The Bliss Blog

Funny, the things you remember all these years later. When my mom was on hospice back in 2010, she told me at one point that she still had all her marbles. I knew what she meant since when my dad was in the last few months of his life in 2008, his were outside his grasp at times. Parkinsons’ Disease had diminished his cognitive functioning. I joked with her (as we did often in those waning days) that I would retrieve any that rolled under the couch should she lose control of her own. As far as I could tell, it wasn’t necessary and she kept her wits about her as she made her needs and feelings known succinctly. What might have felt like memory became the present-day reality for her.  It didn’t seem like she was hallucinating, but rather, a gathering of moments. Flashes of time with my handsome father who was her sweetheart from the night they met more than 54 years earlier. Snippets of experiences as a young woman who had grown up with her mother, father, and brother in Philadelphia, only to lose my grandfather when she was 18. She and my grandmother were an unstoppable team and traveling companions. She became like a third parent to me who died when I was four. I know my mom missed her deeply and endeavored to emulate her. When my mom passed on November 26, 2010, I took on that mantle. There are days when I look in the mirror and see her face, gaze down at my hands and imagine hers, hear my voice speaking some of what she would have said. All good things, since she was a beautiful woman whose hands healed and voice shared wisdom and encouragement. I am the family matriarch now and most of the time it feels like a fit. At other moments, I question my fitness to fill shoes that are bigger (not in reality, since we wore the same size) than I could ever possibly. Can you tell that I idealize her?

I turned 60 a few weeks ago. When my mother was that age, she and my dad still lived in New Jersey and worked full time. He was a SEPTA bus driver and she was a Sears switchboard operator. I was 28 and had just gotten married. Life was about to become far different than my idyllic childhood. In 1988, Michael and I started a business; a magazine called Visions. It is where I launched my career as a journalist having loved writing since childhood. A few years later, after my parents retired and moved to Florida, we followed them and published from there. In 1992, a series of whirlwind events (one literal) occurred. We adopted our then 4-year-old son, I had an ectopic pregnancy, Michael was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, we lost our home to Hurricane Andrew in Homestead and then early the next year we moved back to the Philadelphia area where we had both grown up.  Six years later, I found myself a widow with an 11-year-old son to raise. Blessedly, I had solid supports among family and friends as the village that helped me raise him. Now he is a happily married 31-year-old man with a new home, a job he enjoys, good friends and a solid sense of integrity and love. What more could a mother want for her child? Not to say that I don’t still worry at times. I do my best to let him live his own life without interference, trusting that he will come to me for guidance as needed. When he has, I make sure that he and his wife are each others’ primary consultants and I am here as backup.

Now that I am on the other side of the threshold, leaping into the seventh decade, I am aware that, despite my best intentions and effort, my body doesn’t do what it used to do. I work out at the gym several times a week, walk and dance and on occasion, practice yoga. Still, even with the aid of Vitamin D, I feel stiff and sore. Fatigue is a common visitor. As I approach my fifth cardiaversary next June, I am mindful of and grateful for my healthier heart and the work it does to keep me on this side of the veil.

What concerns me is my cognitive capacity. A few years ago, I took a test to determine if there was a predisposition for the disease that took my father’s life. Fortunately, I passed with flying colors. Still, I notice memory blips…I had to think for a moment to come up with the word ‘predisposition’. There are times when I am driving in familiar territory and can’t remember which way to turn…thank goodness that the GPS has become a functioning part of my brain. I sometimes walk into a room and can’t recall why. It is then that I go back to the place where the thought originated and voila! The thought recurs. Names escape me, especially if I see folks out of context. I no longer feel embarrassed, calling these blips my middle age moments or wise woman moments, since allegedly, the older we get, the wiser we get. My peers totally get it and laugh along with me.

My primary work is that of a therapist, speaker, and writer. All three call on me to keep my mind sharp. As long as I can think and create, I can be gainfully employed in those fields. Lately, I find myself ‘channeling’ information, having to stretch a bit to find facts. Google has become my best bud and another part of my cranium. Fessing up that my biggest fear is that I will need to tapdance and finesse my way through these challenges and reach realllly far under the couch to fetch those rolling marbles. So far, so good.