Missing Me

It’s the day after Thanksgiving.  I didn’t have turkey and stuffing and candied yams and all the trimmings; I didn’t even have pumpkin pie.  I’m traveling this weekend.  Wednesday I flew from Flagstaff Arizona to San Mateo in Northern California to visit with my mom, who is in assisted living and has moderate Alzheimer’s.  That means she knows who we all are, but she loses words, she forgets recent occurrences and asks the same question over and over, because she doesn’t remember she asked.  One of my three brothers lives nearby, so she isn’t totally abandoned.  But since she was moved (because the decisions as to where she moved were not always made by her) twice, and I’ve moved to another state, I don’t get to see her as often as I like and after spending all day with her, I had forgotten how much fun we have together, how much we laugh and how much I really miss her. And not just her proximity to me, but our relationship.

So I’m at a hotel nearby, and I was downstairs having breakfast, and all of a sudden I felt like I was really missing someone, and felt the urge to pick up my phone and make a call and say “I miss you” and then I realized, who could I call?  Who was it I was missing so much.  My husband died 3 years ago and it’s just a given that I always miss him; my oldest brother isn’t talking to me at all because as he put it, if I can’t have a relationship with his wife, he can’t have one with me…but that’s a whole other post. But I miss him; I miss being able to just pick up the phone and call him.

My oldest daughter isn’t “allowed” to talk to me because her idiot husband got mad at me and told her if she contacts me he’ll leave her… which would be the best thing that could happen to her in my opinion… but that, too, is another blog.

My second daughter just had a baby and I’ll be going to see them on Monday.  At least I still have her.

So I started to think, who am I really missing, and why isn’t there anyone I can call to just say “Hi, I was thinking about you…” and yes, there are friends I could call, but it’s the day after Thanksgiving and they’re with their families.  I miss my husband; I miss my father who died 2 years ago; I miss my brother who won’t talk to me, I miss my daughter and I miss my two grandsons terribly – because their dad won’t let me see them, either.  And yes, somehow, as I’ve said before, I keep on going on.

Then I realized the person I’m really missing is me.  I’m missing feeling like I have roots somewhere; like I have a life that has meaning; that I have friends I can drop by to see.  I’m renting a lovely little condo in the forest on a lake, and I call it home for now, but it’s a rental; it’s temporary.  It’s really not “home.”  They say “Home is where the Heart is.”  And I wonder, what if after my year in Flagstaff, I don’t like it?  Where will I go there?  I have no where to go “back” to.  My heart has been fractured into so many pieces I often wonder if I still have one.

So I think what I’m missing is me.  Somewhere, I got lost.  It probably happened when I lost my husband, my Don.  Losing Don was like losing a very big part of myself.  When we enter into a relationship – a serious, committed, long-term forever relationship – it changes who we are to some degree.  It’s kind of like doing a dance.  We try not to step on each others toes.  We try not to get in each others way, but we want to be part of this new life, we want our partner to want us as much as we want them.  Or sometimes, we don’t want to be wanted too much – some of us feel fearful that someone will want too much of “us”; will take over our life, will make demands on us, will cause us to lose our self. When I married Don, I never had a shred of doubt; I never had those “pre-wedding jitters” that some people get.  I knew in my heart, in my core, in my very soul that this was right.  And for all of the problems that couples have, for all of the crises we shared, we always came out stronger.  I would do it all over in a second if I had that chance.  But then he died, and I wasn’t so strong anymore.

But the fact remains that I won’t have that chance, to do it all again.  Never.  Don is dead.  Gone.  No more Don.  Ever.  My better half, my voice of reason, my steady, sane partner who could calm me with a hug, talk me out of something that really wasn’t reasonable, the person who was always there – no matter what – to help me make decisions (even he when he would drive me batty with his questions like, ‘well, what do you like about it?’ when I saw a piece of furniture I wanted or some such thing; and I’d answer only  that I just liked it); the person I cuddled with, held, who held me; who I cried to and with, made love to and who made love to me, The person who reassured me and whom I reassured. The person I depended on more than anyone, is gone.

So here I am, a little over 3 years later, without him, wondering where I have gone and where I am, and still wondering, what do I do now?  No one really needs me.  Oh, my daughter wouldn’t want me to be dead and gone; but she doesn’t need me on a daily basis, or a weekly basis or even a monthly basis.  If I can manage to see her and her little family – with their new baby – every 3 or 4 months it will be fine with her.  We have always been close; she always talked to me, shared her deepest thoughts and feelings with me; but she’s married now; she has someone to take that role over, and that’s how it should be.  I was so glad I had two daughters.  Yes, if I’d had sons, I’m sure I’d be just as glad, and I’d love them just as much and be just as happy.  But the relationship with a daughter is just different than it is with a son.  My mom tells a story of why she had 4 children – she says she had to have a girl; she tells me how glad she is she had me; how “hard” she “worked” to get me.  This is her story:

My father was a radiologist; my mom was an X-ray technician (and of course, that’s how they met…).  When my dad’s tech was not at the office for whatever reason, my mom filled in.  By the age of 24, my mother had 3 sons. (They married she she was 18; my dad was then 28; she had her first child when she was 20 years old – that’s what they did in the 1940’s).  She wanted a girl; the doctor had told her she shouldn’t have anymore after 3 for physical reasons,  and my father was satisfied to have his three boys.  But one day, Mom was working and was getting a patient ready for her x-rays.  She was a “little old Jewish lady” according to my mother (we’re Jewish; it’s okay for me to say that she was a “little old Jewish lady…”!).  She asked my mom if she had children.  It went something like this:

“So tell me, dear, do you have children?”

“Yes, I have three boys.”

“Oh, that’s nice.  I have three boys.  Now all I have are daughters-in-law….”

Mom went home that afternoon, walked in, called to my father:  “Dave! We’re having another baby!”  She had to get her girl, and she did.  I don’t know what she would have done with a 4th boy (I don’t know what I would have done with that many kids, let alone trying to get a specific gender out of it!)

So I always felt lucky to have girls.  Some people think boys are easier to raise, but I don’t think so.  I think mothers and daughters, for all of the conflicts we may have, also have a special bond.

There is something to be said for – and against – sons-in-law, too.  They don’t necessarily like their mother in law; there are too many stereotypes against us.  We are presumed to interfere, to be “crazy” if we disagree; well, I could go on.  But then, it wouldn’t really be fair, because there are exceptions to every rule.  I’m happy if my girls are happy.  I’m not happy if I think they are being mistreated or if I see something I disagree with.  But I try to keep my mouth shut, and my nose out of it.  I try to be a good mother in law; one who doesn’t interfere, who won’t be seen as “crazy;” who can admit when I’m wrong or I made a mistake.  But I have really digressed, haven’t I?

I started out talking about what happened to me?  I digressed because I started talking about daughters and kids and being a mother in law… maybe it’s a symptom of how lost I really feel – I can’t even stick to a topic today.  Or maybe it’s because I’m just all over the place.  We when are part of a couple – part of something bigger than ourselves – our partner is our anchor.  They keep us grounded, they keep us focused and centered.  We have someone – and something – else to think about, care about, get us out of ourselves.  When I lost Don, I lost my anchor.  I have been adrift ever since, trying to find my way in a storm, trying to get to shore just when another big wave washes over me and sweeps me back out to that cold, dark sea of loss, grief, angst and pain.  Trying to find myself again, trying to swim to shore when the tide keeps pulling me back out, is almost a losing battle.  I say almost  because I haven’t lost yet.  I don’t know how I’ll know when the battle has been lost or won; maybe if and when I find myself, I’ll know I’ve won.  But if I lose – how will I know it’s lost and I’m ready to give it up?  That’s part of my predicament, I suppose.  Just knowing when to give up the fight.  I’m so tired of fighting.  What am I fighting with anyway?  Maybe it’s just with me.  Maybe that’s where I’ve gotten to – an internal, existentialist fight.  Me against me.