90 is the degree of every angle in a rectangle. The Kansas City Royals came within 90 feet of tying the score in the bottom of the ninth inning in the last game of the World Series. A score of 90 gets you an A in many academic classes. 90 is a highway in the southern part of the United States. Most importantly, my mother is 90 years old today.
When we moved her to town three years ago, I didn’t expect we’d get to celebrate her 90th. She seemed too frail. She’s still here, though, and even using a walker instead of a wheelchair. She’s one of those tiny old ladies, struggling to maintain a weight that’s at least as high as her age. But she’s always been tough at the core, and she comes from sturdy stock. She has an older brother who is still living in his own home. Her own mother lived to be 94, and two of her aunts also survived more than nine decades.
Mom made it through a childhood marked by hunger and hard labor during the Great Depression, maintained the fortitude to raise six children, despite the immense grief of losing two, worked long hours at whatever she needed to do to keep us fed, clothed, housed and healthy. She’s picked cotton, worked as a welder, run a dairy farm, managed a cafe, assembled suitcases in a luggage factory, had a home daycare, and always kept her house clean (something I can’t manage.) She’s made the “final move of my life” four different times over the past 15 years and has adapted every time.
We’d planned a big party for her, slated for yesterday, but the weather had other ideas, laying a coat of ice on everything. A handful of us still made it to the nursing home yesterday for cake. Through the miracles of Internet and Skype, even more loved ones were included. We’ll try again for a big gathering with extended family, maybe after spring is officially here. Meanwhile, every day I still have my mother feels like a bonus. I’ll try to remember to celebrate every one of them.
I dream a lot. Always have. Vivid, detailed, complex, Technicolor dreams. Sometimes (okay, often) they’re bizarre – I won a trip to the Mars Colony, which totally existed. The biodome looked like an abandoned warehouse, and I was upset because I’d forgotten to bring my pedometer. I’d been planning to live-blog how many steps I was taking on the red planet. Sometimes they’re boring – I dreamed I had insomnia. Sometimes they’re a jumble of all of my anxieties – I’m late to work, while somehow 30 miles away and I can’t find my car. Also I discover the denture tablets I thought I’d bought for my mom are really kittens that need to be fed.
Sometimes I have a dream that’s a wake-up call, so to speak. In the early days of my marriage I dreamed I had died and was a ghost. I couldn’t go beyond my house. Only my husband could see me. He said it was okay, he’d stay married to me. But I knew I had to go “on” for his sake. What kind of burdensome,unfairly limited life would that be for him? As I mulled this over the next day, I realized it was a message from the part of my mind that had noticed I was depending too much on my spouse to be everything to me. I was living through him and it wasn’t healthy for either of us. I was at risk of losing my own life and of tying him to someone who wasn’t a fully realized person. I made some changes after that one, I can tell you.
I experienced another dream of this variety a few nights ago. I had time-traveled back ten years on accident. I’m not sure how. But I was stuck there. It wasn’t one of those time travel adventures where you risk running into your earlier self. It was more of the Peggy Sue Got Marriedvariety, where you have to go back and relive an earlier time in your life. I was a mess. Ten years ago, I had the same employer, but a different job. Our building has undergone some changes in that time, so the layout is different. So, I was trying to do my work and act like nothing was wrong, as if I didn’t have tons of foreknowledge about changes that were to come – Facebook, co-workers who would have babies, or get divorced, or die, all in the next few years. I had to hold myself back from taking care of things that weren’t on my list of duties then, but are now. I couldn’t remember where things were back then or the procedures for any job tasks. And I was full of worry over not remembering what time my kids would be getting out of elementary school, or what exactly was going on in their daily lives. What could I say to them when I picked them up without tipping my hand? Then I fretted about all of the things I knew were to come for them – major surgery for the younger one, the older one being bullied at school.
So many times I’ve wasted my energy on regret. Wishing I’d done something differently with my kids. Other times, I find myself missing their younger selves, feeling nostalgia for the days when I was a much bigger part of their lives and we’d do fun things together. Playing on the tire swing at the park, sledding in the snow. You might think, given the opportunity for a redo, I’d look forward to doing the things differently, heading off my mistakes, that I’d revel in the opportunity to relive the fun and closeness I remember and long for. That I’d relish being ten years younger and therefore having an extra decade to live. But I felt none of this in the dream. Like Peggy Sue, I only wanted to get back to my now life. I missed the kids I have now. I missed the job I have now. I was downright incompetent in my old roles.
Once again, I woke up realizing a part of my being had been noticing some things about my life and felt the need to hit me over the head with them while I slept. This is the only way I can get my own attention sometimes, I guess. Do I genuinely wish I could have the chance to do things over and enjoy them again and make better decisions? I mean for really real? No. I’d make a mess of it. I can’t be who I was then. Okay Brain, I get it. Stop worrying about things that are done and over with and unchangeable. Take pleasure in the good memories, but appreciate what I have now while I have it. Enjoy who my kids are at this moment, who I am at this moment. Seize the day, because even if it came again, I’d wish it hadn’t.