>The 40-year-old upside-down fruit cake.

8 Oct

>I’ve always been a scared-y cat. First sign of trouble, and I take off like a rocket. One time in college we were at a friend’s house at Hilton Head. He decided to throw ice at a passing gator and when that huge reptile turned and put one massive claw on land, I ran for the house and locked the door. Locking my friends and future hubby on the other side (with said gator). Yea. That would be me.

So when it comes to fight or flight, I choose flight. And fast.

I’m no sucker and why would I stick around when there is a clear and present safe zone right within reach?

Then came this year. I anticipated 40 being zero fun. Was dreading it in fact. (And hating the fact that I even cared.) So I’d concocted all of these schemes to avoid celebrating said milestone in public (which requires grace). I didn’t want to blush 100 shades of red and get completely smashed in front of 150 of my closest friends. I wanted to sit serenely by the ocean and contemplate the things I had hoped to accomplish by the stroke of midnight on my 39th year (and obviously hadn’t). And then I thought a very grown up get-away to France to sample fabulous wines and cheeses would seal the deal.

I would launch myself straight into adulthood without facing my fears and perceived failures. And it wouldn’t even be noticeable to others that I was choosing the flight option. I’d just appear to be super mature and aging gracefully. Or some bullshit like that.

Instead, I spent a weekend staring at the ocean with the hubby. By the pool. At the Montage in Laguna. Lifting a flag on my chair to keep the $15 drinks coming. I read trashy magazines and whatever book it was that I couldn’t put down at that time and ate.

It wasn’t exactly the soul-searching retreat I’d envisioned. But it was damned fun. And a much-needed respite from kids and life.

We came back, only to be launched into the hubby birthday celebration and there-by followed by hubby traveling for his brand-spankin-new job. Which coincided (quite tragically) with Mima’s very sudden take-leave-of-my-life-and-this-earth. So while Purse Girl, TRPL TRBL, Lady Lou, True Blue and the rest of the crew, scrambled to keep me from slipping away (that old flight response), the hubby scrambled to get his ass back to Boulder to piece me back together. And get us both to South Cakalacky to take care of the leavings needed for a grand send off after 89 years of lots of living.

I was a freaking mess. Didn’t know which way was up. I had just talked to her the day before and she calmed me down from one of my many calamities (hubby traveling, apple tree blown over, internet and phone service down, ad nauseam), because that’s what she did. Even as she lay there dying from gall bladder cancer that had hidden itself well behind a lifelong history of ulcerative colitis.

Within 24 hours, she was all but gone. And I was running around like a crazy person again, trying to figure out how it could happen like that. If I should race back. So sure it would scare the be-jesus out of her if I showed up because she would think she was dying.

So less than a month after what I thought was going to be the most tumultuous event of my year, I stood outside of Murphy’s on the sidewalk, cell phone plastered to my face with wet, sticky tears, and told my rock/my solace/my calm that it was okay to go. She wiggled her hands and feet — the only form of response she could muster — and went. Right then. As my mom pulled her phone away on that end.

I helped plan her funeral via Skype while I waited for the hubby to come home from his trip. So by the time we got there, I ran to her side and stared at her laying there and thought, “GET UP.” I’M the one who runs. Not you.

After two or more weeks of lawyers and house cleaning out and setting up movers and crying, I finally came back home. Big old hole in my heart. And started trying to figure out where I would put all of that damned furniture that was headed my way.

And I ran. A half marathon. Decided to after drinking a bottle of wine. Woke up two mornings later and putt-putted my way through 13.1 miles. Asking Mima for help. And she did.

By the time June came, and the movers arrived with their rag-tag shitty van and news of a lost (permanently) table, my heart was still torn asunder. Just opening one of those newly arrived boxes sent me to my knees. Her smell was all in then. So I shoved them into the garage and closed the door. Ran the other way.

Then, after all that traveling, the hubby’s ass was really on fire. Hurting like a mo-fo. And I made fun of him. Called him little pooper and kept peddling the ass cream. But the guy who never goes to the doctor did. And I’d like to thank Mima for that. I’m pretty sure she had just enough time to settle in and start making sure we did what she wanted us to once and for all from her new vantage point.

Instead of France, it was hospitals and tests and more crying. Parked side-by-side with zero running. I can probably count on two hands the number of times I’ve run since we got that life-shattering, soul-robbing news. “Cancer.”

Oh I’ve run for sure. Run myself plum-crazy with worry and manic freak-ness. And I have had many, many opportunities to contemplate. But as opposed to the self-serving rants about the big-career-or-book-deal-that-wasn’t, I’ve thought I’m damned lucky. I had a Mima who thought I could move heaven and earth. Who got to see both of my daughters become girls. And me turn 40.

I’ve often thought that after she was gone there would be one less person to love me in that fully pure way. With such totality. Under whose bright light I could do no wrong (except that one time in college when I broke up with the hubby — my version of running away after losing the only other boy I ever truly loved).

But after cancer and the upside-down-turnover that our lives were catapulted into, I realize that staying can be just as good. That figuring out how to open up that rusty old closed off heart can lead to truly great happenings.

“You have a lot to be thankful for,” Mima would say to me when I thought financial stress would take me under. Or the pressures of business ownership. Or motherhood. And you know what? I think I do.

So though this week brought to a close the 4th chemo —the final of the first set — the hubby has felt like shit, but not so much the flattened version of weeks of yore. His mouth tastes like he’s chewing on a nail and his tongue, hands and jaw hurt like they are being jabbed with glass shards. Along with a general malaise that can best be described as “ICK.” But he’s been upright (mostly) and present enough to lend a hand with homework even if it is from a lying-down-on-the-couch position. As opposed to prior weeks when he couldn’t even muster the strength to get out of bed. So I’ll take it.

And the support net woven of more besties than I even knew I had have been out in force. Picking up girls and groceries, coming over to bathe and PJ little bodies, fold laundry, clean the kitchen, get the newly-operated-on dog a soft cone o’shame, and keep me from falling over. I even got out for a run this week (and came back home). So yes, Mima, those all fall under the ALOT category. Thanks for reminding me.

But I’ll still be really damned glad when I can raise a glass of super expensive champagne and drink a toast to the end of one truly shitty year. 2011, you better make good.

TODAY’S THEME SONG: The Zephyr Song. RHCP. In the water where I center my emotion, all the world can pass me by. Fly away on my zephyr. We’re gonna live forever.


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