She messaged to say that she was dying. It could be months she said, or a few years, but it is progressing more rapidly than she thought. She wants me to help her sort out some business. She is frightened… i can taste it in her choice of words. She has to give up her pets… her independence will soon follow.
i read the email… signed by the aunt i nicknamed “Mame” decades ago.
i read it again carefully before responding because i felt as if my desire to help her was momentarily taking me out of the space where i can set clear boundaries. i responded only after thinking about what it meant to me – not wishing to promise her anything i could not provide.
i have a photo of her, with sculpted beehive hairdo, her wasp-like figure laying on her side on a bed … right arm raising her body up provocatively. She looks fresh and young in a small cotton blouse and short set. Popping up behind her is my brother… two… maybe three years old. i always loved that picture, it looked sweet and sexy… sassy… and when i described that photo to her once, her face froze. i found out then that it was my father who snapped that photo… coaxing his younger sister into that pose… it was then that i learned of his sexual advances on her across the years. i was sickened and saddened. She suffered so much in her life and developed all manner of coping strategies that kept others at bay and her life ordered… regimented.
Perfectly placed pillows. Clearly labeled containers. Lists upon lists upon lists. i see some of her in me and i shared this with my therapist not so long ago. i could be her… consumed with control… believing that if i simply had the right box or right method, i could right the world’s wrongs. All the wolves could be kept at bay if the goddamn refrigerator was clean enough.
Forced now to relax her standards for her house and her schedule, she is flailing a bit. i sense her fear that she is losing control. i hope to hold space for her (nod to a sweet soul from The Farm), giving her the room to tread water if she wishes… or to swim… or to simply relax and let her body sink below the surface.
Fast or slow… early or at the end of a full life… not fucking easy… this business of dying.
With all the respect in the world to my Mame… the best bitch i’ve ever known… trying to show her softer side.