A pretty little purple yoga mat lives upstairs in my loft. At the moment, it hangs on the railing overlooking the kitchen. I use it to do pushups. I do 5-10 several times daily, and I cheat. I do the hands-and-knees kind instead of the hands-and-toes version, and I only go halfway down. I broke my wrist before I had kids and can’t bear the weight on the bent joint, but I do what I can and feel accomplished.
I watched Sweet Dreams – yes, again – for the unknownth time because it reminds me of my mother. She dressed exactly like that – same puffy hairdo with side-swept bangs, stretch pants and A-line coats, and eyeliner. Mom was a fox, and even her daughters noticed. She could sing, dance, cook, and entertain. The older I get, the more I miss her because I’m closing in on her age, the time of life when she died, and I can’t help but wonder what she’d have to say about the comparison of us, me and her. It would be an interesting conversation, and I’m sure we’d have some good laughs, more than a few tears.
My yard. It’s a mess, a shame, and might be an embarrassment to someone else – a fire hazard, even. I hate to mow. I refuse to do it. When the mower quit last year, I left it at the bottom of the yard, the far edge of the acre of grass, and deemed it a forest ornament. Now the aspen and tamarack are taking over, filling the green space, only nothing is green. Interior Alaska has been a furnace of blazing skies and 90-degree temperatures. I couldn’t haul enough water to quench the thirst of this patch of civilization even if I wanted a lawn, so I shake my head and continue to plan a rock garden, a field of peonies, anything but grass.
I look around – at my mat of purple rubberstuff, the neglected outdoors I’m responsible for, and take solace in 50-year-old music. I consider the choices I’ve made, and the decision to veer from the established path where fortune is fabled to fall from the sky into my lap. I’ve run that lap so many times, fortune feels like bird splat; a thin, white stream of stuff you don’t want to touch, smear all over your arm or, with no luck, your forehead. I learned when something falls out of the sky and lands on your head, it’s probably not manna.
I exorcised a demon. I walked away from a tragedy and took some years to digest my part in it, concluding I had no part. Bird crap fell from the sky and landed on an unfortunate man, and my part was of little consequence – the stuff had smeared before I even reached out to wipe it off. It was disturbing that an audience caught the effort to salvage life on camera phones, that what was left was shoveled into the back of a pickup and hauled to the morgue, that nothing in my bag of tricks could change the mess that had cratered some schmuck’s life on a last motorcycle ride to the North Slope. C’est la vie’ (or death, but I don’t know French, so we’ll leave it at that) and I’m over it.
I usually refrain from specifics, preferring vague notions, but I will state deliberately that I’m returning to work I enjoyed very much, to finally complete paramedic status. And then I’m leaving. Actually, I’m heading out, destination unknown other than it’s a place of need, where life is involved and not plugged in. My living will incorporate helping, treating and mending, and my life will be filled with people who, like me, prefer the edge of something, even if it’s fog. My better half doesn’t skoff at the idea, the plan, but voices his part in the life, an interest in retreating. Partnership is nice.
I’m losing a daughter to addiction, maybe I already have, to the choices adults make sometimes that take them where the rest of us believe they never really, truly wanted to go. It’s hard to watch; it’s been hard on this partnership. Mending is for us together, in a direction of our own. What plans we had, dreams we shared, are quickening again in new days, and sorrow is tucked appropriately away, saved for a time when it can be spent and not wasted. With the realization that my life is my own, our life belongs to us together, and that I’m no longer responsible for anyone but us, comes a whole lot of freedom to get on with where I left off and we picked up. Some of that memory was stored away years ago, other of it is more recent, but I’m looking at Lot’s wife and deciding I’m never going to be that pillar of salt. I’m not looking back.