The Grandmother Effect

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In the crusade to get my blood pressure back to a normal number, I have been having regular visits with my doctor.  During one of our discussions about why my numbers might be up, I disclosed a few things that have been making me feel anxious, things that never were even a blip on my radar a few years ago but now sound alarms like I am at Defcon 2.   I am nervous about driving at night.  I now take my dog to work as often as I can in the winter because I am paranoid about the heater in my basement catching fire and Callaway being trapped inside the house.  You get the idea.  My doctor merely smiled and nodded, leaned back, laced her fingers together and told me I was experiencing “The Grandmother Effect”.

Never having had children of my own, I was mildly perplexed as to why I would be showing symptoms of a phenomenon that I should not be experiencing.  She went on to tell me that “women of a certain age” begin to worry more about the things that had never bothered them before.  It comes part and parcel with the beginning stages of the dreaded menopause, or as a dear man in my life used to say, “the meno”.

Women’s bodies are finely tuned to develop certain idiosyncrasies as they reach certain ages and their minds are hard-wired to react to those stimuli.  I am certainly at an age where I could be a grandmother and, with an imagination like mine, I could begin to conjure up all kinds of horrific scenarios that may happen to the next generation of my family, had I had children.  Or perhaps I am projecting those fears in regards to my nephews and worrying about them as they navigate their way through this life.  As my doctor explained it further, I could truly comprehend why I was having these irrational feelings and worrying about things that had never bothered me in the past.

The “meno” is coming.  It is inevitable and a necessary step to get to the next plateau of my life.  I have experienced my first full-on hot flash in the middle of the night.  I can only say it was like being on fire but being soaking wet at the same time.  Sadly, the water didn’t extinguish the flames.  I have decided that, from now on, I will refer to any future hot flashes as ‘my personal summer’.

Knowing that my worries are explainable has helped to slightly ease the stress.  Now I can only peer into the opening of the “meno” tunnel and hope it is a quick trip to the other side.

 

 

A little piece of you

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I never used to let myself think about it,

about the day you wouldn’t be in my life anymore.

It felt like an existence that was light years away.

 But reality blindsided me,

and took you,

without even giving me chance to say goodbye.

For so long, my picture was blank.

All the colors of my puzzle,

the hues that were once filled in by you,

were nothing but monochromatic shades.

My world was black and white.

 But slowly, your color is returning.

My paint-by-numbers world

is gradually being saturated by your ethereal touch.

paint by number

I can see your favorite blue in the sky,

and I can feel the warmth of your oranges and reds in the setting sun.

 Your celestial brush animates my canvas.

The green you paint in my forest nurtures me,

the brown of the earth grounds me,

and the lines in your picture guide me.

Before you were gone,

my picture looked so different.

But now I embrace every line, every color,

looking for a little piece of you along the way.

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They thought they had more time

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I arrived at the church fifteen minutes before the service began and I was ushered into one of the last remaining seats at the back of the church.  The room was full and buzzing with conversation.  At the front of the church was a large picture of the man for whom we had all come to pay our respects and say our goodbyes.

There were several familiar faces and many I did not know.  Some carried on animated exchanges while others sat and prepared for the tears they knew were coming.  The church fell silent and we all rose to greet his wife, his children, his grandchildren and his extended family.

During the service, his children got up to share their memories of their dad and through broken, emotion-soaked voices they gave us another look into the man we all knew and greatly respected.  Before they even spoke, I saw the pain in their faces.  That same pain had been etched into my skin years ago when I lost my parents, my dad in 2006 and my mom, more recently, in 2014.  It is a pain not easily described to those who have not lost a parent.

Although both of my parents were ill leading up to their passing, they both left before I had a chance to say I love you once more because we thought we had more time.  This poor family thought they had much more time but their dad died very unexpectedly of a massive heart attack.  I sat through the service with dry eyes, because to have cried one tear would have opened floodgates that may not have closed.

I sit now writing this post through the tears that I could not shed on Saturday for fear they would not stop.  I think of all the lives he changed for the better.  I think of his countless hours spent doing things for those less fortunate.  I think of the legacy he left behind for us to follow.  And I think of his children who thought they had more time with their dad but never had the chance to tell him “I love you” just one more time.

As someone so astutely pointed out to me on Saturday, we are all given numbers and we never know when ours will be called.  Love deeply, laugh abundantly, share your good fortune with those who go without and don’t ever take for granted the moments to tell the people in your life how you feel about them.  You never know when their, or your, number will be called.

 

 

Sometimes you just need a hug

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Emotion is a very worthy adversary.  It can lay dormant and sneak up on you when you least expect it.  On Monday I fell victim to its stealthy attack and was on the verge of an ugly cry in my office in the middle of the day.  At that moment, all I wanted was a hug.

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Being affected by a wave of feelings is nothing new to me.  I get overwhelmed by, not only my sorrows but, the melancholy felt by those around me.  Like a kettle that is too full of water, that emotion has nowhere else to go and eventually it spills out.

In those moments, I feel like a child holding my arms in the air, waiting for someone to come and pick me up and tell me it’s going to be okay.  I know the surge of sadness will pass, but sometimes you just need a hug to make everything feel better.  The comfort of an embrace is what we are born knowing and trusting.

We had a senior’s bus tour at the lodge this past fall and I met one of the sweetest ladies during that tour.  She was all of 4 feet high and spoke with a wee Scottish brogue.  Every morning she would come into the office and ask if I wanted a hug.  I never turned her down.  And she did the same thing with the 38 other people on the tour, always careful to ask the wives’ permission to be able to hug their husbands.

She gets it.  She knows there is nothing more heart-warming than a genuine embrace that will make the sorrow seem less sad, that will make life seem more manageable and that will make reality more acceptable.  A hug can speak more than words, can drain sadness from your soul and can let people know how you feel about them without having to say a word.

While life may try to challenge your reality, one simple hug can bring you right back to where you need to be.  Hugging is the most beautiful form of communication and it allows someone to know that you truly care.

 

 

It lies just below the surface

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The pain of losing a parent is overwhelming.  It has been over eleven years since my dad passed and over three years since my mom passed.  Most days, even though I still find myself reaching for the phone to call them, I can manage the loss.  But every so often, there is a glaring reminder to make me deal with that sense of loss all over again.  It may be a completely banal event but the flood of feelings cannot be stopped.

Last night, it was a television commercial for the Heart and Stroke Foundation with Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette.  Joannie lost her mom only 2 days before she competed in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 and every time I see the reminder of her story I am reduced to tears.  I know that loss all too well.  I feel the pain her heart feels.  But what I can’t imagine is having to perform at the highest level of competition a mere two days after losing her best friend.

The pain of loss never really goes away.  It lies just below the surface, ready to surprise us at any moment.  It can come back gradually or it can hit us all at once.  Regardless of how it arrives, I am now able to remind myself that the pain is so hard to take because it represents the huge amount of love we had in our family.  It doesn’t stop the tears from flowing, but now I can smile a little through those tears.

 

Grief cannot be fixed, it can only be carried

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I have suffered my share of grief through the loss of many people I held dear.  There was no reason for those losses to occur in the way they did and dealing with those wounds has not made me a stronger person, contrary to popular opinion.

It is tough to find words to say to people after they have suffered the loss of a loved one.  There are no magic phrases to make it all better.  There is no invisible salve to heal the wounds.  There is only comfort in a hug.  There is the ability to hold them when they can’t stop crying.  And there are the moments to share the wonderful memories of the person who has passed.

Loss never becomes easier with time as much as people try to tell you it does.  The only thing that time changes is our ability to live our lives in a new way and deal with the absence of that person on a daily basis.  It is true that some days are better than others.  But it is also true that you can be so overwhelmed by the pain of loss that you cannot leave your house because your tears are uncontrollable.

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There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Emotion will control you, not the other way around.  The only thing you can do is carry that pain with you and wear it like a badge of honor.  That pain reminds you of the connection you had to the person who has passed.  That grief is the glue that binds you to the soul who has left this lifetime.  And those tears are the reality that make you painfully aware that grief cannot be fixed.  It can only be carried.