I am in the middle of a big, BIG f*#C%ing meltdown! Admittedly, it’s selfish of me. Because it all revolves around the fact that my son, Middle Man, turned 20 today, and it’s freaking me out! Seriously. Freaking. Me. Out!
I woke up fine. I even slept past the miserable 5 AM jet-lag-wake-up time I’ve been doing all week, and slept until 6:45. Yeehaw. It felt good. As soon as I woke up, I thought: Oh, it’s my boy’s birthday. I wish he was here, so we could go out to lunch together. I’m not that mom who wishes my kids were still right here, versus away at school. I’m really not. I love that two of them are off at excellent schools, very happy, and enjoying their college experiences. Both are living in places that they really enjoy: Principessa in Western Massachusetts and Middle Man in Southern California. They both are very happy with their schools; they have good friends, and are doing very well. This makes me happy; I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, on days like today: a birthday, I just wish Middle Man and I could go get sushi and hang out. We like doing that together, and on his twentieth birthday, that would be a nice way to spend the day.
That is not the source of the meltdown however. Again, I woke up happy and content with how things are. I missed my boy, but I was glad that it’s his birthday and he is in a good place. I was glad. Then, I got thinking about his actual birthday. The day Middle Man was born was one of the three greatest days of my life. No cliché or Hallmark commentary: the days my children were born, were the three best days ever. And, while each of those days was grand beyond grand, Middle Man’s birth was truly fantastic. After having a C-section with Principessa, my first baby, it was such a relief and so incredible to have a healthy, 8 lb boy (nearly 1/2 a pound less than his sister, and a full pound less than Little Man), born with little medication and no surgery. Those final moments as I pushed, I clearly remember thinking: This is like running for the Gold medal at the Olympics, and knowing you’re about to win. Again, not a Hallmark version. I thought that IN that moment. It was sublime. (sublime: |səˈblīm|adjective ( -limer , -limest )of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.) It was golden. And then, moments later, I had this spectacularly beautiful boy in my arms and the world just got grander.
I remember it so clearly, it could have been a blink, just yesterday. It is not possible, that twenty (TWENTY!! As my meltdown began to form) years have passed. I won’t pretend that those years were all easy, or they all sped by, but seriously, it is inconceivable that Middle Man is 20 and Principessa is 22, and I (here it comes) was, WAS, 29 when it all happened. (Technically, 27 when Principessa arrived, but it’s M.M’s birthday that got me spiraling today!). I was twenty-nine years old! A baby. I can’t even remember who that person was. I can remember nursing that baby, and staring for hours at his perfect little face. I wanted to just curl up and spend forever with him. He never cried (seriously, do a background check, and old friends will tell you that he never cried. Smiled all the time and coo’ed.) But, I don’t really remember who that 29 yr old was. I don’t know what I wanted, beyond those moments with my baby; what made me happy/sad/anxious/etc… It seems so strange that I was that young, and now, today my baby turned 20 and I’m… well, you do the math. (Gorgeous beyond words. Who knew that this beautiful boy would one day shove me into 7
And then, the really ugly thing happened: This spinning, constantly moving, dizzying, whirrling ride that we’re all on, shifted a little more, and… I did more math. And that was the distinctly ugly moment, when the meltdown commenced, in my shower. I realized that this 2o years raced by at record speed, and well, that can only mean that the next 20 will do the same. Right? RIGHT?! Everyone constantly comments on how much faster things move, as you age. So, if you’re doing the math along with me: when Middle Man has his next twentieth birthday, I will be nine months away from, oh God, I can’t think it. SEVENTY!! SEVENTY!
Seventy can only mean a few things (from a meltdown in your shower perspective): I will be at that point where my kids will be saying things like: “Do you really think mom and dad are ok on their own?” “Mom drove to the wrong doctor, again today.” “Middle Man, just let it go, you know she’s almost 70; just let her pick the restaurant.” (Principessa will still be telling Middle Man what to do; he’ll get pissed off and tell her to mind her own business, he’s not a kid… It’s his birthday, he’s 40!!) My kids will be having second thoughts about leaving their kids with us, my grandchildren, who actually could be in their teens by then. “They are nearly 70 now! This wears them out.” (Um, for the record, grandpa will be 70+ already!) Holy Crazy Shit, Batman. I will be older than my mother was, when she died a few months ago.
Oh God. My mind began racing, along with my rapidly aging heart… that probably has plaque building up, as I type. My left knee ached, in response to the mere idea of another twenty more years of yoga. I reassured it by noting that it would probably be replaced by then. I stumbled upstairs, where my contractor, a friend and a psycho-fit-studmuffin-healthnut-married to psycho-fit-studmuffinette-doyouhearmeK?-healthnut, calmly (like I mean: hardly blinked at my meltdown), CALMLY (in the face of my rising hysteria) informed me that: “It’s just a number.” Just a number? JUST A NUMBER? Easy for him to say. First of all, he’s a year younger than me (and his kids are much younger too) and he had just come from some crazy Mountain Biking route, before work, and he just smiled again, and said “it’s really just a number. You have to remember that.” Remember that? Hello, can you say dementia? I’m hurdling toward 70, as we speak.
An aside: I am convinced that he is just covering, or clearly in denial. He may feel different when his boy hits twenty, and he realizes that he’s going to be 73 (hear that F, 73!) when his boy turns 20. Wait, then I’ll be nearing 75. This is a slippery ass slope. I don’t like this ride; I want to get off! Wait, no, I guess getting off means… way past 70 right?
He continued to try and talk me off the ledge, and it should be noted that with our deck partially dismantled, we were all standing three stories off the ground, with big gaps to fall through. That concern might have entered his head, as I remained in a tailspin. “You know, 70 is totally different today; people are much healthier and living longer,” he soothed. Oh God, this is like the “50 is the new 40” pep talk women get as they head toward 50, even as we see the lines multiplying, the grays taking over, the skin drooping further… Please! YOU are healthier, I have some serious improvements to make, for 70 to not be freaking me out right now. “I hear you, but just keep reminding yourself: it’s only a number.” Yeah, a big, f’ing number that spells old. (When their son is turning 20, I plan to stop by and talk numbers… see where he’s at then.)
Instead, the entire day, thoughts of 70 swirled in my head and evidence accrued. As I returned to the produce aisle for the third time, for something I’d forgotten, dementia was strongly on my mind. The befuddled older woman looking for a supplement at Costco, as her husband led her by the elbow to another section. Me, in twenty? If Smart Guy ever guides me by the elbow, I’ll loose it. Seriously. The message I got from Middle Man about memes, and his assumption that it would confuse me… So, ok, I did have to look up memes a while back, when he and his sister kept referring to them, and ok, the joke was a little over my head… but that doesn’t mean that I’m too old to learn new things… yet. This did lead tot the realization that there may be more and more things that my kids know, and I am in the dark about. Does that imply that I will be that older parent who waits for their kids to drop by and figure out the new fangled Teleporter (they are eventually coming, right?), or whatever version of a remote we’re using then… Using the word new fangled. That much older woman in yoga, who always uses the wall for poses. Maybe I do need the wall for Dancer, or Warrior 3, so am I already on the wall yoga trajectory. By 70 I’ll be doing all my poses leaning against the wall?
It’s all just too much. The idea of all of those things, and the fact that my boy is twenty and that twenty years slipped by in a whisper, is just too much. Of course I get Studmuffin’s point: they’re all just numbers. But when you look at the math, the numbers just start adding up and, in those strange moments when that reality bitch slaps me hard, the numbers scare the begeesus out of me. When I imagine the life decisions and events that will come in the next twenty: loss of already older friends and family, new family members that I didn’t personally create (son/daughter in laws), career choices and life choices that my three kids will make, new wrinkles and a face that looks less and less like the face it was when I started this ride, it is all very immense.
This morning, I woke up returned to my previous state. The panic subsided, the meltdown retreated. I’m one day older than yesterday, Middle Man is twenty and a day. Seems like it was just yesterday that he was turning twenty. Oh, right… time does fly… Or, maybe it is just the way you look at the numbers.