I wrote in my previous post (4 days ago) called Shifting Gears about the declining health of my stepmom, Delores. Yesterday afternoon she slipped away at last and went to get her angel wings. She was 86.
Last night, I could not get to sleep. It is so very easy to slide down that slippery slope to a pit that is littered with questions like Why Am I Still Here, and Why Them, and What Is The Purpose of Life??? I obsessed for hours. From near-Acceptance of my new station in life, I tumbled backward to sadness, to confusion, to frustration, and smack into anger. I don’t get it. I. Just. Do. Not. Get. It. What the hell is life about? I just served my sentence, just worked my way through the death of my husband. I’m done. Don’t want to do this anymore. I can understand why people want to be islands, or at least go to one. Away from anyone who can hurt you again by leaving. I’m building my own wall up around my heart, and I’m getting a large Do Not Disturb sign to wear on my tee-shirt. I’ve tried to be strong, and now I’m tired of that. But too tired to sleep.
And then I had these thoughts. About my own mother, and about Delores, and what they have taught me. Two women connected to me by my dad. They probably could have been friends at another time under other circumstances. They were different, but they also had things in common, and not just Dad.
I know they must have had their own purposes in living, but this is what I took away from my late-night analysis. My parents divorced in 1976 when I was 17. My mother never remarried. I rather thought she played a victim role a little too well, and I found it hard to relate to that. Admittedly, she had other things going on in her life from time to time, things that weren’t easy, like getting cancer in 1978, which she survived, but then I got divorced. My mom died years later, in 2002, at the age of 70, a few months after I got remarried (which was 11 years after my divorce). I compared my life to hers now and again, and I understood her a little better. When Kevin died, I gave a lot of attention to the fact that my parents lost a baby boy at 2 months old, and how that must have affected both of them, although they never talked about it. She wasn’t around to talk about death and grief either when Kevin died.
Delores was a widow when she married Dad. Her husband Melvin had died suddenly of a heart attack at about 50 years of age. It was around 4 years later she married my dad, who had 5 children, all teenagers or younger. Her one son was 10 years old than I was. I couldn’t relate to her much either, although I made friends with her. I mostly thought of her as Dad’s Wife. And then I remarried, to a man with 3 children. I took a lot of my Stepmother cues from Delores because I didn’t know how else to be one. I don’t think I was as graceful as she was, but in my defense, my son was still in high school and Kevin’s son lived with us. Anyway, when Kevin died, I gained an awareness of Delores’s life as a widow before my dad, and again after my dad died, which was 10 months before Kevin. Suddenly, we had much more in common to talk about.
These two women. 70 and 86. How would I know that they would both teach me so much at different times about life and death, about marriage and divorce and widowhood, about family and friends, about grief, about time and that proverbial “dash between the dates.” It seems like every time I think I’m okay, back on my feet, strong again, ready to move on, I get a nudge that pushes me just far back enough to make sure I don’t forget or get complacent about the meaning of my life and the time I have left. I wonder about my own influencing, and not knowing for sure who or when I am impacting, I am reminded to be kind and gentle more often. To not take work (or myself) too seriously. To take the extra days and miles to see the friends and family you almost would rather catch next time if you could. To eat ice cream whenever I feel like it, and to go to bed early if I feel like it.
It doesn’t make any sense at all for there not to be some kind of master plan. There has to be. And not knowing what it is, I just have to keep trying, to seek the possibilities, to do big things, to play and learn and dream. I would go crazy if I didn’t believe this. Especially today. I would like to believe Mom and Delores are friends now, and that they will together keep an eye on me, keep me upright, and keep me going.