I came to an interesting epiphany recently. It arrived due in part, as the title implies, to delirium caused by a high fever (a stomach virus that was as much intestinal jihad as it was an acute medical condition) and coveting the happy family photos of a former co-worker.
I removed the crust away from my eyes–no doubt, a conglomeration of sediments stemming from sadness, dying ocular whatnot and allergies from cheap, off-brand mascara called “Moybelline”–in order to look at her wedding pics on her Facebook page. I just removed a schmutzy mud from my eyes; she had so much life in hers.
Not only that, she was pretty, petite and so vivacious. I wasn’t close to this woman; she’s 28–we’re practically a generation apart, but she was one of those chicks who was always “up”. I guess “peppy” is an arcane, if not apt adjective. She looked like she was issue free and I knew that wasn’t the case, but she looked it…know what AI mean? Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that she’s never had a problem, but I’d bet mink balls and Inuit tongues that her problems, whatever they were, didn’t take her down and out of it. I figured a woman like her who you could tell had purpose, dealt with whatever, then moved on however. She would plot a solution, then apply it.
In life worked.
And why not? She was cute and always looked clean and well scrubbed, even when she wasn’t. I imagined her house (and of course she had her own house, even at 28) would be impeccable; tidy and tasteful. I envisioned her ‘no make-up’ face looking fit for a glossy fashion mag cover.
Mine? An iodine bottle.
Death–either the spiritual or Coroner’s toe tag kind–would be the ONLY thing that could remove the sparkle of Life from those big, round baby blues of hers. Problems couldn’t do it. She wouldn’t permit them to.
And it wasn’t only her, it was her whole damn family. I looked at each one of them; happy, seemingly so mentally and emotionally together. I just knew they were from the rare phyla, Perfecto Humanus; Their genus? Dontus Evenus Go-eth Thereus.
So I didn’t.
But being the glutton for self-imposed punishment, I did and when I did, I went completely out on a limb and surmised that this family was experiencing this alien life force known as ‘joy” mostly because they were kind and loving and only dysfunctional to the degree of being errantly, inherently human. The parents , I imagined, made a mature pact with each other: to love each other and raise their children with that same vow in mind. They’d defend and support their children because they knew the simple reality that so many parents either don’t know or have forgotten: loved and supported children grow up to be loving and supportinve adults. They become people who know how to love and support and more importantly, they know HOW to receive love and support—vital components to a successful matriculation through life.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and chide every parent on the planet for having failed their children. Having never had a child, I can’t in all good conscious make such a sweeping claim. I don’t feel as though I have that right, BUT….
Since our parents are the first interaction we have with other human beings, they DO set the social and emotional stage for the rest of our lives. I know the old cliche that children come with no handbooks or instructional manuals, but where is the common sense in child rearing? Children are defenseless. Weigh your angered reactions to their mistakes. They’ve not lived long enough to have your logic or sense of proportion or ability to rationalize. Their life experiences are limited to eating, sleeping, playing…TV; maybe school.
I imagined my former co-worker having parents that understood this. I won’t call them perfect; I know they weren’t. That word is as made-up and as non-existent as the ones that could ever describe me as being, “Mrs. Laurie (Insert Surname Here). Yet, this Mom and Dad had to have done something damn right to have produced a happy, vivacious daughter who was seemingly living this happy, vivacious life.
Then, as I took more aspirin while batting away at the tiny, lime green condors, all with Ed Asners’ face–the ones I was hallucinating and felt certain were buzzing my now six-feet wide, fire-breathing nostrils, I determined that this woman was also happy in part, because she was forward thinking and looked at her life in that direction, as well. I felt sure she only viewed her past as the vehicle that brought her to her current place in life. She didn’t cling to it for dear life like that chick did with that buoy in the very beginning of the movie, Jaws.
But that’s what I did.
I clung to my past and kept bringing bits and pieces of what I thought were happier times with me every where I went. I was like this emotional hoarder who became that way because the Japanese in World War Never forced me to walk in the Baton Emotional Death March with nothing but cute, thin High School twirlers all wearing skimpy lamé outfits. Like the real marchers in the Bataan, I was starved. They lacked food. I lacked love and joy and ever since my 12th year on this Blig Blue Marble, I’ve kept every glimmer and tiny, minute shard of happiness that I ever had with me, for fear I’d never find it or feel it ever again.
Do you have ANY idea how much emotional baggage that entails? There isn’t a cargo hold on any ship or airplane big enough and that’s a hell of a burden to place on oneself.
I then weathered a fever chill and unzipped the skin on my forearm to release Ed McMahon from his hiding place, and wiped my fevered brow.
I take a sip of much needed hydration, then realize I hate that trite and hackneyed term “the child within” which stems, I feel, from the sump pump of pop psychology, but I suppose there is some truth to it. We sometimes con ourselves into believing we had terrific childhoods. In reality, these are just periods in our past that we idealize. They weren’t that good; our need to remember them as such made them that way. That’s a form of survival I think. Denial, too. I’m coming to realize that’s what I’ve been doing. And that’s having an affect on other aspects of my life. For some reason, the memories of certain periods of my childhood aren’t as vivid as they once were….AND I’m starting to view them in a third-party perspective. They’re becoming like these old, vintage photographs…now, with this aging sepia tone to them and I’m no longer remembering certain details of the image; not like I used to.
Could I be separating from myself or from that Little Girl Laurie within? The part of me that held all those memories of happiness near and dear? Maybe so, but in addition to that, I know I’ve disappointed that little girl. Consequently, the urge to apologize to her for not living up to all her 12 and 13-year old dreams is strong.
It is true–my life didn’t turn out as I thought it would or as she thought it would, but her perspective was skewed. So, she’s got to cut me some slack in that department. She’s got to quit thinking that adult life is anything like that which she lived in Jr. High. There’s more to it than cheerleading, being popular, weekend movies with friends, slumber parties, skating, bike riding, listening to AM radio and puppy love in all it’s Donny Osmond glory.
So, I think the fading memories and the need to both apologize and end this struggle with her once and for all is very significant. She’s growing up and moving on and I’m releasing and moving on. If we meet and converge soon, fine. But for now, the separation is important. It helps in the clean up duty. It’s time this happened and since she’s the ONLY child I’ve ever had, I think the acknowledgement of her impending departure from my life has me going through something of an “empty nest syndrome”. Her absence will be so present in my life for a while, but like the Titanic sized kidney stone that’s currently surging through my virally sensitized abdomen, ‘this too shall pass’.
Honestly, I’m a little scared since that co-dependence on her has been my happiness touchstone for most of my life. It’s all I’ve known. And change is frightening. I know it’ll take a while and one helluva Quintonian battle. So, in keeping in line with all the Jaws references in this very self-absorbed tome, I’ll do it, but first…..
“I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
See? Told ya so!
Oooof. I’m burnin’ up. I feel like ham and shit. Who? What? Why, hello Mr. Disney Walt. You’re certainly tall for a talking mouse. Say, why is that fern in the corner eating little orange traffic cones? Ooops, sorry Mr. Fern. On second glance, I can now see you’re actually eating Cheetos.
And they’re all named Margaret.
Uh, ummm…uh…anyone know the number to 9-1-1?