She’s 95. She’s proud of this as though it’s something she’s done intentionally. She tells everyone. Its bragging really. Her memory is going as well as her hearing, so she repeats herself a lot, very abruptly. She shows a lot of pictures of her as a young woman and of her adult kids as young children. She wants badly, to be back in that time. To create new memories, rather than just relive the old ones. She acts as though she is tough. Angry. Her eyes communicate fear. Fear of time. Fear of that moment when time is not neutral but destructive. When time cannot heal. When her age is a burden rather than a glory. That moment is sneaky. It creeps up on you. She knew this. Something so benign could be the beginning of the end. And so it was. She fell. She insisted she was alright, but it was the fear. She wanted so badly to be fine. What a silly moment to be the beginning of the end. She wanted it to be more dramatic. More quick. More something. More representative of the person she used to be. But instead she fell in an aisle at a play her grandson was in and broke her pelvis. And now hospice is being mentioned by her children and their spouses. This word is the one she has been avoiding. The one that she has been bragging that she has eluded until now. It’s the beginning of the end.
I wonder if she regrets anything. Because, really, there will always be the question of that boy you should have kissed in the elevator, or that job you should have taken in Alaska, or that moment you should have responded, “I am not falling anymore. I AM in love with you. I won’t leave you. Let’s play this out. Let’s see where it takes us.” But instead you stand next to your friend in the elevator quietly trying to gain the courage. Heart racing, palms sweating, still as a statue. Instead, you listen to the people around you saying it is too cold in Alaska. You won’t make it. The job is meant for men. Instead you lay next to him in the dark terrified because he just said, “I think I’m falling in love with you.” You act as though you are asleep.
Does she think of this at all as she flirts with the paramedics. Or does she think of that time she jumped off the cliff and ended up soaring with the hawks, or that time She got in front of a classroom and realized she had done good. Or that time she looked at her family and thought they were absolutely gorgeous and that she had taken a huge part in that. I hope that pride overwhelms her in the beginning of the end. Her life is full and big. I hope that regret has been washed away along with the parts of her memory time has taken.
The next morning I see my neighbor. He has his infant strapped to the front of his body. He taps on the my car window, and at first the beauty of this baby does not register. We have the beginnings of a genuine conversation. He is curious about my life. I am curious about him and his baby tales. And then I see the most breathtaking blue eyes on this boy. I stop mid sentence with my bearded neighbor and begin to talk to his boy instead. I wonder if this happens often when he has his child. I wonder if this fills him with pride or frustrates him. Gaius takes my finger for our first hand shake. I am jealous of my neighbor. He is beginning again. Gaius is about to have a whole full life that my neighbor gets to watch and help create. It’s only the beginning.