So I’ve been trying for the past few days to recall, recollect, relive old memories. Whichever synonym you choose, I’m trying to trace the roots of my recent mental conundrum. Maybe some forms of dementia start environmentally or maybe it’s hereditary. Or maybe it isn’t dementia at all. I’m reasonably certain I could pass any kind of cognitive exam I might be asked to take. But at this late date, who needs another test?
I was going to try and keep an accurate timeline for all this but maybe mixing and matching my thoughts, old and new, will keep this blog from becoming stale as I try to sort through childhood, adulthood, and middle age. Grievances, celebrations, disappointments, etc. in random order. How does that sound?
This is from January 29, 2011…something I wrote to pass the time.
DEATH BECOMES ME.
I knew she was expecting so much more from me than I was capable of giving at the moment. Blinded by everything around me, I could only see her love for me and my love for her. The rest of the world did not exist to me. In fact, I refused to even acknowledge its existence. The sun didn’t shine; she did. The rains never poured down; she nourished me.
I realized in brief episodes of sanity that I was losing my grip on reality, consumed as I was by this fire that burned constantly in my chest. She kept saying, “I need time.” She didn’t seem to realize that I didn’t have time on my side. The disease inside of me was growing at an alarming rate. This winter had been particularly bad to me. The very pills she brought me for my arthritis were the very pills that were bringing my death closer and closer.
Congestive heart failure is one of the killers in my family. You were earmarked early for either death by a heart attack or by lung cancer. I’d watched my family members pass away at early ages, one by one, as disease singled them out with cross-hairs on their chest. You’re next. The words had been breathlessly whispered in my ear by the Grim Reaper himself. No surprise, though; I knew I was next, because there was no one left except me.
Ibuprofen is the first drug on the list of medications to avoid, but the sweet release from the painful throbbing in my knee, coupled with the brief respite in the swelling, made me lose sight of the toll the drug was taking on my body. Only when I would reach the top of the stairs, out of breath, did those realizations pop into my mind. I banished them quickly enough, with laughter at my own situation and another small handful of sweet release.
Alone. What a joke. I had sought solitude my whole life, until I found it. Solitude now meant dying alone, something which terrified me almost as much as it excited me. Since I was a small child, I had been fascinated by death. My father and mother dying within two months of each other was my first encounter with the mysteriousness of death and all that surrounded it. Was there really peace? That thought made me smile. Or was there a place where you went and saw everyone who had gone before you? That thought terrified me horribly. The very not knowing made me embrace it and push it away at the same time.
The fact that I had faced my own death on several occasions, and had not only lived but thrived, only deepened my innermost childhood belief that I was somehow immortal and/or invincible, depending on when you asked me. Falling from a height of almost two stories, I didn’t even get a scratch or a broken bone. I recalled lying there, flat on my back, waiting for my breath to return, wondering if my bones were jelly; I wondered sometimes now if those types of narrow escapes were why my body was racked with daily pain.
My drowning was another escaped death sentence. I slipped into unconsciousness in the water, only to awaken sometime later surrounded by two EMTs and their life-saving equipment. I wasn’t allowed near the water for another eleven years. Scars from a brutal rape still lingered on my body, the white lines of imprinted terror still visible over three decades later, but I’d lived. That was the important part. Wasn’t it?
A car accident with head trauma – plastic surgery covered up everything except the memory of running through the rain amidst downed electrical wires, and surviving. Blackout nights of boozing, while being the designated driver, never resulted in anything more harmful than a hangover. Toxemia when my son was born dropped my heartbeat to 43 beats a minute, but hey, thanks to my fabulous doctors, I survived.
So why now, after all those close encounters with death, was the Grim Reaper so anxious to finally claim me as another willing…victim? Somehow that doesn’t seem like the right word. Victim. I looked it up. My handy dandy Webster’s was never far from my side.
Victim (n): 1) A person fooled, cheated, or injured. 2) An individual injured or killed. 3) A living being offered as a religious sacrifice in a rite. Hmmm….I did feel a tad bit fooled, cheated even, definitely injured upon. But life is not here for my benefit; it’s simply here. Number two certainly applies, but eh, seems weak in structure as a statement of fact. Number three, though, yes, if the Grim Reaper was behind the heinousness of this act, then surely religion played a part, didn’t it? Still, I felt for me personally, number one most adequately suited the situation before me.
I had played a fool and created this disease. Oh, I’m not saying genetics, predetermined or otherwise, didn’t play a huge part, but I sincerely believe I aggravated and coaxed it into life, the way you might a campfire from a single match and some dry bits of paper. Except what I was lighting on fire was drugs. Methamphetamines, to be exact. They are very bad for the heart muscles, weakening, destroying with each pull on the pipe. I smoked it for two years, praying nightly for death to claim me before morning. But death is sneaky. It waits to surprise you, like a precocious child during a game of peek-a-boo. This time, it had waited for two years after I had quit ingesting the drugs. Surprise! Peek-a-boo! It’s almost time!
Still, I can’t claim that I was duped. I was taught in school that drugs are bad for you. Any first grader knows that. The D.A.R.E. program taught my daughter. And I was quick to tell her, “if anyone offers you drugs at school, bring them straight home to Mama!” Of course, we both laughed and she never brought me home anything like that. Darn it.
But back to the question at hand. My insanity versus my impending death, and which will overtake me first. I had moments of clarity, such as now, which is why I’m typing so fast and furious before the craziness consumes me again. I will confess I had thought of taking matters into my own hands – cheating death, if you will – by rendering the peek-a-boo game obsolete but my own mother had died of a shotgun blast through the mouth, thus taking the surprise effect away from me. If people expect you to do it, ha, where’s the fun in that, you know?!