Who needs to “imagine” what the end of their life might be? I can look into a mirror and start to see the signs that everyone else is so worried about. Over the weekend someone mistook my radiation glow for some type of odd tan lines! But hey, if this is the prompt that someone came up with for today, I’ll play along.
Saturday night I stayed up late, much later than I thought I could. My body was as rundown as if I had been doing my old routine of miles a day on the track. It all started with a little girl who had been visiting before heading off to the fireworks. A beautiful little girl of 7 years, blond hair and a slight lisp when she spoke. There I am wrapped up in a blanket and she walks up to me and kisses me straight on the nose, plops herself down next to me on the couch and starts to ask which of the children present was mine. She didn’t ask about the tube running from my arm, not the cane that from time to time I need to use just to move around the house. She only wanted to talk about being alive, not dead.
The adults in the room weren’t sure how to react. I had a smile on my face so that might have defused the concerns. Who can get spun up about a little girl being a precious little child? My response was simple, “She’s not here.” Lots of kids hear that and just assume that means divorce, so I got a hug and she jumped off the couch.
Later her mother walked over to me and asked if I was okay. No, but the answer was yes. My mind was lost in thought about two things, I wished my daughter was there and was I going to be here next year to get another kiss on the nose.
I’ve taught several hundred young adults over my lifetime. Some between degrees when I was living in Florida and decided that high school economics was the thing to do. Later it was the adults who walked through my office at George Washington University. They are a net positive that I can call my legacy. Some have gone on to teach other people, some never took another Econ class. And yes, there are times when I wonder if I had an affect in either direction!
My nephew knows how to ride a bike, I did that! I had to stop teaching him how to swim because I just didn’t think it was safe for either of us anymore. But he still asks when I talk to him. I don’t know if he’ll remember when he has kids that I taught him, I hope there is some truth to the idea that we watch over our loved ones when we are no longer around.
Memories are fun things, colored by the times and by who we are when we recall them. Some are completely wonderful and others are painful, debilitating. There are people who are going to be fine with me being gone. I admit that to myself. It uncomplicates their lives, no longer having to deal with the truth of the world.
It hurts when I think about how I can’t tell my family what is happening. They know the broad stokes. But the finer details, the ones that matter; those remain mine alone. The family I stay with in Boston knows something is up, but even they are too scared to ask. Not denial, but fear of reality. I’m doing everything I can to protect them. The same goes for other friends, I may think that out of sight, out of mind works; but I’ll never allow myself to hurt them. For some reason my brain thinks it will just be easier to get a phone call saying I’ve died. No reasons I can think of why they would sit there are watch.
Preparing for your eventual death is a lonely task. There are lawyers and doctors, therapists and random people coming in and out of my life. But they are no replacement for a warm hand, or that kiss on the nose from a 7 year old! I hate that I’m wondering if I’ll see my daughter.
During a group session I kept being asked why I’m choosing to protect everyone at such a high cost to myself. It’s what they asked when I was healthy, why would that change now that my circumstances have changed? The emotional toll is so high I can’t describe it without sounding crazy. Why did I set aside birthday cards and other notes, signed and dated so that someone makes sure to mail them if I’m not able? I care about those people more than myself. I know that’s wrong, I don’t hear from them ever. But a friend I have mentioned in other entries, her birthday is at the end of this week. Her card has been in the hands of another for several weeks with a Post-It Note with the date attached. I hope she likes it, but I’ll never know.
So am I wondering about the Legacy of Lary, how people are going to remember me? Yes, all the time. What can I do about it, very little! It sucks, that much I can tell you. Hopefully this goes better than my mind allows it to plan for.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Don’t You Forget About Me.”