Our Last One: She’s Leaving Home, Bye Bye

Tuesday is the day we transport Mollie and her belongings to the other side of the state, and these are the last days of having her live with us in the way she has since she was born more than 18 years ago. Each time one of our kids trundled off to college, I felt like something was ripped right out of me, leaving a hollow sad place, but this time it seems even worse. For it will be the first time on 27 years that none of our children have lived at home.

Mollie is our last one to leave. She is very ready for it, way more ready than I am. cb did not have that bad a time when each of the boys went, but this time he will. Although for the last six months, and especially this summer, Mollie has been pulling away from us intentionally because “I need to learn to be independent,” she is still home, albeit sometimes not till four in the morning, every night, and I see her, for at least a glimpse, almost every day. She makes my coffee. She runs errands. She takes out the garbage every week. We have mommy-daughter time. She drives me to work so she can have the car. She asks for advice, and confides in me. cb, Mollie and I discuss politics, and what is in the news, focusing a lot of our talk on how the transgender topic is being handled by the media, not to mention how Donald Trump is being handled by the media. She never brings her boyfriend around, though, for reasons which remain obscure offering a million and one excuses – first he was too uncomfortable,then she was too uncomfortable, and now they are both too uncomfortable because there is too much pressure and they feel under a microscope. Whatever. But her leaving is so very right, the way things should be. I realize this. I am very happy and proud that our kids have all turned out to be kind, capable and responsible adults, who are making their way in the world. The boys are completely independent, asking for very little guidance or any kind of help, although we – especially I, of course – would be more than happy to offer advice. All this is true, but I have experienced each of their leaving as a tremendous loss. But now. An empty nest will await us upon our return from hilly next Wednesday. Yes. This empty nest phenomenon is something I have dreaded and dreaded for so many years but could not conceive of what it would be like. I did not want to think about it, but at moments, thoughts would creep in.

How many things in my life have I been apprehensive about? How much of that anxiety was unwarranted, or at least disproportionate?

Loss, though, is real, and always as painful as I think it will be. Lately, thoughts of loss occupy so much of my brain space there is little room for much else. There have been so many losses. First the boys going off to college, now Mollie. So many of our friends have moved away from Pittsburgh. There is an indescribable ache every time I am reminded -and this is often – that my Mom and Dad are gone forever. So many people I know are retiring, choosing to embrace entry into the last stage of life! Because, that, loyal readers, is what I believe retirement is: the end of life. This is why I do not ever want to retire, and why I am sure my Dad chose not to until age 91. And of course, within months of that, he did die.

I am now one of the oldest wherever I go. My practice is aging – many who have been patients for hears are now getting Medicare exams. And it is such a shock every time I am actually referred to as “older,” which happens increasingly frequently. When I look in the mirror, I see someone else, someone older than I am. I think that, all at once, I am looking old. When my Mom was my age, she had finished law school and finally passed the bar, and was working part-time in a law office, and was at this office on the day the call came about my Dad’s MI. She was exactly 61 then, like me. She was full of energy then. My Dad was 68. This was his very first health setback ever. Both were very healthy and could not have been more active and socially engaged. Whenever I would complain about them, which I would do from time to time, cb would remind me, “These are the good years.” Little did I know how prescient he was!

cb and had been married only three years when Dad had the MI – it would be another before Woody was born. Within twenty years of that health crisis – a twenty year interval – a “score” – now seems so brief – my folks would have moved out of their dream house in Armonk that had been designed just for them and into Kendal On The Hudson, where they had dreaded going, because they perceived it (not only realistically, but accurately) as their “last stop before. . .” but where, once they settled into their lovely apartment, were whipped into a social frenzy, sucked into an eddy of bonding euphoria, far beyond even that pinnacle which they had previously enjoyed, and this ecstatic state which some might say was a form of denial would, within a short year of the move from Armonk abruptly end in one split second – due to a minuscule but fateful flooring unevenness between kitchen and entryway of said apartment – when my Mom “went down,” suffering the hip fracture whose xray appearance was reminiscent of a slim tree with the top half of its trunk vertically severed by lightning, the injury that catapulted her into her final decline. I think of this defining moment in my Mom’s life when I do things like fall on my chin, as I did two weeks ago. I am a faller. I fall five times a year, at least, and almost fall more than once a day. A fall at sixty one is far more consequential than a fall at 40; the deterioration of the human body between 60 and 80 is terrifying.

I was never sure how I would take aging. I guess I either hoped or expected I would meet it with grace. But I find that even the word – when applied to me – sends a chill down my spine. It turns out I am not facing this period of my life with that equanimity I had imagined. Quite the contrary. I am sad and angry that there seems to be so little time left to do all I want in life, and that I look old and that this will only get worse. When my Mom and Dad got so depressed about their infirmities, I did not understand why. I wondered why they could not just acknowledge their limitations (like not being able to walk, for example) and suck it up and enjoy the wonders of life they still could access. My Dad would look at his wasted arms and say, “I am so weak. I used to be so strong.” As a younger man, he would beat everyone – and I mean everyone – in arm wrestling. How lucky Mom and Dad were, I thought, and also of course expressed to my family members. They had us, after all. They still had each other. They had plenty of money. They had a beautiful home, friends, intelligence. They may not be able to go out much, but they could still meet their friends in the dining room, and there were activities and meetings and things to participate in. There was always a jigsaw puzzle. I thought to myself how nice it would be, even if I could not do much, to just go to that little alcove and work on the jigsaw puzzle every day! There were books, the news, movie night, TV, parties, music. And lots and lots of old peops who would love to be their friends.

I feel now how it might be when I am really old: not being able to hear and so being left out of conversations because the pained expressions on peop’s faces when you ask someone to, once again, repeat something – it just is not worth it. Besides, even if one could hear the words – how fast these conversations move – so fast, it is impossible to process the first witty remark before the next one erupts. And the references! What are they even talking about? It is not that I did not understand that this must be what my folks were experiencing, it is just that even now, I am beginning to perceive inklings of this in my own life. How horrible my folks must have felt when the rest of us would go off to the country without them because they could not go anymore, or when we would go into the city to see a show. We would offer always to take them, but they would decline because they could not manage the logistics – the long car rides, getting in and out of vehicles, navigating steps, using the bathrooms. And of course they knew how depressing it was to visit them – sitting around, not even being able to have conversations with them any more. It got so Mom could not even follow her own train of thought; was unable to turn her head at all, would fall asleep when anyone spoke, even if she asked a question. During her last two years, she would always have have these things right next to her – the phone – her lifeline – her glasses, a box of kleenex, and a small ziploc in which to place the used kleenex. Once, when my Dad was still alive, right when my Mom was recovering for the second time – the first day she got home from rehab, about three months after the hip fracture, she had Immediately fractured her vertebra by bending over to put on a shoe so went right back to the hospital then and more rehab – but while recovering from this, the ability to walk remained out of reach for quite some time – she called me while I was at work to tearfully tell me, “I walked!”

So all this runs in a loop in my mind as I fast forward the next twenty years. So much will happen, right? I will be around, right, to see my kids more, and see what happens to them, and there will be lots more summers, and I will probably be able to do most things for a long time yet, right, like visit my boys in New York, and my girl in Philly, and see my friends and my family who live far away, and I will still be able to work and write and travel and bicycle and run and do all the things I love. God willing, we will all stay healthy for a good long time yet. In the past few days, I have begun to have big mood swings, and by that I mean downswings. I have not laughed a whole lot or felt deep joy. I have cried quite a bit, and even now feel on the verge of tears.Or have been cranky, on edge, jumpy, defensive, touchy and irritable. I have been impatient, intolerant and downright mean. I was mean to two patients this week. It is terrible. My words were not mean, but my attitude was disdainful and I was unable to feel sufficient compassion or muster sufficient strength to squelch those persistent evil forces which dwell within.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 at 7:10 pm and is filed under Attitude, fond memories, friends & family, howque?, Lifestyle, love, philosophy, priorities, stress management, venting, Wellness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply