I’ve got a birthday coming up in a month or so. I’ll turn the same age my mother was when she died of a brain aneurism.
My mom was down in Florida with my dad when it happened, visiting my oldest sister and her husband. My father had his first stroke a few months earlier. He bounced back fairly quickly so he and my mom took a rare plane flight south. Our family didn’t travel much and almost never by air.
Talking the talk
Maybe it was the stroke, maybe it was the bright sun and the warm, gulf water but it got my parents talking about retiring there. I don’t know if my father thought about the future much. He talked about a lot of things over the years that he never seemed to ever get around to doing. Like promising my mom a bigger kitchen.
Our kitchen was the size of most RV kitchens. No countertops, none. There was only enough room for a fridge, a four-burner stove, and a table with three chairs. This meant only half our family of six could sit down together at any given time. For as long as I can remember, my dad promised he was going to build it out.
“I’ll giff y’u a ki’chen,” he’d say from his drinking chair, waving a beer can for punctuation. “Y’ don’ need t’ hire no goddamn builder either. I’ll d’ th’ work myselff.”
I saw my father do a total of one home improvement project involving wood. He did a few electrical things, sure. He could repair a television set, believe it or not. But pouring a foundation, nailing up studs, running conduit, water pipes, flooring, air ducts, ceiling joists, insulation, dry wall, roofing? Way past his skill set.
According to my dad, he was right on the verge of breaking ground. Needless to say, my mom never got a bigger kitchen. He went as far as buying cinderblocks. They sat outside, stacked up against the house for a couple years before he finally gave them away.
“Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.”
--- Allen Saunders/John Lennon
We interrupt this program
Something about my parents’ trip to the Sunshine State nudged my dad into agreeing to a walk-through of a house near the water that caught their eye. So they made an appointment with a real estate agent.
My mom was in the shower, getting ready, “I’ll only be a minute,” when something in her brain burst. 9-1-1. EMTs. An ambulance ride to the ER. A doctor at the hospital informed my dad there was no brain activity. They took my mother off the ventilator and she passed. She was the same age as I’m about to turn.
Walking the walk
My wife and I are making plans of our own now--- selling the house, downsizing, setting up investments… working on our third act. I’m anxious about setting them in motion, sooner rather than later. Trying to make them a concrete goal and not some pie-in-the-sky dream.
Not that I’m superstitious or whatever you’d call it. Not that one particular birthday should be more significant than any other. Not that I worry. Much. But I’ve had my head scanned once or twice. Because I know from experience that, as the saying goes: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
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