Miriam Feder home


Mortality Smacks

I’ve had a big season for mortality: a heart attack here; cancer there; a dead husband; a brain tumor; a slumped over driver. All these things have happened to people who somehow connect with my circle—husbands of associates, friends of friends, colleagues. There’s been serious illness—some died—young people, my own age. They’ve left ill-prepared families and people like me, stunned and gaping, scrambling for a seat when the music stops, checking our rear-view mirrors more frequently.

I take inventory. The next funny feeling sends me to the doctor. “You want to do an electrocardiogram? Sure. It’s fine? Good.”

I’m growing into the dark circles I’ve always had under my eyes. I bet when people meet me they no longer wonder why that young girl has such dark hollows. No, dark circles suit the territory: new aches; new pains; age sprinkles down on people and body parts randomly.

I’m almost getting used to this older person I see in the mirror. Thigh dimples still shock me. But it’s time to buckle up all belts, double down all vities, floss nightly, plan for the future, live like there’s no tomorrow. Living well is the best revenge, isn’t it?

I can comfort the grieving, but I’d better not get swept up in the tide of sadness. I know that it’s out there and when it aims at me it’ll be a tsunami.

I’ve made some time for comfort routines and rituals. I never used to allow myself routines; I thought they were each a little death. They are, but now they seem a caring, loving gesture. I have a full pot of coffee in the morning—I even sit down. There’s a hot tub before bed. And when I leave my routines behind for travel or some other demand on my time, I miss them. Routines are like botulinum; they can kill, but just a little bit smooths away the harshness of everyday.

I feel liberation and creativity in this post-period period. The second shift ends. I’ve graduated from my responsibilities to a child in my home. Maybe I don’t have the same kind of energy I once had, but I’ve come to grips with my plans and limitations. I’m not facing off against the whole world–just my little corner of it. I have some time for myself.

Not everyone will find this creative spot, this time for herself. It depends on a number of things, but health is a big one. Health will take some away, make some unable, or too cautious. It will chain some into taking care of the others.

“OK, Death I see you, and your illness, disease, disability, breaks, pins, pains, aspirin, stents, stunts, rehab… Mortality smacks and it smirks. Made you look.”

My friend escaped this time, but it’s left a nasty welt across his cheek. I can tell this is the beginning of a process. I hope it’s a long dance, a slow dance, with warm clutches and sensible shoes. I can tell the music is going to shift to the minor key from time to time, unexpectedly. When the needle lifts with a scratch or a gouge, I’ll have to run to grab a seat, catch mybreath, flash a smile and improvise.