Sunday, January 25, 2015
How I Became A Grown Up
Flying across the Atlantic the other night I found the movie Wish I Was Here, written by Adam & Zachary Braff. Zach Braff also plays the lead. About 35 minutes into the film I paused it, and the following flowed out.
Do you want to know when you really become a grown up? It's when you have to take care of your parent/guardian/whathaveyou.
The day you realize you're the caregiver. That the balance has shifted on your scales.
For a litany of reasons that I'm not delving into, I was the official decision maker as my mom lay dying in a hospital.
My dad was on the other side of town, in a different hospital, & working his way back to mom.
My brother, let's call him Daniel, was the one who lived closer. He had a wife & a gaggle of kids. I lived 6 hours away, in NYC, and I wasn't even 30. But it was my job, my responsibility, to talk to the doctors & relay info to my dad.
Legally & practically, I made the decisions that ended her life.
That sentence is bullshit. Not because it is untrue, it's not. I was the one.
It's bullshit because that's a messed up thing for anyone. In the history of ever. Of course it happens every other minute all day long, but that's not any less screwy.
So there was a moment in my life where I got to tell the doctors we were done with any heroics. I got to witness a parade of people giving my mom the weight of their sadness. I slept on a cot in her room, one of my girlfriends by my side, so I'd be there if something happened.
I think my moment of clarity came when Daniel's best friend, by no small coincidence my ex-boyfriend, brought his rather pregnant wife to meet my dying mother. I'd just been explaining all the legal shite to Danny & I walk out to see everything I wanted to share with my mother walking down the hall.
My life, unlived, passed through me like a ghost.
And then I got to wait for my dad to arrive, because mom wasn't budging without talking to him. That's 100% true, btw. The goodbyes & pleas to mom to "let go" went on for days; my dad instead talked over the phone, telling her she better wait for him to get there. He'd spent a lifetime waiting for her to get ready, and by God, this time she would wait for him.
Naturally, she did. Mom was wild eyed & desperate for dad. She couldn't talk by then. He arrived & so very soon after she left us.
I turned 30 a few days later. But honestly, I had aged a decade in just a few weeks.
Afterwards, I ran away. I ran from that knowledge for years after. I ran from being grown. From as many responsibilities as I could.
To tell the truth, I kept running until I found someone who made me want to be a grown up again.
But that's a different tale, for a different night of wine, altitude & brilliant Indie film.