Saturday, September 26, 2009

39 Years Old

Happy birthday to me. Today, my friends, is my birthday. 39 years. I had no idea I would live this long nor experience the things that I have in my life. Heck, when I thought of 39 as a teen and young adult, that pretty much sounded like someone rolling off the end of the conveyor belt. I had no idea I would feel this good at 39, that I would still feel so young. That 39 would not be too late to pursue dreams, have sex, fall in love, enjoy the world, laugh with friends. When I was younger, I thought life would pretty much be over by 39 and then I just tried not to think about it anymore. It was, after all, so very far away. Now here I am! And I would take 39 over 20 any day of the week. Well. The wisdom of it. I would not mind my 20 year old body back. Maybe just the boobs. Or the tummy. Or my thighs. Hmm. Who am I kidding? I would like all of it back please! Maybe next time around.

Plans for the day include meeting up with Mom at her house to await the arrival of a Russian cosmetologist who is going to theoretically make me bride-worthy through the artful arrangement of hair and make up. I have never met this woman. She has a lot of the letter Z in her words and her voice is low - REALLY low. She got irritated with me on the phone when we confirmed the appointment yesterday because the first time we talked I gave her the wrong zip code. It is hard to explain how many zip codes within a 10 mile radius I have lived in during the past 15 years and how easy it is to give the wrong one, so I just cheerily apologized and gave her the right one. She has done hair and make up for models and commercial shoots. I think I am going to need to sit down and be very, very quiet while she takes care of me, because she is just a little bit scary. Her voice is so low that she might actually be a he. I have no idea. I have as yet to actually meet her. The joy of the Internet. You too can find perfect strangers online and ask them to come to your home and do your hair. It would not surprise me if she shows up in a leather jumpsuit with a hair dryer attached to one hip and a small crop attached to the other. I like this woman.

After the hair and make up, once I am inappropriately formal for a Saturday afternoon, I am going to go shopping with my mother for a dress and other clothing. My soon to be step-daughter is getting married next Saturday and I have been on a mission to find The Perfect Dress. You ladies know exactly what I mean by this. The dress that says "Effortlessly classy and a little bit sexy but not trying to be sexy because that would be inappropriate and I really don't want to draw attention to myself but in case you look I want to look great" kind of dress. I know this dress has to exist somewhere and that somewhere it has to be cut to fit my oddly disproportionate body. I can't be the only woman on the planet with no boobs but tons of ass. I have lost about 55 pounds since November. This means nothing in my closet fits the way it should. It also means trying on endless clothing, a feat which has begun to throw out my back as I pull dress after dress over my head. I think it may be a side effect of the process, which involves a free-fall of material over my rapidly disappearing breasts, only to come to a clumped up halt on the shelf of my rear. I then commence to dancing in the dressing room as I attempt to stuff 50 pounds of butt into a 30 pound tube. I think enough of that would strain anyone's back. It is a good thing this whole mess is due to weight loss and not gain. It is the only thing saving my self esteem. I am like the socially awkward wanna-be in the world of sheath dresses. Never met a sheath dress I didn't like, yet they treat me so badly. Sheath dresses disdain me in the worst possible way, pretending to be my friend and in the end only pointing out that I am still fat and need more boobs.

In all though, I am feeling pretty foxy these days. Life has been very, very good to me of late and I have been happy. Frighteningly so. Waiting for the sky to fall because it all feels too good to be true kind of happy. I just remind myself that life is cyclical...the good and the bad, they circle around. I am enjoying being in the good part of the circle.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Andrew Kippley died today. It is only 5 in the morning, so some time in the last five hours, he breathed his last breath and flew from this world of suffering. He was truly an amazing young man, just 16 years old. I am awash in sorrow for his mother, my friend, Amber and awash with my own helplessness.

Increasingly newly bereaved parents contact me, reaching out in desperation for a voice that they percieved as strong and knowledgable over the past few years as I detaild Joseph's journey, his death and my grief. I cringe inside when they do. It is not that I do not feel for their loss. Quite the contrary. It tears me up that children are still dying of this disease. That any parent must still watch their baby suffer in this way, fight so hard only to lose and leaving behind forlorn memories of a life fractured by illness and dreams that will never come true. I am overwhelmed by their fresh sorrow, my own face only recently turned from my own shock. I am sure that to most two and a half years seems plenty long to have moved forward and I suppose in some ways I have. But going back to those days with another is not without a price. I am learning I think that "mentor to the grieving", at least right now, is not a role I am prepared to or equiped to fulfill. It simply crumbles me inside, both with the stunned swiftness with which I can be sucked back to those emotions and with the helpless agony of having nothing to offer or give beyond the acknowledgement that others (myself) have been there and lived to tell the tale. There is nothing anyone can say, do or give. Least of all me.

I miss my child daily. Not one morning goes by that his face does not come to mind, not one morning that I don't feel that tanging ache of not having seen him for two and a half years. I miss him. When it rains I think of his grave, so solid and dignified at the foot of that hill at the national cemetary. I think of his sweet young body buried far below and wish I could unearth it and look at him. I do not know if these thoughts are unnatural or normal. They do not consume me. It just passes in and then out again of my consciousness. I am aware of and able to touch the fact that he is not here and never will be again.

I was once told there would come a moment when I could consciously choose to go on living, that I would find some way to say good-bye in my heart. I always imagined that would be a moment of peace and of healing, and I suppose to some extent it has been. But it was not one moment, it was and continues to be a string of them. And there is an air of acceptance more than peace about it all. I accept I will carry this sorrow all my life. I no longer fight it with the fury and rage of the early days. I accept I will never get another day with Joseph and I accept that my soft inward yearning for him will grow more personal and silent as the years go by. So perhaps the word "accept" is stronger right now than the word "peace", though I do have peace much of the time. Not peace in the sense of serenity beyond understanding, like some angel or entity who has infinite wisdom. It again goes back to that word, acceptance. I accept this is mine, just as Joseph was mine. I accept for whatever reason, this has happened and I have to continue onward.

Two weeks ago I got my acceptance letter into nursing school. I have earned the right to achieve the memorial to my son that I whispered to him in our final farewell that I would do. I am proud. I am strong. I am ready. I can do it too Joe-Gi. I can face my fears with the dignity and pride I saw in you every day. I too can focus on the future and minimize the difficulties that come with getting there. And maybe, just maybe, I too can be transformed to something more than just myself through the experience. Maybe I too can change people's lives.