My birthday looms. I still celebrate and enjoy them. Even though this year, I could be on social security, but more on that later. I am wishing I had certain people in my life with whom to celebrate.
In the last eighteen months, a dear, dear friend while visiting her gravely ill brother here in NYC had a stroke and died … the brother is still alive. Although she lived out west, the vague game plan that we would laugh about and conjecture was that I would come out there once my kid was in college and we would share a place.
Next, six months later, I lost (as if I misplaced her?) my godmother. The woman, not of blood relation, that my mother wisely chose to name my godmother. She became the nurture source later in my life. I think I was too afraid to admit early in my life that my own mother was less than warm and nurturing. I mean, she was my mother, so I had to take what she doled out, right? Well, not so much, as I learned later. When I did get married (albeit briefly) as a forty-two-year-old, I did ask her if she would be the mother of the bride. She died after several years of steady decline, fighting each slippery inch of the way.
And now, two weeks ago, my brother dies. Not from the stage-four cancer he courageously fought for over four years in spite of being told he had only eight months to live, but rather a stupid fall down a flight of steps, too many internal damages in an already weakened body. My only brother; the last of my birth family. He, although not demonstrative and clearly emotionally damaged as I was, at least understood me as much as anyone was/is ever going to, as I completely understood him. I recently realized that although we were in the same depressive house, we had different experiences of that oppressive air. He, older, had the ability to bolt, slam the door, drive off in the car, and leave our mother screaming from the upper floor, demanding he not walk out. Regretfully, each time he did that, I bore the brunt of her anger. “You, you’re no better.” I would cringe and hold my breath, would try to be as quiet as possible in hopes that she would not in her rage remember she had another child to receive her emotional beating. I so resented my brother’s fleeing each time. But he was only preserving his own sanity as best he could.
So, now all three are gone. My folks died long, long ago. I struggle with the loneliness of being the last person standing knowing firsthand the family recollections and stories. I struggle with the feelings of now, I have to grow up … there’s no one else left. Yes, I have grown up, I have a teenage daughter, I have worked for over forty years, taken care of myself and my family. It is a different kind of growing up now. Maybe it is only understood when one lose all touchstones from one’s childhood.
All this ironically coincides with a job search. So, at a time when I am feeling my most vulnerable and quite exposed with no back up, I have ageism to face as well. I fight to grow up and at the same time am told ever so politely in veiled phrases, I am too old.
Is it just me, or is that pretty funny?