I have been wanting to write an essay on this topic for a while but I haven't quite been able to work my head around it. The old essayist in me wants to create a giant metaphor out of everything but I feel like putting a bow on a box of thoughts isn't quite doing this topic justice. It's more complicated than that.
But first, a story.
I went to a dermatologist yesterday for a few routine checks and things that aren't any of your business. Nothing big. They're putting me on an oral medication that would do great damage to a baby if I were to get pregnant in the next five months (ha!) so they are required by law to test my blood once every month until the end of the year. No big deal. Needles and blood don't bother me. I don't really like them, but I'm not mortally afraid of them. That being said, my appointment was at about 11:10. By the time I went in for lab work it was around noon. I hadn't eaten since seven that morning and even then it was just a bowl of cereal. Thanks to some genes from my mother, I have a kind of minor case of hypoglycemia that makes me feel somewhat shaky when I haven't eaten for a while. I also have low blood pressure, which makes my circulation somewhat poor and. . . basically it was a recipe for disaster. I walked into the room and thought -"I'm going to faint in here. They're going to take my blood, and I'm going to pass out. Shoot." I told them that I hadn't eaten and they said it wasn't that much blood and I'd be fine and. . . whatever. I knew I was going to faint. And I did. Not a very pleasant sensation on the whole and it left me completely out of it for the rest of the day. It takes me a while to get over these things.
I had a kind of morbid fascination with fainting when I was young (er. . . well, up until about last November) because it seemed like such a romantic thing to do. Anne Shirley had - once again - corrupted me with her use of the word "romance". But it really isn't very fun. Trust me on this.
The first time I fainted was last year the day before Thanksgiving. I had come up with my mom and my brothers to visit my grandmother in a care center that she was staying in while she recovered from extensive back surgery. My grandmother is one of the most giving, hard working people I've ever met - but there she was, looking rather yellow in nothing but one of those awful hospital gowns and a robe eating like a baby with my grandfather spoon feeding her what she could eat because she was too weak to lift the fork for herself. "You have served me for many years, Margie," he said, "It is a pleasure to be able to serve you now."
It was horrible and tragic. It was easily the first moment in my life when I have literally come to terms with mortality. Keep in mind that outside of my uncle (whom I didn't know very well) and my great grandparents (that I also didn't know very well) - no one in my immediate family has ever died. And none of them have - in my memory -ever been seriously ill either. One of my uncles had cancer when I was very young but I hardly remember that and we were living too far away to see what he went through. The idea of people I love being so ill scared me. I watched my grandfather feeding my grandmother and watched her struggle to gnaw on peaches I felt sick. It was about this point when I fainted. It was probably tied also to the lack of food I'd had that day - but if I was being honest I would attribute it more to the horror of seeing my grandmother so sick than my hunger.
I remember waking up rather late on Thanksgiving morning. I had hit my head on a bar of the hallway of the care center when I fainted and my head ached. I felt rather disoriented. I looked in the mirror of the bedroom I was staying in and my skin color looked exactly like my grandmothers.
The next day we went bowling. I heard my aunt laugh and I thought it was Grandma Newman. I saw my aunt's manicured nails and remembered that both my grandmothers make an effort to get their nails done before they go out. My Grandma Newman had gone to get hers done before she went in for surgery, even. Listening to my aunt talk reminded me of my grandmother - in the way she laughed and the way she phrased her words and the inflection she used. . .
I still haven't worked my head around it. If I were going to stamp a metaphor on all this I'd find a way to talk about the resilience of Newman women or something, or maybe my regret at not feeling as connected with my dad's side of the family as I do with my mother's. . . but that feels too forced. Maybe that's why I don't really feel ready to write anything about what happened yet - because the story doesn't really have an "ending". It was a short, fifteen minute period of time with little leading to it, or away from it. I'm still not sure what to make of it all - but I do know that at some point - this streak of mine will end. My family members will die or get sick - it happens to everyone. I'm just glad we have been blessed and protected thus far.