Yesterday was my mum’s birthday. She would have been a demented 79 year old divorcee this year. The night prior I’d watched The Notebook. For some reason I thought it might be like a Ryan Gosling style Grease. It wasn’t.
Ryan’s girl irritated me. Her skin was too smooth and I’m jealous of red heads. He was darling until he took on the Shaggy Rogers look. But the love story, which was both entrancing and unrealistic, hooked me. And then throw in the dementia component and the tears were primed.
It made me wonder if, through the debris of my memory, I could accurately say if I’d ever been loved the way Noah loved Allie. But more than that, it made me wonder if I would ever be loved again. There’s something about being older that makes you fear that you’ll never be worthy again. We don’t have such smooth skin. Especially those of us who don’t wear foundation. C’mon, it’s usually puppies that get picked from the pound.
Last night’s tea bag quoted something that sounds wondrous - “You don’t need love. You are the love” . But for fuck’s sake, everyone needs love. If you’re loved maybe you wouldn’t care about the rest of it all. Nobody wants to feel like they aren’t worthy anymore. It’s a human impulse to want to be wanted. In large part this comes down to ego - wanting to believe you can bring another human to his or her knees because of your heart, your dick/pussy, your total being. But ego aside, it also just feels good to be loved. It’s like a perfect pick-your-own-fabric-blanket that hopefully every human has at least one of.
But more than that, it’s a human impulse to not want to be alone. To not want to die alone.
Romantic love stands atop a pedestal as the pinnacle of human companionship. Even though we know that platonic and familial relationships are far more consistent and less fraught, single people are taught to feel like something’s amiss even if they have huge mobs of beloved friends, devoted family and even a sex god on their side. Even though I see daily in my work how friends and family step up and care for a sick or aging human if there’s no spouse or partner, I can’t help but sometimes fall for the alluring idea that being someone’s one and only could make my life, my aging and my dying better. (Yeah…I haven’t even hit menopause yet.)
My mother divorced my father and the love affair of her later life didn’t work out. So she was single into her older years. It was her daughters who watched over her. It was this daughter in particular, being local and a nurse, who changed her old lady diapers, got her in my tub (and got her off the floor when she fell getting out of the tub), and brushed her hair. It is this daughter who is also divorced and this daughter who already acts the part of a woman with Mild Cognitive Impairment. I even look like my mother. Daily on the dementia unit I’d get the “You two look like sisters!” Thanks asshole…one of us is 78 with grey hair, food on her chin, wearing purple velour sweat pants and the other is 41 with very expensive blonde hair and black skinny jeans. For a long time I’ve placed my bets on being the daughter who will have nobody to make sure she doesn’t wear a bra on top of her sweater or trick her into drinking Ensure by calling it a milkshake.
But this vortex of a narrative needs to get filled in with tar. I could just as easily get my father’s lymphoma. Or far more likely, drive distractedly headfirst into a tree while multitasking two phones throughout my work day. Plus, I don’t wear diapers yet. And someone likes my thongs.
The game of anticipation doesn’t need to be played.
I already know I’m loved. Just like my mother did. Did she feel lonely at times having nobody to kiss her tenderly in the way only a man for her would have? Did she long to be danced with and told she was as beautiful as she had been in her 30s? Yes. Of course. But she knew she was cherished by many. And she knew that she wasn’t alone. None of us are. She was the love.
And frankly, I braided her hair far better than an 80 year old lover who had since developed glaucoma and Parkinsons would have.
Narratives are for the birds. Fuck ‘em. Happy birthday mama.