Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Losing The Race Against Time?

Time has put on running shoes a fancy water-wicking shirt and tight black spandex pants and runs now, really really fast.

One of the only pieces of wisdom, and that is a bit of a stretch, that my father passed on to me when I was eighteen was this: “You are going to turn around and be 40 like that.” To emphasize his point, he snapped his fingers very loudly, which is a sound, to this day that gives me shivers, like fingernails on chalkboard. If I ran into those jazz-snapping Jets from West Side Story in a dirty Broadway alley, doing that crazy snap walk, I would run for it, covering my ears and screaming. An interloper need only break into my home and start snapping to get me to acquiesce. Who needs knives and guns?

The other day I obsessed with the fact that year after year I pass the day I am going to die. Is it a day in June? Or May? Or October? I have no idea, but year after year, for 35 of them now, I have lived this day like it is nothing special. I then became obsessed with the fact that I am on a countdown of years, months, days, hours and seconds. The best part is fuzzy math I came up with: First I imagined that I was lucky enough to live to 85. So then I multiplied, in my head, twelve months times another 50 years and I came up with 60 months left. Yes, 60. I was off by a zero—it should be 600—but for a brief few moments I was literally thinking, “OK, I have 60 months and that is a lot of time so I can chill.” Then when I realized it is actually six hundred months, I just went back to taking life for granted.

But not really. I really don’t take life for granted, as much as I joke about it. I just read a book (nonfiction) and a woman died of cancer at 37. That terrifies me. My friend knows someone who died of cancer recently, and he was in his early 30s, and left behind a wife and a newborn baby. I’ve seen some of my friends parents die at random times of random things and I have heard too many horror stories of people dying too young and too randomly to get comfortable in thinking that I will get to live a ripe, long life.

I’m not a hypochondriac but these days, and by “days” I mean maybe for the past five years or so, I am a paranoid-iac. Thanks to google and the internet, I can immediately find a least 100 deadly diseases that include the usually benign symptom “headache.” Even now, sitting here, I worry. What if something happened to me? I hate thinking about that, or about the girls growing up without me or Nicole sleeping alone in our bed. I have these crazy imaginative renderings of that first night without me, her alone in our bed, curled up on my side, sobbing. These images are so clear to me that sometimes I fear they are a premonition. I also have very clear images of something akin to a giant flash in my head, then muffled silence, like when you are underwater, then stillness. So if my death, untimely or otherwise, involves any sort of head trauma, perhaps we can chalk that up to premonition as well. And, thanks to this blog, even if I am dead, I will be able to say “I told you so.”

And just to prove I am not completely narcissistic, I also have horrible visions of living life without Nicole, or the girls, but I can barely go there without having a complete fear meltdown, because if anything happened to any one them, I can’t even imagine. It better be all of us, or none of us.

I am also nervous about the ravages of aging, including losing my mind to Alzheimer’s. My memory is so awful sometimes that I fear it is beginning to happen already. And there are some cases in my family. Sometimes I just can’t recall things, from years ago, or even weeks ago. It is such a cruel disease, and I fear developing it, becoming a burden to Nicole and my children, having to live my last days in a home where I will do things like sing “My name is Avery and I’ve got a belly that’s like an old man” and roll around the carpet like a blind cat and people will says I am crazy when really I am just stuck in my own fugue of The Good Old Days.

I said to Nicole recently that maybe the whole reason why I keep this blog is because that is yet another premonition that I have, about Alzheimer’s, and I am merely preserving my memories. My whole life, I take pictures and I write the stories down. I never though that someday someone might read them to me and to remind me that I had a good life.

Right now I am hiding behind my computer. If the girls can’t see my face they don’t think I am here. They are rolling on the floor, playing, well rested after their naps and satiated from their bottles. They are so different already. Avery is such a little adventurer: She comes upon an obstacle, like her sister’s legs, and just crawls over them. It’s almost as if she seeks out challenges so she can overcome them. She already is trying to conquer the stairs. Maddie is not so much a fan of challenges. She likes the higher ground. So from my lap or her exersaucer or anywhere that she can look down on Avery, she’s happy. They both are stealing toys from the other and we are pretty certain that when Maddie holds a toy, bending her wrist up and down to wave it in front of Avery, she is taunting Avery.

And that just jinxed it because now they are both crawling in circles on the floor like blind kittens, moaning. It’s like they pick up my scent but can’t find me and won’t settle down till I reveal myself and get on the floor with them. Thus will ensue the desperation/ambivalence cycle: They will crawl-drag their way over to my legs to be picked up but as soon as I pick them up, they will lean down dangerously, desperate to get back on the floor. This will be the rest of my afternoon, but I love it.

Pictured above is Madeline. Look at that unibrow! It is the most unique unibrow I think I have ever seen, the way it dips down in the middle like a cup.


Louise in Canada said...

Holy Crap! I have the exact premonitions about death. I will be driving to work and suddenly find myself sobbing about not being able to say goodbye to those I love. I can't tell you how reassured that it is not just me.

As for the memory/Alzheimer's, I highly recommend a Nintendo DS and BrainAge. I have got all of my friends (from age 22-52) obsessed with it. It will keep your mind young (supposedly). I've had mine since October and I'm already seen my brain age drop.

Thanks for keeping me thinking, I love this blog!

Anonymous said...

You are so silly, and so normal. I think that I have "premonitions" all the time-although nothing has ever come true. I think it's just fear. I've told my husband several times that I know that I will die before him. It drives him crazy, because he says "how do you know that?" And I say that I just do because it is just wishful thinking, I don't want to live without him. Thinking about that, or living without my kids (who are all grown by the way) just leaves me breathless. So, I just make the future up as I go, and I get to go first.

The unibrow is priceless, by the way.

tracer123 said...

When I was in high school I had a nickname for all the boys who had a unibrow, I called them 'The Seagull Club.'
That uni on your Maddie is certainly unique enough to have gained her membership. :)

steinbockfrau said...

Taking care of GM has really changed my thoughts on death. I am now freaked out about life. A part of me thinks that I will spend most of my life taking care of GM's. That I will wake up and, snap, be 40 and well, there I am.

That scares me a lot more than death.

K J and the kids said...

I do the same thing, but I've never said it outloud. I always's female intuition...a mothers insticnt. I've sat and thought about it and cried and cried at the possibilities of not knowing my kids when they are grown.
Would they forget me.

Again...just MORE FEARS of being a parent.

Susanica said...

First of all--I love reading your blog. You're so authentic I guess. And as I was reading about some of your fears, I was drawn back in time to a bit of a breakthrough I had several years ago (I'm an anxious person by nature and have always been able to imagine the most horrible worse case scenarios you can imagine.)

Here's what I learned. People with anxiety don't worry too much about the past (okay maybe some) but hey, that's the past.

People with anxiety are are excellent in the present. This rings true to me. Some emergency happens? I'm the one you want there. Competent, logical, capable.

People with anxiety are a NERVOUS WRECK about what the future holds. Oh the possiblities!

So...if I can just remember that what ever happens in the future--it will then be the "present" and I'll be excellent at handling it. This helps me more than I could ever describe in my rambling writing style.

Did I also mention that I love to offer solutions to problems? Not always appreciated (at least not by my wife ;-)

Keep on writing. Your words are truly precious! (And your family too of course!) -Monica

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As someone who heard the thunderous snap of 40 a few months ago- It ain't as bad as I planned it would be. I was prepared for a mini-melt down. The big scare was being 39 and no pending pregnancies happening. But, alas at 40 we heading toward 2 babies.
Everytime I think how old 40 is- I look at Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman. Okay-I shouldn't compare. But, they are still somewhat hot... granted, they have personal trainers and botox on demand. 40 is the new 38. You are fine and youngish.

Thanks so much for offering to test drive your stroller. We live in the upper West 40's. I imagine we can test it without spilling your lovely children into the city streets. I guess I email you???