Monday, September 22, 2008

Ramblings from My Attic #111
We were talking PTA business. I was passing the baton of Teacher Appreciation Week on to a younger parent and we sat in a window lined conference room at the school with our fourth graders raising holy terror outside in the balmy March weather.
She commented on my lack of gray. I responded that neither of my parents had any grey hair to speak of when they died, one at 52 and one at 55. That led to the discovery that as mothers we both are haunted by mortality.
We lost our mothers as we entered our third decades…we weren’t children. We each lost a wise friend and mentor as we became wives and mothers. And we both worry about leaving our kids motherless.
As daffodils and forsythia sway outside the window, I find that I am not the only one who habitually reads obituaries, paying particular note to the age of the deceased. And we chase our families around with cameras, devotedly cataloging every moment in photo albums and scrapbooks to ensure that our kids have tangible proof of our existence and pictures that will somehow demonstrate our great love for them. Even as goose bumps appeared on our arms, we laughed at our fear and its silly manifestations.
We both find it painful that our mothers didn’t get to meet our children; didn’t get to be grandmothers. We miss their support as we raise our own families, miss asking them questions about our own childhoods, questions that weren’t important until we were the ones sitting up all night with a sick baby or fighting with a spouse or sending a tween off to middle school and wondering if early or late periods run in the family or if some critical piece of family medical history went to the grave with our loved ones.
As I’m writing this my eyes keep jumping to a crumpled piece of paper on my desk. It’s a sheet of poems by children’s poet Kalli Dakos; a momento of her visit to Lindsay’s school last week. On it in brown marker, Lindsay has penned her own brief poem: “I’m scared to die…In front of my kid’s eye.”
Yikes, is my nine year old channeling my fears? Then my eyes move up the page to instructions she was following: “Here’s a picture of a classroom JAWS (a very sharp toothed and aggressive looking pencil sharpener) that my daughter, Alicia, drew. If you were a pencil, would you want to be sharpened in JAWS? You might want to write a poem to go with Alicia’s picture.”
Though I still battle occasionally with a bit of late-onset hypochondria, I feel more firmly planted on this earth now that I’ve hit that mid-century mark, and even as I draw closer to the age that my parents died, I no longer harbor the fear of dying before my kids are old enough to know me. They know me. I live loudly and demonstratively in my own skin, and through the two girls that embody me. Try as they might, I don’t think either would be able to forget me now!

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