It was a weird week. Hell, it’s been a weird last few months if I’m being honest with myself. The pandemic uncovered a lot of latent anxiety in me that I didn’t know how close to the surface it actually was. Surprising moments of panic and worry that would hang out for a couple days. Fixating on things completely out of my control, or things that were in my control until it was like a skipping record in my brain. There have been good things, even great things, that have happened over the course of the last few months as well. But unfortunately in heightened states of worry those seem to get sidelined.
I have fortunately figured out how to see something like panic coming around the corner and I can deal with it better now. I can at least look it in the eye and say “Hold up. This is just my brain on fire. Gotta put that shit out. Now.” It’s not a permanent fix for a worried mind, but I’m not letting the anxiety take over.
But the last week or two have really opened my eyes to how old I’m getting, and how quickly I’m getting to be older and older. About three weeks ago my wife was at work and twisted her ankle and fell flat on her face. Well, not FLAT on her face like she broke her nose. But her glasses flew about five feet away from her and she hit hard enough that she was stunned and not sure if she blacked out or not. No bruises or bumps on her head, yet she had the worst headache afterwards and had a serious sensitivity to light. She took it easy for most of the weekend after that, but by Monday and a day of work and staring at a computer screen the headache was unbearable. A trip to an urgent care office led to a drive to the emergency room which ended up being a “sort-of” diagnosis of a mild concussion caused by whiplash.
For the last couple weeks it’s been working at home for a couple hours a day and getting better in small increments. I’m thankful she’s improving, but head trauma is something I can’t just go “Okay, so here’s a popcicle and some soup and some Tussin. Watch some TV and all will be better in a day or two.” It’s a serious wait-and-see thing and I’m unfortunately impatient. Still, I feel about 10 years older now than I did at the beginning of March.
Yesterday my dad came over for his usual Saturday morning cup of coffee and venting about the state of the world. It’s become a tradition now. I found out my dad had an appt with a Nephrologist, aka a kidney doctor, as his kidney function wasn’t where it should be. Turns out his kidney function is at 43%. The reason? Well we’re not sure yet, but from the questions the doc asked my mom and dad I’d say it’s something to do with one of the long term prescriptions my dad has been taking. Maybe his diuretic, but quite possibly a mild steroid my dad has been taking for an eye ailment. Either way, he goes in for an ultrasound at some point so they can rule out abnormalities like tumors or whatever else might be causing things to not work correctly. My dad, in typical fashion, said “I don’t know what the hell that’s all about. I’m not gonna worry about it.” That’s good, because I’ll worry for both of us.
My best friend is also dealing with this parental old age thing. His dad is dealing with both cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. He goes over every Sunday morning to bathe him and get him ready to go to church. Church wasn’t something his dad ever did before he started losing his memory and his independence, but he seems to find comfort in it now.
Before all of this my friend was estranged from his dad. They had been close up until about 6 or 7 years ago when, for all intents and purposes, my friend’s father basically betrayed him in a very personal way. It all stemmed from decades of issues involving his stepmom. I won’t go into it because it’s not my place to do so, but he’d pretty much written his dad off.
Then a few months ago an elderly man approached someone that worked at the library where my friend works. The elderly man told this person that his son worked there, and that he wanted them to tell him that he loved him. He told this complete stranger that they hadn’t spoken in a long time and that he couldn’t remember why. This person then told my friend. Despite the betrayal my best friend reached out to his dad and stepmom, knowing that once his dad is gone that’s it. There’s no do-overs when it comes to death. So he did the right thing and has made peace with his dad, one Sunday morning bath at at time.
It seems like it was just a year or two ago my best friend and I were in my parents front yard playing with Star Wars figures under weathered pine trees. Pine trees that sat in front of my bedroom window for two decades before mom and dad cut them down. It also feels like it was merely months ago as we had a conversation in my front yard at my high school open house about what we were going to do with the rest of our lives(we had no idea.) And it seems like it was just yesterday that we went to our first Cure show together, just a mere month after my oldest was born.
But of course these were lifetimes ago.
I’m now looking down the barrel of two graduations, one high school and one college in the timespan of a year. My youngest will be driving in May, and graduating high school himself in two years. I’ve been at the same job for going on 22 years, and in the same industry for almost 30. I’m in relative good health, but at 47 just one nasty spill away from disaster. Hell, my wife didn’t even hit her head and she’s still getting over her fall from three weeks ago. No wonder people become shut-ins after 40. At least if they’re smart they do.
I look at the picture of that little kid with his mom and older brother and I long for that innocence. That feeling that everything is going to be okay. Your mom and dad have you covered and that they won’t let anything bad happen to you. Goofy sunglasses and 70s browns, standing outside at Grissom Air Force Base with flying war machines hovering just behind us as my dad takes a pic of his family. Probably feeling a lot of what I’m feeling now.
Or maybe not. I’m probably a good 15 years older than he was then. I bet he never imagined sitting in his youngest son’s kitchen drinking coffee and talking about his malfunctioning kidneys. That’s something you don’t foresee. Why would you?
When you’re young everything still seems possible, and plenty of time ahead to do it. You’re 30-years old taking a pic of your young family with an Instamatic on a hot August day. Or you’re in the front yard knocking pine needles out of your X-Wing Fighter. Or you’re 26-years old, pacing back and forth in your living room at 2am trying to get your infant firstborn to fall asleep. You’re wondering will you ever get to the point when that fussy 2-month old will actually sleep on her own?
Next thing you know you’re getting text messages from that 2-month old, now 20, talking about how she took the subway to Brooklyn and bought an incense holder that looks like a naked body at a thrift store.
I guess getting middle-aged isn’t all that bad.