Monday, February 11, 2013

The Undertoad

What am I afraid of?  I have been asking myself this question and have a few answers;

I am afraid of losing people I love.   I have lost people.  Too many.  I guess it's normal to feel like this.  Like life can be unfair.  I mean, it is "normal" to lose your parents.  It is expected.  I just wish my mother had been able to have a longer, healthier life.   Seventy seven is not that old to me any more.  Just a bit more than 18 years older than I am now.   When she was my age, I am sure she never would have guessed she only had 18 more years.

I will be 59 in a couple of months.  My mother had her big, disabling stroke when she was 61.   I know that I am in better health than her.  At least I tell myself that I am.  I am overweight, and she was not overweight at the time of her stroke.   She was a heavy smoker and something of a drinker.  I don't smoke and rarely drink.   I try to eat healthy.  I go to the gym.   I tell myself that the odds are in favor of me being healthier than my mom for longer than her.  I hope so.

And of course, there's always Dale.  He is on my mind a lot.  Has been since the day he died.   He was 51.  That's too young.  His life had been so complicated and he had been through so much.  And then, in an instant he was just gone.  I know that took a lot of years from my mother.  Maybe from my sister and I as well, who knows.

But it's the undertoad .   That feeling of fear and anxiety that something bad can happen and you cannot do anything to prevent it.  This is what I feel at times when I think about my own adult children.  They are all strong, independent, intelligent and smart (not necessarily the same thing).  They are good at taking care of themselves.   But they try things that I never have.  I have not because I didn't think of it, or because the opportunity never arose.  Or I didn't want to.

Going to Burning Man is one of those things.  The first time one of my kids wanted to go, I said "no" after I found out how harsh the conditions were.  The son was 17 and I was able to say no.  The following year he was 18.  He went.  He had some scary experiences.  He came home.  He did it!  He survived and learned a lot about himself.  And now he goes back every year and comes back every year.

A daughter hiking on the Appalachian Trail alone was another one of those undertoad experiences.   I had confidence in her ability.  I just didn't trust the rest of the world to treat her kindly.

All of them snuggled in bed between their dad and I.  All of them nuzzled at my breast and shared moments of blissfulness with me.   Every one of them was attached to me, first at birth, as we lived in our "fourth trimester".  Later as I was "Mommy" and "Mama".   We went everywhere together.  They sat on my lap when I got my hair cut, or when I got my teeth cleaned.

Slowly, they started heading out the door in the mornings, climbing up on the yellow school bus and riding off out of my sight.  I always cried on the first day of school, even when I didn't have anyone going off to kindergarten for the first time.  They were taken from me and launched into a world I didn't live in.

It has gone as it is supposed to have gone.  They crawled, and walked, and ran, and weaned from my breast and from my always watching eyes.  Even from the eyes in the back of my head!

And yet, I can still sense them somehow.  I can smell that wonderful, sweet newborn smell.  I can feel the sweaty head as a nursing toddler falls asleep on my arm.

And the time spent in the car.  Taking them to their friend's houses because they couldn't drive yet.  Talking in the car.  Going insane when they all would fight in the car "he touched me".  Oh yeah, those were the days.

And teaching them to drive.  Each and every one.  Five times.  My poor daughter as the oldest had to take the brunt of my anxiety as I sat in the passenger seat tempted to grab the steering wheel (ok, I admit it, I did grab the steering wheel once).

And now I don't see them every day.  Most of my kids I don't see more than a couple of times a year.   We don't talk every day, or email, or write letters.  But we are still tight.  They are old.  Two in their 30s, the other three in their 20s.

I used to regret getting married at 18.  I never got to experience so many things my kids, and many if not most people have.  I didn't go away to college (though I did eventually graduate) .  I never had my own place.   Never had my own car until I was 50.   Never felt like I could just come and go as I pleased.   But you know what?  It is not important to me any more.  I don't care.  I don't feel deprived like I used to.  A lot of it comes with maturity.   It comes with realizing that what you have is pretty amazing.  The things I have done in my life and the people I have met and do meet, those are some of the things that are important to me now.

I only wish that somehow I could get an allotment of more than just one life time.  There is too much still to do and see and experience.   But I am satisfied even so.   I have a bucket list of sorts- that's for another day and another blog entry.

So, why do I experience the undertoad?  Because I have lived enough and experienced enough to have a very real grasp on the frailty of life.  I know that the world is a big wonderful, amazing place.  I also know that it can be a hard and harsh place.  Bad things can happen.  Good people can get hurt.

I cannot outlive any of my children.  No, that is absolutely not allowed.  There I said it.   That is my biggest undertoad.   My biggest fear of all.


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