I grew up being babied and cautioned against doing anything that would cause difficulties to my fragile body. Despite this caution, I was an outdoorsy kid, and I regularly got into scrapes.
Cut off my pointer finger on the right hand (successfully reattached).
Ripped off the nail on my pinky finger on the left hand (yes, I learned NOT to jump off the swing with my fingers tangled in the chain).
Broken coccyx from being tossed off a horse.
There are more injuries, but you get the idea. Basically, the rule of thumb in my house growing up was, “Sit down! We can’t afford any more medical bills.”
That being said, my life was not one of deprivation. My mother loved me dearly, and I reveled in her true enjoyment of me. Despite how much I also drove her crazy.
When my parents were going through a rough patch before the divorce was a reality, back when my father was still trying to be a decent human being, I can remember him bringing my brother to the hospital to see me through the window (I think I was 5 and he was 7 or 8 – yet another Summer spent waiting around for me to get well). No kid should have to hover over their sibling, worried about whether or not they will take their next breath. Dad kept my brother busy, and Mom stuck with me in the hospital. It’s just how it was.
Dad could be a lot of fun, when he was in a mind to enjoy himself. When I was 4 or 5, I can remember him building a snow slide / mountain outside my bedroom window (I slept on the 3rd floor of our rented apartment) for all the neighborhood kids and their out of work fathers to share during a blizzard and subsequent snow days. While I never got to go on it myself, I remember the joy on his face, and the smiles on the faces of the neighborhood kids – even though it’s been close to 50 years since that moment.
They are good memories in my mind’s eye. He’s there. He’s involved. I think he was happy.
But I also remember the days when he was frustrated. Aggravated. Angry at not having any money to spend as he desired because all their income (and his sweat equity free time) was going to pay off or work off the costs of my medical care.
I was born during a time when entertainment was still telling us we should be like Rock Hudson and Doris Day, and that if you tried hard enough, everything would have a happy ending. My mother deserved that happy ending, fought for it to be true, but that was not her reality.
Into all of this my beautiful younger sister was born. Another child that didn’t miscarry or die shortly after birth, and who looked perfect.
Like my brother, Golden Boy, she was a lovely white blonde, rosy-cheeked, olive skinned child. Tans like a California native. However, part of her childhood was stunted due to our father’s anger over her birth. His dread of more medical costs and life-altering choices that he didn’t want to have to make. Or pay for. Money was (and is) his god.
My older brother was born in hope. I was born in love. My deceased younger brother was born in rage. My younger sister was born in resentment.
While my Baby Sis had her issues repaired, too, there was a lot more drama involved (or, that I was old enough to recall) about the necessary repairs. She grew up disliking hospitals and fights, despite the fact that the marriage ended before she was 4 years old.
To this day, her resentment if she’s sick is mind-boggling. Not sure whether it’s a reaction from being abandoned by our father, or if it’s a reaction to his resentment that her body was not perfect. No idea about how she’s packed her bags, or even if she’s stopped to examine them during the term of her life to date. For Baby Sis, though, illness is her phobia, and I’m sorry for that emotional scarring.
So, as I work through the mental mind games that pondering the end of one’s life brings to a soul, I can’t help but recall snippets of conversations between my parents, between my brother and my parents, and between my sister and my mother over their worries about whether or not I was going to be ok. Whether or not I was going make it.
Having been a mother herself, to 3 boys with various medical issues, my Baby Sis has had to continue those conversations over the years, and I’m amazed at how hard she’s fought to both get her boys help, as well as deny that there was anything less than perfect with any of them which required medical intervention. Ah, the lies we tell ourselves in the pursuit of the perfect life.
While I know that I cannot control what other people feel, I don’t want to be married or attached, as I feel that breeds entitlement as one gets to the end of their lives or during an illness, whether or not one is in critical condition. Truly, I worry about being a hypochondriac, even though I have the medical history to back up my experiences. And, I worry about being a demanding, entitled s.o.b., so I just don’t go there in my life.
That being said, though, I am not alone. My happy memories are always with me, and I derive a great deal of comfort from books. Books where I can see myself doing all the athletic things I could never do in this lifetime. Plus, I have plenty of friends who would help me if only I would ask. I won’t be asking. Not beyond the basics of having Katie taken care of, and that my wishes are respected regarding the disbursement of any earthly property I may leave behind.
So, I tell you all that to tell you this. I had a lot more time on this old world than anyone ever expected, and I don’t want anyone to fear when my time is up. Everyone’s time is done at some point, so make your life count. Do what you want. Go where you choose. Living your life in fear and resentment isn’t any kind of life at all.
I never expect nor want anyone to be standing around, tending me, when my time comes. Whether or not I’m on disability, my life has been spent keeping busy, and I have no intentions of changing that any time soon. Send me no flowers, because if I’m sick, I’m not going to be able to appreciate them. If I’m well, then you can send me all the flowers you’d like. I’m just practical that way, LOL.
Do you want people hovering when your time comes, or is it good enough for them to check in and move along with their lives?