So it’s the end of the year. Not quite, but almost. Close enough to part the veil. We all know that 2016 is a bitch. She’s the reason we can’t have nice things. Aside from celebrity genocide, including some of my artistic idols like, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen and Alan Rickman (you truly are a ragged whore, 2016), this has actually been a pretty good year for me. I just keep plugging along.
After spending most of my twenties and thirties amassing a collection of stuff; I’ve decided slowly over the past few years that I don’t really want gifts anymore. I want memories. I want to laugh while I can. I want to go to concerts. I want to hang out with my friends and make them dinner. I want to feel rain on my face as I walk on a path towards a lighthouse. I want to swim in Loch Ness. I want to lay my head in my husband’s lap while reading a book. I want game nights with my family and friends. I want to make snow angels and built forts out of pillows. I want to remember one good thing about each day. I want to drink in a pub and sing silly songs. I want to walk into the woods without a compass and wander according to the position of the sun and stars. I want to make friends in every corner of the world. I want to squeeze every drop out of life while I can.
It’s not the destination; it’s the journey. I know it sounds trite but the older I get the more I realize how true it is. My birthday is in a handful of days and I don’t know whether to be proud or annoyed. I’m turning into a cranky old woman. And yes…before you strike, (looking at you, you crazy bitch from Iowa – you know I love you) I realize the only difference in my crankiness is the age I display it. I was a cranky young woman.
I will become a cranky old woman.
We all rush to get the things that we think people will admire us for and somewhere along the way our own loves and thrills get lost. We drive cars we hope will be admired. We wear clothes and jewelry with the big labels oft times to impress. We marry the right guy or girl. We buy the pretty house. We boast about our jobs. I’ve never seen someone brag that they shovel horse shit for a living. We’re more apt to say something like, “My title is equine fecal removal facilitator” and to that I say, if you work an honest day of work, you scream it from the rooftop even if it’s covered in shit. We rush through the inevitable markers that we’re supposed to. We’re bred from a young age to compete, which is a separate blog entry for a separate time. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but in today’s day and age of instant accessibility, it ramps up the competition in a staggeringly unhealthy way. We now can brag about it on demand. We used to have to bring photo albums of kids, cars, houses et al in order to brag whereas now we can whip out a cell phone to induce envy in others. Death words at reunions are “Just look me up on Facebook”. They’ve recently discovered the ancient Aramaic translation of this phrase is “Bitch! My life is better than yours!”
We just whizzed through Christmas…the engagement season. For the record, anyone that ever proposed to me on Christmas day would get a flat ass no. That’s my present? A rock as a swap for a lifetime of washing your undies that you’re passing it off as a Christmas present? Hard pass. My husband proposed to me in August when there’s NOTHING going on. Surefire yes. I not only wash but I fold his undies. I’m a raving feminist.
We’ve become so robotic in meeting the needs of others that we give little thought of what makes us happy. My resolution (don’t believe in them)…my mantra is less stuff, more substance for the upcoming year.
When I was a little girl I used to love to watch my grandmother cook. To me it was akin to watching Monet paint or Beethoven write music. The kitchen was the one place she was truly free. I have that in common with her, little else, but at least that. I’m very territorial about my kitchen and tend to growl when people intrude on it. I think she started teaching me to cook somewhere around the age of five or so. She taught me well. We started slowly on simple things like scrambled eggs and oatmeal. We moved on to cakes when I was about 8. I grumbled finally that I really wanted to cook dinner. So she let me loose in her kitchen one night and told me we were going to make macaroni and cheese. We started with a roux. I ruined it about 5 or 6 times – maybe more. She just kept washing out the pot only to set it back on the stove and cut another tab of butter and set out another tablespoon of flour and tell me to start again. I had the heat up so high that it burned the butter and ruined the sauce. “Quit rushing”, she’d hiss. Finally I had to suffer through the eternity of letting the sauce thicken properly. It took forever (eight minutes). I was so bored (sang Henry the Eighth by Herman’s Hermits). I couldn’t stand the wait (watched pots never boil). It went from the frothing, bubbling scent of melted butter to the somewhat bitter tang of flour and salt to the burning whiff of black pepper to the sweet pour of milk which swirled and eventually thickened into steamy creamy perfection. Each stage had its own magic, because I finally learned to watch it evolve after many failures.
We expect instant gratification. We demand it. Tomorrow isn’t soon enough in our modern world. I want Tina Turner’s legs. I would like them right now as a matter of fact. Now ask me about the last time I traipsed my ass into a gym. I’ll take yoga class in September for 1000 Alex. Yeah, it’s been that long. I don’t have time so the best I can do is to google the shit of Tina Turner’s legs and call it a day.
I’ve watched people wish their lives away. They can’t wait until the weekend, the next vacation, the next party, the next day, week, month, year, the next house, the next car, the next….
Patience is the key to a good roux sauce. You have to keep the heat low, stir it constantly and pay attention to the sauce as if it were a living, breathing thing.
Is patience also the key to a good life?
I had to call a nursing home today to inquire about the next steps for my father. He’s lost and I can’t help him find his way back. He’s trapped somewhere in his disintigrating mind. I can’t help him. I can love him. I can guide him. I can bring him to doctors. I can cook for him and nuture him as he did me. I can read to him or buy him his favorite movies. But I can’t bring him back. I can’t bring back the most wickedly brilliant sense of humor I’ve ever seen that was, in my mind, his defining trait; that and his smile.
For the first time ever I had to say out loud, “We don’t know where else to go. We don’t know how else to help him and my mother is tired. I think it may be time to bring him to a nursing home because I don’t know how else to help and if I don’t do something, I’m going to lose them both.” I said those words. I almost vomited as I choked them out. Thank God it was only over someone’s voicemail because if I had heard an ounce of sympathy on the other end of the phone I would have crawled under my desk until I died of heartbreak. I’ve thought those words before today. I knew this was coming. I am logical to a fault. It’s been pointed out to me that my logic is sometimes cold and clinical. I knew this was coming. I’ve rotated the words around my mind, editing or adding as needed, but this time, I had to say them. It was tantamount to verbally articulating, “I think I may have just failed my parents because I have to turn to strangers to help care for them because my brother walked out on us years ago and I have no other siblings to help me and my mom is slowly drowning in this mire of watching my dad recede day after day and I have to work full time and I want to make it better and I can’t because at this moment, right now, I’m utterly helpless.”
I would sell everything I own to keep them healthy. I would give my own life if it would bring back his mind. I would give up every night of sleep if my mother could sleep through one night uninterrupted. If I could spare them all of this heart ache, I’d give it all.
What did I learn this year?
We all die in the end. We are born and we die. These are known facts.
In the meantime, all those days in between….do we live?
Don’t rush your roux.