i wrote these words 1,247 days ago. the words below. because you know, somethings never change (yes, at the same time life changes drastically. how can this be?) we are stuck in this pattern, this wheel, this downward spiral. and i fall silent here because we are all treading water just to keep from drowning. it’s tricky business, navigating waters that end in death. it feels so cold. and sometimes i simply don’t know what to say or feel or express, and so i let those waters numb myself and carry on with business as usual: morning routines, work schedules, packing lunches, school work, life, motherhood, partnership. these are the things that keep me afloat. these are the things that help me feel sane in a world that is upside down with motherloss.
the truth is: we are all tired. we speak best through text. phones vibrate to connect the miles between us, it’s easiest that way. occasionally the phone rings and when i do, i hold my breath and expect to get a view from under the water. it’s blurry there. and conversations often happen at the most inopportune moments. i might be that woman in target with a phone to her ear, searching through the clearance rack for boys size 8 and 10 … all the while saying things like “well, at this point all we can hope for is that she is not in pain.” and “should we consider hospice again?” and “when mom dies…” sometimes i catch another eye, another mother or daughter, a shopper near me who doesn’t quite understand my matter of fact way of these conversations. i wouldn’t wish it on anybody. i am of this world, yet not in this world. i am straddling two continents. life and death. yes, life is weird. and we’ve been doing this dance for 1,247 days.
this middle place is not mid-life. it is merely space in time, a mathematical equation of birth-life-death. we spin in orbit in this middle place. we spin out beyond ourselves, past freedom and invincible youth, but not yet to a place of rest.
this place is churning, it is frenzy. it is anything but slowing down. with one hand on a child and one hand on a parent we (those of us who find ourselves in this middle place) are metaphorically stuck. we are the balance, the weight centered on the rope in this tug of war. not yet ready to let go of either side. child or parent.
i sit wide-eyed with a nervous stomach because there’s nothing else to do but wait. and so i busy myself with tedious nearly manic cleaning, meaningless moments, i procrastinate real work and deadlines and clients.
it shifts so quickly, this space between. and it hits hard when i am alone. when he is at school and i have those few minutes between drop of and work and pick up again.
it shifts quickly. the focus of health, the teetering of test results and news of something new, something old, something different, something quite possibly sadder slipping from view. mother, father, child. i will always be your baby.
i have moments of great strength.
i have hours of great weakness.
will we never know our parents grief? what we remember is how they moved slow in the evening. how they rose early in the morning. how we always ate the same dinner on sundays after a day at the beach or an afternoon in the garden. will we never know that spark of person from their youth? it leaves us before we are ever ready. here we are again, always missing what we don’t have.
“oh dear” he says. then instantly there’s silence over the phone. i can feel it, i know his face is screwed up with tears, then sobbing like i’ve never heard in my life. my heart is breaking and it sounds like his sobbing.
and what comes out of my mouth is compassion. i’m surprised by my own strength. here, get on my back and i’ll carry you and this weight we feel. it’s come full circle now, for me to carry you. i am your baby but i’m stronger than you now. this i don’t tell him. but this he knows. this is where i am, welcome to the middle place.
there is so much empathy it hurts. i can feel his sadness with every molecule of my body. it is nearly too much, nearly.