The inertia of today - of this week - is breathtaking. It is an absolutely amazing day outside. 73 degrees with sunshine and the pleasant noises associated with peaceful, happy, kids-are-in-school neighborhoods. A dog is barking, a lawn mower has just started down the block, and I can hear the murmur of two women through my open windows as they walk together, crunching through dried leaves. I do not know what to do with this day. It defeats me. I've already done the things you are supposed to do to maintain your home; I've cleaned the kitchen, started the laundry, changed the sheets on the bed, unpacked from our abrupt trip to Kentucky and clipped the dogs' nails. My husband wants to rake leaves tonight when he gets home. I should start ahead of time so we do not have as much to do. But I probably won't, and I'm not really sure why. All those things took me until noon. I have wasted the afternoon and now it is 3:18 pm. And I'm in front of my computer writing about how I'm not doing anything.
It's been a strange week. Unexpectedly my uncle died on Monday, a week ago today, as I write this. For a week I had a reason for my attention to wander at work. To forget to give Bella, my darling incontinent great Dane, her medication so she had accidents in the house again. I didn't exercise, in any way. The spare time when not at work was consumed by trying to find flights to Louisville, talking to my parents who had already made it down there, calling my brother and sister, trying to find a house sitter for the dogs. I understand this is just what you do when something unexpected happens. But to have so completely dumped every other obligation to concentrate on this event, even when there was nothing I could do but pace, did not speak to me of clarity of mind. I do find this troubling.
My uncle was more of a grandfather than an uncle. He always made me feel special, and pretty, and loved. He had a voice rubbed rough by whisky and cigarettes, and huge hands with giant callouses from his job as an electrician and from his hobby of rebuilding motor engines. He made southern noises that I can't replicate and every time he saw me would say, "there's that sweet thang! C'mere sugar!" The southern accent is a comforting thing.
I'm trying not to make this a eulogy to my uncle, because there already have been several, all done by people who knew him better than me. But to see all those people brought together by his death was a place we had not been before. We have been an extraordinarily lucky family, in that the only family death I remember - ever - was my grandmother's 10 years ago. She was elderly, and ill, and it was not unexpected. This is new.
So, because this is new, watching the people in my family navigate this was educational. My cousin, the son of my uncle, is younger than me. But he was an old soul this week and gave me a blueprint on what this might have looked like had this been my father. I got to see how my mother might cope with this. Because this is a huge fear for me. Losing my parents. I know this happens to everyone at some point, but I have discovered that the thought makes me quake to my core in fear. I don't take them for granted, but they have always been there. This is probably not a fear that you can take on as a challenge, but it has been reassuring to see that it is survivable. However it's not a fear that I can sustain for very long. It rears up with a vengeance when I hear that my dad has a coronary angiogram appointment in Iowa City, or when my mom has to have an MRI for unexplained back pain. Or when my uncle dies. But then those fears fade into the background of my day to day life and become dormant until the next thing happens to poke them. This I find amazing. That the biggest fears are ones that don't occupy most of our mind's time. Or at least mine - I imagine that parents must live there on average more than I do. What is that? Trust? Trust that the systems in place and our loved ones' good judgement will keep everything running smoothly until it doesn't? Does the mind become too overwhelmed at the thought of losing the people we love that it has to relegate it to "emergency fear" so we can concentrate on what to have for lunch, or where to get gas, or what type of laundry detergent to use?
My husband and I got back from Kentucky last night. I couldn't face the thought of work today, so I took it off. Tomorrow I have to do a day-long observation in a kindergarten room. This always gives me a heachache. I think that to be a pre-school or kindergarten teacher one has to have the prescience and intuition of an air-traffic controller. I do not, and so they are exhausting to watch. And then tomorrow night is my scheduled swim practice that I avoided last week because it was Too Much. And, funnily enough, my husband just called with an ETA time to commence leaf-raking.
I think my obligations are returning to consciousness, and dragging my feet feels irresponsible. So, tomorrow will be busy. And probably the next day too. I hear my husband now in the driveway. The dogs are barking. Any second, the rest of my life will burst through the door. And the next time I post, it will be about normal things like exercise, anxiety, work, angst, blah. But today feels like a threshold, where I can use the past tense to say that my uncle's death was difficult. His death also showed me again what I already knew. That my family is one to lean on if I need it. They can take it. And that even the biggest fears will retreat in the presence of well-meaning people bearing homemade lasagna and hot dishes.
In a side note. My husband, upon hearing that I was in a group of strong women, now calls this my "post-feminism-call-to-arms-group." And he just asked me if I was going to burn my bra.
Here's to Deetsie.