Over the past few days, I bought supplies for my sick sister and took her a care package with homemade soup and other goodies, wrote a sympathy letter for my mother to the husband of her friend Eleanor who died, and another to the family of a dear woman from my past life. A friend was in the ER for the second time in three weeks and another is still recovering from knee surgery. The father of the childhood friend I wrote about here died two weeks ago, and one of my favorite people at the Manor died last Tuesday.
There are five cases of the flu on my mom’s floor and the staff are wearing masks. I suspect she’s worried sick that she will get it. And it would be bad if she did. I hope her flu shot covers whatever strain it is. No doubt she will think she has it regardless.
It’s been a week that could incite the heartiest souls to worry about tomorrow.
Cecil was the most cheerful demented man in the residence, and his daughter the only other family of a resident who was there as much as my sister and I are—or ever. Our eyes often met in solidarity across the dining room. I will miss both of them.
Eleanor was my mother’s nurse at a long ago hospital stay; and she was my father’s nurse when he was there, including the time when he didn’t come home. She came to the house after he died to sit with her in her grief, and they remained in occasional contact all these years since.
My mother tells me now—after I read the obituary to her—they used to talk about their children and how worried they were about them.
“Do you think she continued to worry about her children after all this time, like you do?” I ask, my head shaking, eyes rolling.
“Well, yes, I’m sure she did,” my mother says, like it was a no-brainer. “I guess she stopped when she died.”
Now there’s a reason to let go of life, to end the incessant and needless worry.
My mother got an Echo for Christmas. My brother-in-law won it at a company party and donated it to the cause. My mother likes her talking clock(s) so much—partly for the company we think—but can’t understand why someone can’t set it to tell the day of the week. (Because it isn’t possible.) We thought maybe she would like Alexa if she could remember how to get her to respond. She will stop using it soon—like all new things, the cat’s meow for a few days and then abandoned—but for now it’s grist for the worry mill, not something we anticipated.
Mama: “Are Jo Ann and Peter okay?”
Me: “I suppose so, why wouldn’t they be?”
Mama: “Alexa said there was an terrible snow storm in Virginia. I’m worried they are stranded on a road somewhere.”
Me: “Oh good lord, you find more to worry about than any twenty people. It wasn’t like it was a tornado out of nowhere. The east coast had plenty of warning that a storm was coming.”
I sent a quick text to my sister to see if they even had any snow. She wrote right back. (Text messaging at its most useful.)
Me: “And there is no snow in Manassas at all.”
She argued with me a bit, then dropped it. Until the next day when she asked if Jo Ann and Peter got dug out from all the snow. It’s her story and she’s sticking to it.
When she tells me she and Eleanor bonded around worry for their children, which I am certain is my mother’s special interpretation and memory of their decades ago conversation, my brain is screaming at her to ask me, “Don’t you worry about your children?” I know when it comes it will be in a challenging tone of voice, accusatory, even if the tone is only in my head. And I’m ready.
No, actually, I don’t worry about my children. I raised them well and they prove that every day. I trust them to resolve their own issues in the best way for them. My worrying will have no impact on their lives, just cause me stress—and drive them crazy. I’m curious, now and about their futures, but I’m not worried.
She doesn’t ask. I’m disappointed.
There is plenty to worry about in the world, both in one’s own small corner and in the larger sphere. One would go crazy to take it all on. Do something about it, if you can and in whatever way you can, or let it go. My former mother-in-law would say, “Shit or get off the pot.”
A friend used to tell me, “Don’t look too far ahead.” They are words I live by. I live in today, and look to tomorrow. But next week? Eh, too worrisome.
If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
as it comes into
Epiphany: For Those Who Have Far to Travel