Posts Tagged ‘adulthood’

‎When we were younger we used to have sleep overs in the basement, staying up late into the night watching wrestling on TV (why, I’m not really sure)! We used to talk and joke and fight and annoy and generally speaking, we had each other’s back.

But that was then, and this is now and now I don’t remember the last time we talked or joked and I can’t even begin to guess how to have your back.

There used to be inside jokes and sideways glances and kicks under the kitchen table. I used to hear a song and think of us sitting in your room, listening to it over and over on the CD player I wasn’t allowed to touch.

It never used to be a question of whether we were close or not – we lived the first 18 years of my life sleeping ten feet apart. Close? Of course – we didn’t really have a choice.

But then I moved and you moved and closeness wasn’t a given and when it became a choice, we both seemed to choose other things.

And now I don’t know how to go back. Or, if I’m going to be really honest, I don’t know if I want to make the effort required to go back. And that makes me feel bad. I should want to be closer to you, I should want to reconnect but I just can’t seem to get there.

I should try harder, could try harder, would try harder if only. There always seems to be something getting in the way. I don’t know where to begin, I don’t know where it will end. I don’t know how to start the conversation and the fear of awkward silences looms large.

It used to be so much easier. I used to know the short-hand of your life and the names and places and things that made up your world. Our relationship used to be one long conversation, and now it feels like painful cocktail party small talk.

Maybe one day I will find a way, we will find a way. Maybe one day I will decide the work and effort is worth it.

I hope so, because I do miss you, or at least I miss who you used to be to the person I used to be.

Maybe one day.

But for now I will continue to wonder and wish and contemplate.

What happened to us.

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Other parents I know are so terrified of their kids wandering off in a busy public place that they keep them close with those little kids leashes. I know some who are so scared at the possibility of choking that they continue to cut up their kids grapes into tiny pieces well into their middle school years. And still others are so frightened by the mere possibility of their kids being exposed to germs that they basically wrap their kids in plastic wrap and douse them in hand sanitizer for the duration of the school year.

I don’t judge.

I don’t judge the leashes or the grapes or the plastic wrap because I get it.

I have my own (somewhat) irrational fear.

This is mine.

You see fun...I see terror.

You see fun…I see danger.

I know it’s ridiculous. I know it’s right up there with leashes and cut-up grapes and plastic wrap, but I just can’t help it.

I remember loving the swings as a kid. I remember the amazing sense of freedom that came with pumping my legs as hard as they could go, higher and higher until I felt like I could touch the sky. I remember closing my eyes and feeling my hair floating around my head at the exact moment I hung suspended between forward swing and backward. Being on the swing was the closest I ever came to flying. In a word, the swings were bliss.

Now, years later, I am a parent and I have a much different perspective.

Now I wonder who decided that strapping a slippery piece of flexible rubber between two metal chains was a good idea? Seriously, how could this not end badly? I made my son sit in the baby swing until he was five. It would have probably been longer but he got stuck one time and I almost couldn’t get him out.

If it were up to me, every swing would be a baby swing. I mean seriously, they made us put a seat belt on our Bumbo chairs for “safety” reasons but suggesting they put a restraining device on something that helps your kid fly through the air? Apparently that moves me from the category of “diligent” to “crazy.”

So my kids have learned. When they go to the park with Daddy he does “under-ducks” and pushes them as high as they want. He laughs as they laugh and lets them swing as long as they want.

However, they know when they go to the park with Mommy she will encourage you to play on anything BUT the swings. If you do manage to get on one, she won’t push you more than three times. She will say that’s “high enough.” Then she will go sit on the bench and stare at you with the frowny face until you finally give up and go play on the slide.

I hate that this very simple thing freaks me out and I know it doesn’t make any sense. A swing is no more dangerous than a bike or a car, or walking from here to there for that matter, but I can’t seem to get over it. Apparently this is just my thing.

Realistically I keep telling myself that in the big scheme of things it probably won’t leave them too traumatized.

I mean it’s not like I’m afraid of ice cream.

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As with most kids, there was a time when I saw snow as an adventure. Growing up in a place that didn’t get a lot of snow meant that it was quite the novelty when it did arrive. When you live in a city with less than a dozen snow plows, more than a dusting of snow usually meant schools closed, roads impassable and lots of free time spent sliding down the nearest hill on whatever flat, smooth object you could get your hands on.

I have a vivid memory of laying down in a pile of newly fallen snow in my backyard one evening, staring up at the sky while the flakes tickled my cheeks and eyelids. I remember thinking that the sky, even though it was nearing dark, was roughly the same colour as the snow I was laying in. I wondered how that was possible and since that moment I have always loved a “snow sky” as I coined it.

I grew up in a house at the top of a steep hill. Great if you were a daredevil and liked to go really fast down it on your bike, but not very conducive to winter travel. On really snowy days I remember my mom having to park our blue station wagon (complete with stylish wood paneling) at the bottom of the hill and we would have to do the hike on foot. There were usually a handful of other cars parked there as well and we would usually pass some neighbours doing the exact same hike on our way up. When it only snowed once or twice a year, snow tires were seen as an unnecessary luxury.

Our driveway was also steep and had a concrete retaining wall running along one side. My older brother somehow determined that the wall ran at the exact perfect slope for beer bottles to slide down so we used to make bobsled-like courses for them to dip and dive down. We would drag buckets of water outside to ice up the track and make the bottles go even faster. Of course inevitably we would spill a bucket of water (or two) and break a beer bottle (or six) turning our driveway into a steep, slippery skating rink littered with broken glass. It’s a wonder our family didn’t spend more time in the emergency room.

But all that has changed now that I’m an ‘adult.’ I live in a place where snow is the norm, not the exception, for at least four months of every year. We’re supposed to get a doozy of a storm tonight and through the day tomorrow and I’m dreading it. The roads are going to be awful, public transit is going to be a disaster and all I can do is stare out the window and hate every flake as it falls.

No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to find the sense of wonder that used to come with a good snowfall. When you’re an adult, snow means disruptions, plans made and broken, alternate arrangements, and back-breaking shoveling. Thinking about it all just makes me feel old and tired.

Winter wonderland? Not so much.

Sometimes being a grownup really sucks.

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If I’m being honest I will admit to the twinge of annoyance I felt when I realized he was taking the seat across from me. I was looking forward to a quiet ride, lost in my own thoughts and the pages of my book but I feared that would now not be the case.

Having two children of my own I know they very rarely just sit. Instead they choose to talk, wiggle, fidget and question. My quiet ride to work had just flown out the window.

He was probably seven or eight, although I am notoriously bad at guessing people’s ages. Kids especially always trip me up, some being big or small for their age and all ending up older than I think they should be.

I had my foot up on the air vent at the edge of my seat, as I always do, creating a shelf with my leg that my book rests on nicely. Every day I do the same thing. I’ve done this commute for almost ten years (oh man, has it really been that long?) and every day it is much the same. One trip blending and blurring into the next, indecipherable from each other.

He also put his foot up on the vent, turning his body sideways in his seat to look out the window. He seemed content for a time to just sit and look. I couldn’t help but stop my reading every few lines to glance up at him, curious as to what he was doing.

From time to time he would sing to himself, moving his arms and head as though dancing along with the words. A smile would tickle my lips as I glanced away, hoping he wouldn’t see and become self-conscious, thinking I was laughing at him, because I was not. Rather my smile came from glimpsing the abandon and ease with which he sat and sang, seemingly unaware of all others around him.

He put a second foot up on the vent and slid them both over until they touched mine. If it was someone else I probably would have sighed impatiently, distressed over the invasion of my space. Instead I quietly moved my foot down to the floor, leaving him all the space. I put my open book down on my lap and stared out the window, hoping to glimpse what he was seeing through his eyes.

I wondered what he was thinking, what thoughts, worries, dreams were rushing around in his head as he sat. I wished I could live in his head for a minute, to go back to that age. We stayed that way, looking out the window until the train pulled into the station.

He yawned and shook his dad, sleeping in the seat beside him. He glanced over at me and our eyes caught for just a moment. I smiled, he looked away quickly. I wondered what he saw when he looked at me. I probably did not register as anything more than a woman. In his eyes probably an “old” woman, lumping me together with anyone over the age of 20 in the same way I group together anyone under the age of 12.

I looked down and saw that I had not read a single page in my book.

I smiled, and realize I was not even the least bit annoyed.

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I saw my grandmother last weekend and it was fine.

When we got there she was already at home; my grandfather had already picked her up and brought her home so it was just like it always was.  We sat around in the living room and chatted; we had drinks; we ate dinner.  The kids played in the other room.  We had dessert.  It was fine.

Then, after everyone was finished their dessert and we were just sitting around my grandfather said “well, I guess it’s time to take you back.”

It hung there in the room.  The knowledge that she doesn’t live in that house anymore, not really.  It was exactly what everyone had been tip-toeing around all evening and it couldn’t be ignored any longer.

She said, “I guess so” and everyone sighed a little.  She wasn’t putting up a fuss, we wouldn’t have to deal with a situation where she fought going back, fought leaving this house, fought the place where she now lives.  Whether she actually felt that way, we’ll never know.  Maybe she was just making things easier, easier for all of us, easier for her family which, in a way, is what she had done all of her life.  I like to think that’s what she was doing because that would mean she’s still in there.  The grandmother I know is still somewhere inside the woman that I recognize less and less each time I see her.

It was fine.

We all got up from the table and milled around, not really knowing what to do with ourselves.

It was fine until I stood in the hallway and watched her putting on her shoes and her jacket.

Then it wasn’t fine anymore.

I had to turn away; ashamed at myself for not being able to deal with it.  I had agreed with the decision that she needed to move into that place and now I had to deal with the reality of that decision.

We all gave her a hug and my grandfather helped her into the car; and she was gone.

It was fine. I was fine.  Or so I kept telling myself.

We cleaned up the kitchen, putting away the leftovers, making my grandfather up some dinners he could warm up.  I tried not to think about him sitting at the kitchen table eating them by himself.  He came back from dropping her, we chatted briefly and I wrestled up the kids and all of their toys that were now spread over three rooms of the house.  It was time to go.

It was fine.

I made it as far as the highway.  Then I lost it.

It wasn’t fine anymore.

I started sobbing, quietly, I didn’t want the kids to hear.  I didn’t want to have to explain why I was crying.  When I had spoken to them at the time my grandmother moved I tried to be upbeat, focusing on the positive.  That was last week.  There in the car, speeding down the dark highway I couldn’t focus on the positive.  It wasn’t fine.  I needed to be sad.  I needed to cry.

My husband took one hand off the steering wheel and reached over in the darkness to take my hand.  He knew it wasn’t fine.  He had been through the same thing with his grandparents and he got it.  He knew.  It was okay with him that I wasn’t fine.  I didn’t have to pretend with him.  I cried most of the way home and it felt good.  It felt good to get it out, to feel the tears drying on my cheeks.  It felt good to hurt.  But it still wasn’t fine.

I told myself I didn’t need to write about it.  That there, in the car on that highway I had gotten it all out.

Obviously I was wrong because here I sit, one week later, on a quiet Saturday morning and I’m writing about it. I guess the tears weren’t enough.  I should have known.  After all this time I should have known there would need to be words.

It’s still not fine; it’s the kind of situation that will never be fine.

But now that there are words, it feels a little bit better.

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Apparently the call came on Monday morning. I say apparently because, as is often the case with these family things, the news took some time to make its way down the tangled branches of the family tree to where I am.

They got the call Monday morning and I got my call on Monday night. The news traveled to the west coast and back, predetermined by some kind of family hierarchy which still alludes me.

No matter. I knew it would come eventually.

“They have a room available for her,” my mom said. “She moves on Thursday.”

And there it was. Ready or not; the time had come. The day that we had all been anxiously awaiting with equal parts anticipation and dread for the last year or so had now arrived. We knew in our heads it was the right thing, the practical thing, the smart thing. But now, faced with the reality of an actual date and a definite time, it didn’t seem quite so right, quite so smart.

I managed to hold it together for the rest of that night and most of the following day. In the arguments that took place between my head and my heart, my head was most often the victor. It’s time. There are no other options. This is for the best. And for the 24 hours after the call I even almost convinced myself that I believed it.

I believed it until it occurred to me that after more than 61 years together, my grandparents would soon be spending their last night in the same bed. They would no longer brush their teeth together at the same sink, pull up the same blankets around their chins, wake up in the same room, looking out the same window.

Ready or not.

I believed it until I started to wonder what will go through each of their minds as they lay down that first night apart, now miles away from each other? Will my grandfather question the decision that ultimately was his to make? Will my grandmother’s disease finally become more of a blessing than a burden, the fog under which she now lives blissfully shielding her from the new reality?

And then I couldn’t hold it together any longer. I sought refuge in the shower, thankful for the water pouring out of the shower head, disguising my tears; grateful for the sound of the water drowning out my sobs. As sad as I was for them, I knew that selfishly, the tears were actually for me. The reality finally sinking in that we could never go back. Never go back to a time when my grandmother ruled that house, aware of all that went on within its four walls, so capable, so loving, so everything a grandmother should be.

Never will we go back to a time when I would stumble out of my bed each morning of my summer vacation and find her sitting quietly at the kitchen table writing in her diary, as she did each day for as long as I can remember. I would sit beside her and we would plan our day – a movie, some shopping, a walk “down street” to pick up lottery tickets.

The adult in me knows we can’t go back; that she hasn’t been able to do those things for many years. But the child inside still clung to the hope that maybe she would come back, be her old self again, return to what she once was just as quickly as she had slipped away. That as long as she stayed in that house it would be possible, not likely, but possible.

Ready or not.

Tonight she will spend what is most likely her last night in her house, the only home she has known for the past 40 years. She will have a little bag packed for her and make her way slowly down the two steps and out the front door and that will be that.

Ready or not.

She will come back from time to time, but more as a visitor than the woman of the house. If there is any kindness at all in her disease I hope she doesn’t understand, doesn’t realize, doesn’t grasp the reality of what is happening, of the decision that has been made for her.

I don’t know what it will be like to visit her somewhere other than that house, to form memories of her in a new place, separate from the things that I associate with her, apart from my grandfather, still a couple but perhaps no longer the team they always seemed to be.

I will try to be strong, put on a smile and say things like “you seem to be settling in well” and “here’s some flowers to brighten up your room.” I will try to make the words come out, to not get stuck in my throat, tangled with all the words that I really want to say – that she doesn’t belong there, that it’s not her home, that there must be some other option.

But I know there isn’t another option, just like I know she’s not ever going to go back to being the grandmother that I remember. We all just have to try and make the best of things as they are. Time will continue to move on, and we will each have to adapt to things as they are now, not as they used to be.

Whether we’re ready to, or not.

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