Time and emotion.

A lot has happened lately and it’s weighing me down. I have to find a way to shake it off. Maybe a walk. Maybe a getaway.

I’ve been in two accidents within a couple of weeks of each other. First time in almost 30 years I’ve had an accident. One was a true accident. My bag flew off the seat during a sudden stop and put me into reverse. I bumped the car behind me hard enough to do $2000 worth of damage to my bumper and tailgate. My fault for not noticing that my car went into reverse.

And when I went to pick up my car from the shop, I was leaving the parking lot (in the rental) to go fill up the tank. I got turned around trying to find my way out of a parking lot full of cars and accidentally backed into one. No damage to the rental, but there’s a dent and a scratch on the other car. I can’t even describe the weight in my chest when it happened. I felt old. I felt used up. I felt stupid – and I don’t like feeling stupid. I felt like someone needed to take my keys away. Today I had to deal with my insurance company for the second time in a month, and it was excruciating for me. I know something is wrong.

It’s back to the ophthalmologist I go, hoping that the macular degeneration hasn’t gotten worse. I’m not old enough for all this…but then, I guess I am, because it’s happening. And I’ll be getting new glasses that are NOT progressives. Those have been awful for me.

Strange, don’t you think, when you start to feel your age? Mortality starts to tap you on the shoulder and say, “I’m waiting.” Next time you look, it’s closer.

Honestly, it’s not just about my eyes or about the accidents. It’s about the loss of friends and that feeling that Death is lurking in every corner.

About a year ago, I lost my friend Cindy, whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. We were involved briefly, before I was ready to openly admit that I wanted out of my marriage so I could spend my life with a woman. I told her that I wasn’t free, and that I couldn’t bear to make her the dessert to the meat of my life. When I dropped her off at the airport, she said, “I would have gladly been your dessert.” That was the last time I ever laid eyes on her, though we talked a few times after. At the end, Cindy was with a woman she loved very much and who took care of her in those final days. Cindy died of colon cancer at 47. The last Facebook message I got from her, she though I was her Aunt Penny.

Then I lost Annie. God. Annie was the most interesting person I ever met. She was a trust fund baby who was more like a flower child. We all knew she had some money, but she didn’t live like she had any. She had a small picture framing business. She played drums. She smoked a lot of pot. And she loved — loved! — my daughter. They were kindred spirits, those two. Annie moved away to New Mexico to escape some demons a few years before Stephanie died, so in the last couple of years of her life, we had a friendship by phone and through Facebook. In the intervening years between her move to NM and 2011, she hung back and waited for me to reach out to her. She didn’t know how to talk to me after she learned of Stephanie’s death. She was afraid I’d be upset with her for not coming to the funeral. She didn’t find out, of course, until the funeral was well behind us. Annie. Such an absolute joy to me. We could talk for hours. She had a rough go with depression and anxiety, which we both shared, and I believe – though I have no proof – that she took her own life. Her family and friends in NM refuse to talk about it. I tried hard not to dwell in that space of wondering if I could have done anything at all to save her. I had already tried and failed to save Stephanie. Instead, I picture the two of them in the afterlife, buzzing around in Annie’s car, windows down, singing along with the radio or just smoking a fatty and enjoying the scenery. Annie was in her 50s.

Jack, a guy I went to high school with in Georgia, moved to California to live his life out and proud. He had been a football player in high school who was deep, deep in the closet. Last year he died of liver cancer. His husband was by his side.

A couple of blogger friends committed suicide a few years ago. No warning. They were just gone. Both of them left sons behind.

Some of the bereaved moms I’ve met through various support groups haven’t made it. Cancer. Others have fought cancer and beat it.

Another friend had a stroke, but she survived and is doing amazingly well.

I mean, I know. Death comes for us all, and usually when we least expect it. Maybe that’s why the accidents have me a little shaken. My older sister is a brain tumor survivor. Many, many people in our extended family have died of cancer. Some of heart disease. I’ve had a number of precancerous growths removed and am on a first name basis with my gastroenterologist. You start to glance over your shoulder more when you’ve had some near misses and when you’ve watched your closest sibling go through brain surgery. I’m not ready to let go of her, of my friends, of life.

This past weekend my best friend and I finally saw each other again after two years. A mutual friend of ours, Harry, was killed in a car accident in NY last week. He had the best smile, the best hugs, and the sweetest sports cars. He was 74 and a friend of Bill W. He was a recovering Mormon, and I loved him. The last time I saw Harry was at our friend Lin’s funeral. Lin was diagnosed with glioblastoma and, after 9 short weeks and a chaotic string of complications, she died at home surrounded by her family on the eve of her 55th birthday. When Harry saw me at the funeral, he smiled from ear to ear and then gave me a big kiss on the mouth. That’s not something I normally do with my friends, but it made me smile and feel loved. Harry lived his life with verve and passion. He was eternal. He is eternal. A service will be held for him June 2, and his ashes will be scattered on Sugarloaf Mountain.

I reached out to my bestie to tell her about Harry’s death. And I apologized to her for my transgressions, hoping but not banking on her forgiveness. She did me one better. She invited me over to see her new truck.  We sat in her kitchen a drank a Pepsi and discussed her new diagnosis of congestive heart failure and all those pill bottles on the kitchen table.  “That’s when you know you’re old,” she said. “When you keep your pills on the kitchen table!”

She’s a few months older than me, and I’ll be damned if she’s going anywhere if I can help it. I’ll pray to every god and goddess in all the kingdoms to turn things around for her. I was so happy to see her that I thought I would crush her with my hugs. I don’t know how I didn’t cry then, but I’ve been misty ever since.

Hold your loved ones close and make sure you tell them – every day – that you love them. Love them like I love you all.

Peace, Jude

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About Me

A writer and solitary soul in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

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