Yesterday, when I’d hoped to come home and do nothing but rest, I had unpleasant news waiting to fall into my lap.
My mother informed me that my Dad’s aunt, my great-aunt, Carrie (whom everyone called by her nickname, Dot, though I’m not clear on the story behind the name), had died of a sudden massive heart attack Tuesday night. She had had an angioplasty-stint procedure for a mild heart attack earlier in the day–the same procedure my Dad had when he had his heart attack in August–and seemed to be resting comfortably. Then the monitors starting going bananas and she had a massive heart attack.
Instead of mourning Dot, who was such a spitfire, my thoughts have turned toward my Dad. It was apparent on day one of his ordeal that he needed multiple angioplasty-stint procedures. The doctors who cared for Dot thought she would just need the one. That could easily have been my Dad, and, now that all his surgeries are over and his doctor released him to go back to work in early October, he has gone back to the same habits that brought him to heart attack in the first place.
It worries me. But, if nothing else, I hope this will give him–and my Mom who is enabling his dietary mishaps and fueling her own hypertension and hereditary risk for stroke–the wake-up call that is needed.
You are what you eat.
We’re here to live while we’re alive.
Dot lived the life she wanted to live, in the house she and her husband had built when he was alive, pottering about in her vegetable garden, with her flowers, quilting, going to church functions and gospel concerts, and cooking up a storm. I can’t bring myself to be too upset about her passing because she lived while she was alive, and it is my feeling that she is warm, happy, and loved where she is now.
But thinking about my parents dying…That’s something else. They both want lives different than those they’re living.
Dad has gone right back to being a workaholic, against doctor’s orders. He fears that a rational conversation about his work duties in relation to his health would bring an instant dismissal, and refuses to utter the word “no” when someone at work tries to heap something else on him while he is overwhelmed. To feel better, he eats. I don’t even know what his dreams were, he’s shoved them so far down. Dreaming might jeopardize his will to stay where he is, where he’s always been.
Mom was once offered an art scholarship, but she didn’t take it. At 18, she wanted to make money and buy cool clothes and jewelry. She sometimes wishes she’d taken that scholarship, but says she’s too old to worry about it now, in her early 50s. Furthermore, art went by the wayside. Occasionally, she talks about writing a novel, but doesn’t. She works every day at the house, and has also become a professional worrier. If you have a worry and you tell it to my mother, she’ll worry, too. And, like Dad, to feel better, she eats.
Partly, it’s because, when they were young adults, their fathers died and they were left to help take care of and support their mothers. There were other family obligations as well that tethered them to the life they have found themselves in. Partly it is the suffocating, depressed, black mood that hangs like an infectious fog over this ghost of a former coal boomtown. Money is the most important thing: who has it, who doesn’t, how to get it, and sacrificing even your own health and sanity for a paycheck so you can own a house and have land and take care of the basic necessities.
If either of them died at this point, I would mourn, probably heavily. Not only because I’d miss them, but because they never got what they really wanted out of life.
I don’t want to repeat that cycle.
Me, who has had many different ideas for what to do with my life, but little concrete direction. I’m trying to figure that out. I do know I can’t stay here. That, I’ve known since early childhood, since I’ve been old enough to know a world outside this county existed. I’ve never fit in, and I’ve never been particularly well-suited to a culture that attempts to demand homogeneity. I like diversity. I would like to be somewhere that allows for dreaming, and dreaming big.
I’ve been reading The Alchemist, and in it King Melchizedek tells the shepherd boy, Santiago, that when we are children we all know our Personal Legend, because we’re not afraid to dream and the world appears full of possibility. But that, as we grow, according to King Melchizedek, a mysterious force begins to convince us that it will be impossible for us to fulfill our Personal Legend. Some people heed to that force, and others don’t. Though the book doesn’t say so, I would say that this mysterious force comes in the guises of Logic and Reality (i.e. “This is just how it is…”).
But, perhaps, I am simply a garden variety idealist, and will soon take a giant swan dive only to smash face first into metaphorical asphalt. Still, it’s worth a try. It’s worth the chance of crashing and burning if I can someday fly.
I won’t die without having ever tried to find and live my own Personal Legend.