Whatever it may be, just do it. Write that essay. Sign up for that pottery class. Call your aunt. Send in that donation. Tell someone you miss them. Roll over that retirement fund. Fix the barn roof. Finally take T’ai Chi or read War and Peace.
I am not very good at all that. I am, however, way past the line of abundance–that time in life where friends are numerous and new relationships and experiences are ripe for the plucking. I need to invest better, I need to get better at all that. Because the plucking has become pretty sparse. The last of the older generation is gone, an aunt that at least I did go to visit. But that was the last of the old guard leaving me at the edge of the abyss with no one else ahead of me in line.
Many of my investments have not paid off. I review them regularly at four am. I am almost seventy so that highway of regret is long and dotted with many turn offs where I can spend a sleepless hour wondering what happened. When the ice and snow melted this May after a long and brutal winter that started in October, the barn roof had collapsed, a storm window blew off the house, the pine and the elm are beyond repair. Not really sudden but brewing. It’s the brewing.
During the long winter three more neighbors died. One does not bother me as I intervened, saved his cats, and that is a chapter in the book I am trying to write. But the other two bother me. One is a woman I wanted to interview for the book, and the other a neighbor we’d had an altercation with a decade ago and have not spoken with since. I look at myself and ask, what kind of person doesn’t forgive? But I have yet to send a condolence card to the spouse and I likely will not. I will put it off.
I had a coworker in 1990, Linda, an LPN and case manager for our mental health Crisis Team. It was an innovative program and I was the first Clinical Nurse Specialist hired for this job, it was important to succeed and important to keep all these patients in crisis out of the Emergency Department and out of the hospital because they were too expensive and there were too many of them. I know now that Linda and I were somewhat exploited in terms of expectations, but we did not know that then. We were enthusiastic and compassionate and sometimes we even lied a little to get our patients the level of care they needed.
My father died suddenly. Linda made sure I got flowers at work. As personal and professional crises abounded, as they do in life, we happily trashed everything that was not going right in our daily team meetings. Bad things never seem quite as bad with people like us around.
One day Linda locked me in my office and shoved the phone across the desk. “You aren’t going anywhere till you call your obstetrician.” I was forty, first pregnancy, and Linda was a bit of a mother hen. I hadn’t been feeling well and was not dealing with it. I described my symptoms to the nurse at the OB-GYN office and she told me to come over immediately. I was put on bed rest and did not see my own office again for five months. (Actually I never saw it again as after maternity leave they’d given it to someone else and I was placed in an old janitor’s closet with no window and no panic button.)
During bed rest a day did not go by that Linda didn’t call me. I became more depressed and didn’t want to answer the phone if she called during the soaps or Geraldo Rivera. She helped host a baby shower, and her boys, then about ten and twelve, made me cards with candy pasted in them. They named the baby “Skittles.” I hope Linda knows how much I appreciated her kindness.
I left Crisis Team, we gently fell out of touch. I eventually moved to Vermont and Linda to Florida. Last I heard from her she was happily working as a nurse in a tennis camp and had a new boyfriend.
Fast forward eighteen years to Facebook and her grown son with whom I am now friends. This is how I find out that Linda has dementia, and yesterday I see that she is on hospice. I can’t help but think that if I were on hospice, I would want Linda to be my nurse.
I still have the card with the dried up Skittle. And I will pass through our hometown next week and stop and say hi. I will. I swear I will. I’m teary and can’t stop grieving for those days of energy and abundance. And kindness.
But today the winter’s wood is being delivered, it needs stacking. There’s no putting that off.