Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Pardon my morbidity

listening to: 'Gravedigger' by Dave Matthews
feeling: A little morbid, a little sad, very human, a lot mortal

It seemed today that there was a conspiracy of elements showing the twilight of life. It's autumn, after all, so I suppose it's timely, but still....

I went home today to Danville. My mom and John were both having a lot of back pain, so even though my mom had been off and was fairly rested, she didn't feel very good. But we went ahead with the visit, anyway, and it was pretty nice. On our way down to Danville we came across a wreck and were re-routed through the gas station at Rocky Top along 27. It had been a bad wreck--it looked like it was a head-on collision, with both air bags in the car deploying and a small pickup truck whose camper flew off in the impact. I haven't heard any details of injuries or deaths, but it's hard to believe anyone could make it out alive given the damage, and so that was sobering.

Danville is a mixture of familiarity (I did live there for several years) and alien (it's built up a lot since I left). Since John was driving, we went a different way than normal, up past the Kentucky School for the Deaf. Somewhere along there we talked about school...next year it will be 20 years since I graduated from Danville High. 20 years! Where did all those years go?

My grandmother gets a little frailer each time I come home. She does okay, but her mobility has suffered from a hip fracture several years ago and her diabetes is very brittle (i.e., her blood sugar rises and falls quickly). She has a little dog who keeps her company; he's hilarious--he looks like a tootsie roll with huge ears and a tail. But she talked a lot about Pa, who died almost four years ago (that doesn't seem right, but it is!) and about some of the others in the family. She talked about my animals, who at 12-15 years old are also getting up there. My mom at one point noticed some grey in my hair. I've had grey hairs since I was 6, but it must be getting more noticeable. We just can't seem to believe that we're 79, 56, and 36 respectively. I think of my mom as middle aged, but she said she qualifies for a senior citizen discount (John says he'll never use one; that would be admitting he was old). My oldest cousin is 40; my youngest one is nearing 30. When did we all get so old?

I don't feel old. But I am starting to feel, well, nearly middle-aged. That's disturbing. It seems like the moment I stepped temporarily from college and started working on my anxiety and actually started facing some of my fears, I aged. It's sort of like when I divorced--it's like the years jumped and I went from looking like a teen to my real age. Now I'm starting to feel my age, even though most people think I'm in my mid-late 20s. I'm not sure how long that's going to last. I'm not particularly vain, but it's a little disturbing to look in the mirror, especially if you've got only a little sleep, and you don't recognise the face in the mirror--an older version of yourself seems to look back. I have to wonder, when I'm in my 70s, am I going to feel that same way? Like a youthful spark falling apart on the outside? I'm actually more active and together now than I was in my youth. But the youth has definitely passed, and I guess I'm feeling a little more mortal than usual. And I wonder how much time my grandmother has...she seemed to be holding for a long while but now I'm not so sure, and I can't even imagine my mother as old, but she will be, eventually. We all seem to be dealing with some of the effects of ageing, and I guess that when I was younger it didn't seems so...imminent.

And I have to admit, although I made the choice not to rush out and find a man just to have children, and even though I usually tell myself that it's okay if I don't, and that even though I think I'm ready emotionally, I don't want to bring a child into this world so long as my finances are so unstable, I'm starting to feel like I've missed my chance. My family sort of treats it as a fargone conclusion that I won't have children, even though I'm probably 15 years away from menopause. I think they sometimes mean to be reassuring...why would anyone want to bring a child into such an uncertain world, or kids are a lot harder to raise these days...that sort of thing. That once you have a child your world is no longer your own. But I've had enough of a life centred around me. I want to give something back to the world. At the very least I'd like to adopt a child once I can provide for a family. So, I'm not giving up on the idea of raising children, even if no one (including, honestly, myself, seems to think I'll wind up in a relationship that will provide one.

I have to admit, too, that my dwindling family makes me realise that I'm liable to live out my life very alone, except for close friends, who are in some ways more important than family. But...I don't want to be the little old lady who's forgotten in the nursing home. I don't want to leave this life without leaving some legacy behind, even if it's just the lives I could touch. When I die, I hope someone remembers me, and cares that I'm gone, like I care about the ones I've lost.

So, I'm not depressed, not truly morbid or ruminating, but as autumn leaves fall and the nights become colder, I guess I wonder where I'll be at 56 or at 79. For all that I'm pretty self-sufficient, I hope I'm not alone. I don't fear it enough to settle for anything less than a good relationship. But I do fear it, I suppose, which is why I need to do more nurturing and reaching out to others, whether related or not, to build a bit of family where there otherwise wouldn't be any.

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