Posts Tagged ‘bereavement’

An Anniversary, Unobserved

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

October 18th would have been my parents’ 58th wedding anniversary, had my mother not died on the Ides of March 2003, five months before her 70th birthday and seven months before their 50th anniversary. Hers was a preventable death – nobody with an education and a middle-class income really has to get adult-onset diabetes and die from its complications. She survived breast cancer and an unrelated tongue cancer (highly ironic as she was a psychotherapist – and that irony was not lost on her). Cancer is a disease that you go to doctors for, and they do things to you to fix it – surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, although thankfully she only had to endure the first two. I have come to think of type II diabetes in adults as the disease of self-love, as the result of unresolved anger and self-loathing, especially among women. To a large extent, it is something you do to yourself. I am not blaming the victim here – I do not think it has anything to do with lack of will or discipline, or any kind of moral deficiency. I think it is a way that women kill themselves, slowly.

This is hardly an earth-shaking conclusion – FlyLady has spoken very eloquently about the connection between depression and self-care, or lack thereof. I must confess, with shame, that I don’t know enough about my mother’s life to be able to speak with any kind of confidence about the reasons she did not take good care of herself. There was much anger – about choices she could not make as a young woman, about neglectful parents and children who could not fix that need, about babies who died and an adopted child whose own terrible void no one could fill. Her marriage with my father had its ups and downs about which I am certainly not qualified to speak, and I would not breach his privacy here if I could.

I started writing this blog post on October 18th. Between the Jewish holidays (now over until the spring, thank G-d) and the difficulty I am having with these thoughts, it has taken this long for me to write two paragraphs. I think I will stop now, and possibly continue this theme in a series of posts. For one thing, I need to disentangle my own anger at her no longer being here for me and my children, from my thoughts about type II diabetes. I know I’ve used strong words about it, and I think it is a debate worth having.

I would love to know what you think, so far.

The Perils of False Intimacy

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

bleh by arimoore, on Flickr

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles. Proverbs 21:23

I should listen to King Solomon, the wisest of men, more often. I inadvertently rubbed salt into a stranger’s wounds today.

It’s a funny thing about women’s locker rooms. I don’t know how men’s are – I suspect people don’t talk to strangers there. But most good gyms try to make the women’s changing rooms, at least, homey and cheerful. Soft lighting (except by the mirrors, where the lighting tends to be brutally honest), nondescript carpeting, innocuous music. There we are, in various stages of undress, carrying out all kinds of rituals we normally perform at home in the privacy of our bathrooms. Some of us actually know each other – maybe our kids go to the same school, or we take some exercise classes together. The water aerobics groups are quite notorious for their raucous chatter, both in the locker room and later in the restaurant.

Those of us who don’t know each other, have a choice. We can ignore each other, or we can act on the false intimacy of hanging out in the same space in our underwear. If I am in a good mood, I tend to do the latter. It is usually quite harmless. We talk about our children or our health as if we were old friends. If we see each other often enough, sometimes it becomes real. There are some older ladies who keep tabs on me and scold me if I don’t come often enough. I’ve given the odd word of advice to a young mother who can’t see beyond the rigours of life with a toddler. It’s generally fun.

This morning, I was there with a woman in her late forties whom I had seen a few times before, but I don’t know her name and I didn’t know anything about her. I had occasion to phone my teenaged son and had a conversation with him that amused me. When I hung up, I chuckled and said to this woman (just because she was there), “Isn’t it amazing how funny kids are? It’s a good thing, too, or we would probably kill them.”

She nodded silently, clearly not amused by my sentiment. Rebuffed, I turned back to my locker. She seemed to be having difficulty getting her things together. As she left, she encountered the locker room attendant, who asked her solicitously how she was. She said, “Every day is a sad day, for now. But I’m getting better.”

Once she was gone, I could not resist asking what was wrong with her – she was clearly distraught. The attendant told me that her 25 y/o daughter was killed in a car accident last week.

Oh. My. Effing. G-d.

I couldn’t even apologise – she was gone. I hope I get to see her again, although I’m not sure what to say. “Sorry I was an insensitive idiot who had no idea …”?

Have you ever caused pain by thoughtless, ignorant speech? What, if anything, did you do to make amends?