So how do you want to go out?
Like an angry flash?
Or a simple laugh, throwing your head back and being grateful for what you were given…
Before cozying up for my movie this afternoon, I’d grabbed a mug off the shelf and walked across the street for a cocoa at the bakery. I sat outside and basked in the sun for a bit, then meandered back, running into my elderly neighbor James who was out for a walk to the drugstore. We stood around shooting the breeze, laughing catching up on the neighborhood goings-on and seeing how he was doing. He’s got diabetes and can’t walk too well but he’s got his cane and the greatest smile you’ll ever see. You know by looking at him that when he was a younger he was devilishly handsome and probably had a string of ladies after him. Quite the flirt, tall, dark and, dare I say, almost debonair in his presence. He came here with his brother some years ago, and his brother passed away recently but he’s still going strong.
So the sun was so beautiful that after chatting with him, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to go knock on my next door neighbor Beverly’s door and see how she was doing. She’s an elderly lady who I’ve invited over on multiple occasions but never has come by, never has accepted my invitations for lunch or dinner, or accepted any of the goodies I’ve tried to bring over. She’s got a sweet little dog named Bob who loves to run around and show off when I come by, and while she’s never been that sociable, in the past always invited me in for a chat. She was an artist in her heyday, and has lived in the neighborhood for twenty or thirty years, seeing much. Her husband died a number of years ago, suffering a heart attack while mowing the lawn. Occasionally I’d see her in my back yard and we’d chat over the fence. Always friendly but not one to reach out – I couldn’t seem to convince her to come sit out in the garden with me, or come have dinner, anything.. But when I hadn’t seen her in a while, and she was out for a walk with her sister-in-law, I gave her a big hug and asked about her. It turns out she has terminal cancer and had been in the hospital for 6 weeks, but was pulling through. I said I’d love to have her come over and spend time, but she didn’t seem all that interested. So today, I go over there, and she appeared to be in tears, thin as can be and in an old bathrobe. She invited me in and I tried to give her a hug and she backed away from me. I thought maybe she was sick so I sat on the sofa. Bob nuzzled up to me and I tried to inquire about her well-being and she said she had only a few weeks to live. Then she started yelling at me about how uncaring I was and how I blew her off when I saw her that day on her walk, and how I was the only one she cared about and I was a smartass and didn’t care about her at all and how I’d promised to take care of her yard. At first I thought she was suffering from dementia and maybe thought I was someone else – after all, this was someone I barely knew who didn’t ever appear interested in neighborly socializing. But then she called me by my name yet while I tried to understand what she was saying and even apologize for any type of misunderstanding,, she became extremely agitated and I ended up standing up and saying, I’m sorry you are upset but you’ve been attacking me the minute I walked in the door so it’s better that I leave. And literally, as I was walking out the door she was hollering at me. Like the spirits were in her, like she was haunted. I left, completely shook up.
And I was reminded of the stories of my great grandmothers, both who I’d met only once the year they both passed, during a cross country trip that took my mother and I through southern Illinois, where her family originated. One was still living in the farmhouse, in a wheelchair but still breathing in the clean country air, with her hair long and white and in a long braid down her back. The other was holed up in a retirement home, bitching and moaning and feeling sorry for herself.
And I thought of my only grandparent still alive, who I have only gone to see twice since my father died. The last time I saw her was Christmas Day, because several times after that it was never a good time to come visit, she’d say, and of course she’d never return my calls. Those people who bitch that ‘no one comes to see me’ yet refuse to pick up the phone themselves? I don’t care if your fifteen or a hundred and fifteen, if you can’t treat people with respect, if you blame others for all your problems, that’s something I can’t be around. It’s toxic, it’s self-absorbed, it’s a waste of energy.
We all have moments where we feel sorry for ourselves, and none of us are perfect. But the difference between these people I’ve mentioned is how they dealt with those feelings. I have a mug that I painted at one of those paint-your-own-pottery places that has a quote I love: “Life is How You Change It”. You may not get to choose when you’ll leave this earth, but we all have the power to decide how we’re going to deal with what gets tossed our way in the meantime. We can affect change, we can take chances, we can trust that while things may suck now, they won’t suck forever unless we let it. Reach out and accept the hands that are extended. It’s okay to be pissed off, and it’s okay to be upset and to vent. But it’s not okay to deny yourself a happy existence, to deny yourself your own hope. Because you never know when your number will be called.
So while most of this entry was just to get this off my chest, as I sign off I want to say this: Love fully. Absorb all the warmth. Smile back at someone. Breathe it all in, baby.