Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Feeling My Age

It has been a rough few weeks. February began with the infamous car theft and ended with the funeral of a friend from college. March finds me reflecting on my mortality because as I attended yet another funeral recently (my fourth this year), I realize this is what folks my age do.

We mourn the passing of life. Not just the physical transitions of friends and loved ones, but also of dreams and aspirations. We reflect on what could have been, what was, and what was not.

The first funeral of the year was my bff's mother, Mrs. J. I had known her half of my life, which is now a lifetime. I was and still am trying to reconcile my emotions to how that must feel--to lose one's mother, even as I come to terms with the realities of my own mother's decline. I am also mourning because Mrs. J was very much like a mother to me as well, celebrating my accomplishments and various milestones as she did for her own children.

The second funeral was for someone else's mother whom I did not know, but I attended the service anyway because it was held at my church and my father was one of the speakers. That is something I do quite often now--provide support to my family in place of my mother. Not that she would have taken off in the middle of the day to attend a funeral, but somehow it seems appropriate as one of my many duties as the unexpected matriarch.

The third funeral was for a friend from college whose death was unexpected and yet not entirely because he had been ill for some time. Roughly two-thirds of the people I know at this point in my life I met in high school, college or law school and I have been out of school for nearly 20 years. So it is unbelievable when I tally the years and reflect on the fact that my parents also began to lose friends when they were my age. It still feels surreal to say that.

This last funeral was for the child of a high school classmate. We had not really been in touch since high school although Facebook allowed me to catch up on how much had occurred in her life since then. I had never met her child, yet I was so moved by her loss that I went to the services. I never cried more for someone I had never known and now that I am a mother, her loss is unimaginable.

Just this morning my timeline filled with RIP notices for Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, one of the greatest hip hop groups of all time. I am saddened not just because his life is over, but because of the era in my life that he represents. We were young and idealistic, cavalier about our health, unaware of how friendships could change, and living like tomorrow was so far in the distance. Back in the day was a phrase we got from ATCQ lyrics (look it up) and it referenced childhood we use it to access our young adult selves, or who we were before we got married, had children or began losing our parents, peers and musical contemporaries.

Of course none of these deaths are about me, but mortality is a scary thing. We are each allotted a very specific amount of time, a unique set of circumstances, and a select group of folks to journey with us at various points along the way. We get to make an impact. We get to celebrate, reminisce, reunite, travel, create, interact, participate, thrive, suffer, complain, change, grow, nourish and perhaps in all of that, leave some sliver of a legacy. All of that in a lifetime.

The Mayo on the Sandwich

I took my mother to church on Palm Sunday. And this is not an exaggeration, but I must have told at least 50 people that the Babe was at church with her father, which was met with looks that ranged from disappointment to disbelief. The one notable exception came from a woman who declared with a sigh of understanding, you are the sandwich--between baby and mama. I smiled and led my mother to a seat.

But I am not the sandwich. I am the mayo (or mustard if you are counting calories).

I have read all about the struggles endured by women in my generation, those caught in the middle of being caregivers for older parents while raising children. My own mother faced this same situation some 30+ years ago when my paternal grandparents got ill as I was entering middle school. It was a lot to manage, but we were old enough to help out, which is exactly what I did through my junior year of high school. The Babe is almost a toddler.

For all the cute jokes about how the Babe began walking to make way for the next little one (ha), methinks she realized that she needed to become independent sooner in order to keep me from going insane. She seems to instinctively know that Mommy is all over the place (spread thin like mayo or mustard), despite how helpful as her father tries to be...

I get all kinds of advice from well-meaning folks who suggest that my load would magically lighten if I simply: told others what to do; hired folks to take on certain tasks; adjusted my expectations; etc. All of that sounds great in theory. It would be nice if I could issue edicts that went unquestioned and were fulfilled according to my standards. But that would be akin to assuming that appointments could be made with just a simple phone call or that plastic could get clean without any greasy residue--impossible unless I do it.

This too shall pass and before I know it, the Kid will be old enough to read and appreciate this. Hopefully, she will remember that I did my best...and that the spread does more than just keep the sandwich from being too dry.