Not Underestimating

Never underestimate our inclination to bolt.—Pema Chodron

Every fiber in my being tells me to run.  Don’t stop to pack a bag.  Don’t leave a note.  Just throw on some shoes, grab the keys and get out of Dodge.  All this end-of-life business with my dad shouts Danger!  Land mines and razor wire ahead!  I’d Turn Back If I Were You!

They’re coming.  The old family issues are working their way up to the surface like shrapnel.  And along with that itchy, fevered momentum, I feel myself assuming my usual role in the family—the Baby.  As the Baby in the Family, I do what I’m told, can’t be held responsible, and toddle off to stay out of the way.  But, I’m not the only one tying on my old mantle.  My sister is Cleaning.  My brother is Absent.  Mom is Fretting.  We’re like retired superheroes pulling on Spandex that holds our younger shape, but doesn’t quite fit anymore.

What’s a girl to do except beat feet?

First, I’ll try to stay awake and not slide into the comfort of oblivion.  If I can identify the old shards as they pimple my psychic flesh, I can extract them before they fester.  If I can recognize old patterns of thinking, I can challenge them before they turn into old patterns of behavior.

Second, I will practice Will.  So, while my body tells me to run, I will stay.  My intention is to visit my dad every day.  Not entertain him, not fix him, just visit him.  I will be available to my family.  I will take initiative.

And my ability to do these things will wax and wane.  As my friend Lily says, I will do the best I can, and that will be enough.

Just wrap my car keys in this old Spandex and put them where I can’t find them, would you?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn McCullough
    Sep 24, 2011 @ 19:52:50

    This has got to be tough, Sandy. I can’t imagine my dad still alive after all these years and being so ill. It’s weird how a parent’s slow decline changes us–reduces us to our lowest common denominator. Hang in there, my friend. Love the way you end this post–well done!


  2. ManicMuses
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 03:14:38

    Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to slide back into those not-so-comfortable familial roles, no matter how old we get? You obviously fill a need in your family unit, but if you could change your role to another function, what would it be?


  3. bethsciallo
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 12:03:13

    such clear expression! of a subject mere mortals & superheros alike must face in some way. Visit, be, love and hide the keys – I like your strategy.


  4. pegoleg
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 12:04:58

    It’s interesting that you have the family roles so completely and succinctly summarized – one word summaries, at that. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought through my family’s roles. I wonder if each member of the family would agree, or would be surprised at our assessments?

    Wishing you continued Elmers-ness as you stick with it.


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