s been twelve years now since my mother’s right leg was amputated; this was the event that ended her life within five years, and made the time between into a Fallout Zone. At the two-year mark, now a decade ago, we were in the thick of it — then she was gone and my life turned into a salad-toss that lasted another four years.
You don’t experience the passage of time when you’re In The Shit. From Twenty-Ten until just recently, until just now, the events of those years seemed like they happened Only Yesterday.
— But now, overnight, it’s all become a Long Time Ago. In the last two days, the impact and effect of a decade has made itself known to me. Seven years: that’s enough time to grow a child. I remember being seven years old quite well. A year is an Eternity when you’re seven years old.
I’ve just now realized that my mother’s death has gotten smaller in the rear view window, to the point where it may soon vanish over the Event Horizon.
Understand that this does not affect Grief in the slightest. Grief never stops — in part because new Griefs, as you get older, keep getting added to the pile. In the years since my mom died, I’ve lost my good friend Howard, my favorite cousin Charlie, my nephew, my brother-in-law, and two of my most beloved, most-attached-to pussyquats who were my partners in war, my comrades in arms in that period after my mother’s death when my life turned into trench warfare.
As my friend BC pointed out, my Dad’s announcement was not a shock to the intellect: at his age, one lives within the awareness that he’s not going to be around forever. So it’s a little hard to explain why it feels like an emotional kick to the gut. We have succeeded in burying the past, and are on significantly better terms than, probably, ever; I’ve nothing to feel guilty about. In practical terms, nothing very much of reality is changed by his announcement: Death would be coming for him on an ever-narrowing field of time.
But now the road marker has been thrown down. I cannot help but take note. I feel like I’m standing on the border. Behind me is the world that was, falling back into ever-greater distance. I don’t think about what’s ahead. In this moment, at this road marker, I pause to savor the arrival of Spring after an unusually hard winter. I have thrown open the windows of my house; fresh air and sun are rendering me listless in gratefulness and thanks. I close my eyes, breathe, hug my remaining pussyquats. Time may be remorseless, but in this moment it seems that life, like Mark Twain’s definition of a good story, has arrived somewhere and accomplished something; although for the life of me I cannot tell what it is.