Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fear is Only As Deep as the Mind Allows and Mine's Deeper Than the Ocean

In First Grade, we made a "Who Am I book". It was nothing, really. A conglomeration of crayoned and glued copy paper held together by punched holes laced with rainbow fading yarn. The first page was supposed to hold either a picture of us as a baby or a drawn and colored representation of it. Knowing, even then, that I was no great artist, I carefully pasted a picture of myself as an infant cradled in my mother's arms in the hospital. Our first official picture together.

The second page was titled "Where I Came From". We were supposed to give the name of the town we were born in, then name and describe the people who were our parents. As with ourselves, we were supposed to have pictures of, or draw, part of the town and both our parents. I drew purple and grey mountains - having been born in Denver - and then painstakingly arranged pictures of my mother and father caddy-cornered from one another on the page.

We were to give personal details about them (such as when they were born) and then private details that explained why our parents were the best parents. I'm ashamed to admit that the paragraph about my mom was almost three times as long as my dad's. Even at that young age, it was obvious I connected more with my mom. But I desperately loved them both.

There was an adopted girl in our class. Her name was Melody. Melody's parents had tried for ten unsuccessful years to conceive a child of their own. When that failed, they went through the long, painful process of adoption. By the time they were 43, a beautiful baby girl had taken residence in their homes and hearts. They were ecstatic, but the older Melody got, the more she realized her parents were different from the others.

In our class of 6 year olds, most of the parents were ages 25 to 30. Her parents didn't look like the other parents. And they certainly didn't act like them.

My parents were different, too. Being 36, they were certainly older than the other children's parents, but it was much less noticeable. They had aged well and looked as young as the others. They stayed current in music and clothing and always knew what was cool to a 6 year old.

But they WERE different. And it was about to be called to my attention.

Melody's adoptive mother died two days after we completed the "Where I Came From" sheet. She had a massive heart attack. Melody's father did not remove her from class. He thought the routine of it would provide a calming influence on her now tumultuous home life and that being surrounded by 6-yr old friends instead of 50-yr old mourners would help her adjust.

Mrs. Tolleson sat Melody next to me and told us to help each other finish the projects. Already good friends, we became inseparable. Playing on the see-saw or the conjoined swing at recess and laying our mats next to each other during nap. For three days, we were peas in a pod.

Until the completion of the project.

On Friday, we were each supposed to get in front of the class and tell about "Where We Came From". We all told where we were born, how old we were, who our parents were and how old they were. Mrs. Tolleson began at the back of the room and moved up. Melody and I were set to speak last.

When it came to Melody's turn, she wouldn't get up from her seat, so Mrs. Tolleson came to our desks and said, "Here, we'll let Meghan go first. That way you know you can do it. You can do anything your best friend can do."

I stood in front of the class and proudly talked about Denver, my parents and our moves to other states. At the end of my rather lengthy soliloquy, Mrs. Tolleson reminded me gently, "You didn't tell us how old you are or how old your parents are."

"I'm 6!" I exclaimed. "And momma is 36 and daddy is 37."

"Your parents are OOOOLLLLDDDD!!!" Yelled David Williams from the back of the class and the other children laughed. But not Melody.

I took my seat beside her and she looked sadly at me before saying, "Your momma's old like mine. She's gonna die, too."

I never spoke to Melody again. My 6 yr old mind reasoned that if I never heard it, never thought about it, it couldn't be true.

But that didn't stop me from crying myself to sleep every night for a week. And still today having nightmares of my mother, my best friend, dying.


That is my greatest fear. Losing my mom.

And last week, my father lost his.


Jason said...

Very few blog entries ever manage to bring a tear to the front of my eye.

This one has.

I hope you let your Mom read this.

Sorry for the loss of your grandmother.

Steph said...

Wow! You should really show your mum that post.
I almost lost my mother to cancer. It's a very big fear for me too.

Walter said...

I lost my Mother during the summer of 2006, and the passing of an older family member is painful, but superseded only by the passing of a child (no matter what age) before their parents.

Carl from L.A. said...

The grief here is outliving your loved ones.

Be responsible. Live a full life. When your time comes, go in peace.

meghansdiscontent said...

Jason - Thank you. So much. It was very hard for me to write this. I had a bit of incentive and great inspiration.

Steph - I don't think I can do that. Too open and revealing for me right now. I'm so glad you've still got your mom! She sounds like a real fighter! (even if she still secretly reads your blog sometimes! :)

Walter - I would agree with that whole-heartedly. I can't imagine being a parent for that very reason. Losing my grandmother has been so hard . . and the fear of losing my mother, father or brother is so intense -- I can't imagine what it will be like when I have my own children.

Carl - Wonderful advice. Thank you.

Ang said...

Hey love! I am sorry about your grandmother. One of the hardest things in my life was watching my parents lose their's.

I have a memory from when I was about 8. We were driving at night in a pickup truck. My step dad, brother, me and mom. My brother was 6 or 7 and suddenly he started bawling. When we finally got him to open up and tell what was wrong he confessed that he had been thinking about mom dying. Well, then we were both going! I still get an eery feeling when I think of that memory of the dark pickup truck!