YESTERDAY WAS ANOTHER COUNTRY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

“Yesterday is another country, all borders are closed.”

300-garry-kitchen-interiors-02012017_018

It was a wonderful piece of dialogue from “MidSomer Murders.” In the episode, Chief Inspector Barnaby is questioning a murder suspect about his whereabouts the previous day. The suspect tries to dodge the questions with thinly veiled irony. “Yesterday, Chief Inspector, is another country. All borders are closed.” Barnaby ultimately opens the borders and nails the suspect. Still, I liked the perp’s style.

Now that the new year is ending its first quarter, many folks would prefer not to think about the last year. Here, in the United States, many of us think of 2016 as another country with all borders closed. We don’t want to recall the epic long Presidential campaign and the result. Regardless, we’re in it now — and it’s every bit the nightmare we feared.

Reality bites. It has fangs, claws, and power in congress. Reality is taking a big ugly chunk our of our flanks this time around.

Our yesterdays are always subject to border closings, depending on how we remember them. I often write about legendary people I’ve met in my professional life. Those are pleasant stories to recount.

There are parts of my past I choose not to share. Those borders have remained closed. Rich Paschall, a fellow blogger on Serendipity, wrote a touching piece about heroes and icons we lost last year.  It jogged my mind to return to this piece that I began writing last week. Thanks, Rich!

A lot of the borders to yesterday are closed because we don’t want to revive the memories. I certainly don’t. They aren’t happy memories. They make me sad. I’ve never been good at handling emotions.

Someone recently wrote a Facebook piece about the pain of seeing a loved one pass away, deep in dementia.  Quickly,  I tried to blot out the images of Mom, whose last years were diminished by dementia. No luck. I could clearly see the woman who used to be Mom.  Strike that.  That’s what I was thinking in the moment, especially during the final months of her life. She was still Mom but she didn’t know me.

I struggled during those final visits. In  part, I struggled because I felt guilty I couldn’t come to see Mom more often. It was a four (or more) hour drive from Massachusetts to Long Island. During the drives, my mind would fill with images of a younger Mom. I could hear her laugh and see her smile. I remembered the things we did together over the years. In my mind, I saw her wedding pictures — Mom and Dad in the prime of their lives.

By then, Dad had already been gone for five years, yet I hadn’t been able to cry for him. Now Mom was slipping away. In what turned out to be my last visit, I tried my best to reach through the dementia, to reclaim a few moments with Mom.  I failed.

A few weeks later, in the middle of sub teaching a high school class, the principal and Marilyn entered the classroom. I instantly knew Mom was gone.

I was the main eulogist at Mom’s funeral. I’m a wordsmith. I could see people crying and smiling as I recalled my mother’s life. My stomach was tight, but I couldn’t cry. Not a tear.

I’ve talked to Marilyn about the grieving process. She understands and at least in theory, I understand too. Yet, it troubles me. I’m such a sucker for sentimental old movies, but real life is something else, something I find very difficult to share, even with myself.

72-Bette'sPix_05

I’ve tried to shoebox the frailty of life. Keep the anxiety behind one of those closed borders. Marilyn was 70 in March. I’ll be 75 in  a few weeks. We have lots of health issues and we work hard at not worrying about them. As the character in Bridge of Spies” said, “Would it make a difference?”

Would worrying more fix something?

Instead, we use our energy to enjoy each other and our life together. We feed off each other. The borders are open. For both of us.

13 thoughts on “YESTERDAY WAS ANOTHER COUNTRY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

  1. An interesting post — and particularly the line about sharing real life with yourself. I, too, have lost my mother — except for choking a few times, I’ve never cried. I never thought about sharing the sadness with myself; nor have I thought of it as closed doors to yesterday! Very interesting thoughts, Garry!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The way I see it, none of these experiences is unique to any one human being. I lost my dad when I was 20 and that FELT unique because most people are older when they lose a parent. Mostly I think we bury our feelings because we’re afraid of them and because they simply hurt. Sorry for writing so much, but…

    When my dad was buried, I cried publicly and my Montana cowboy family was ashamed. My grandma (not a cowboy) took me to the limo and let me cry. My mom and brother never recovered from my dad’s death, but I did. I credit the feeling of my feelings with helping me contend with the loss of the most important person in my life.

    When my mom was in the hospital in the last month of her life (a nightmare for me) the doctor called me and gave me news about my mom that was shocking and sad. It seems she had been an alcoholic for years and years, secretly. A brain scan showed the damage that only happens with drinking. And I was told she would not recover and would have to live in a nursing home. I was filled with a wild concoction of emotions at that point and started to cry. My aunt (cowboy) said, “Quit yer cryin’. You have work to do.” That was them, how they were. I had to do something to release my emotions, so I went out to shovel snow, but my uncle — who’d not that long before had had heart surgery — came out to help me. I didn’t want him to do that, so I worked fast and we stopped. I still needed a chance to release my feelings, so I went out to the back pasture and ran around, but here came my uncle. He just didn’t want me to be alone and he didn’t agree with my aunts. He knew I was hurting and confused. But we didn’t talk about it (god forbid) and I didn’t cry.

    I finally went back to California for a few weeks and was so happy to be around a culture (Mexican) that thinks feeling and showing emotion is normal. I walked into my classroom of Mexican students “How’s your mother?” I told them. They literally all came up to the front of the classroom and we all cried and hugged. They shared my emotions because they’d felt them, too, with no shame because in their world it is human to feel, to hurt, to cry, just as it is to love, and laugh and hope and all the other stuff.

    My mom once said, “Martha Ann, you’re more Mexican than cowboy.” She meant to insult me, but I wasn’t insulted by that comment at all. It was the truth. So, I dunno’, it seems to me if you can find a way to feel your feelings you might find a lightness inside and a sense of freedom. Sentimental old movies provide catharsis, relief, but without the need to face the reality of things. It’s a little pressure released, but…

    Dementia is terribly sad — my Aunt Martha suffered from it to some (mysterious) extent — less, I think, than was thought by some of her sisters as she always knew me. She was completely aware that her life was no longer her own, and she wanted out (and told me). I miss her and think of her every day. Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of her death — it’s hard to believe it’s been so long. What I feel now is a combination of wishing I could turn back time and gratitude for all our years as aunt/niece and friends/allies, along with admiration for the person she was. I cherish her words to me and know that I was lucky to have had her and I know I would not be where I am now without her. I don’t feel the same sorrow I felt 9 years ago. I can say the same for all the people I’ve loved who’ve died, except my mom who hated me and wanted to die, anyway. I have been lucky to have been loved and to have had the chance to love in return. That’s about all there is, really. Death is sad for those of us who are left behind, but the saddest thing of all would be if those we love had never lived. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Martha, what a lovely and thoughtful exchange. You touch many bases so familiar to me. We were winding a brief visit with old friends in Connecticut yesterday. It was a delightful day and a half filled with laughter and much needed letting loose of anger felt towards the current White House squatter.

      I didn’t say much. I never do. I mostly listen and sometimes offer anecdotes here and there. But, maybe a half an hour before we began our long, Jewish goodbye, Elliin, our hostess, thoughtfully asked me “So, what’s doing, Garry?” Ellin has a way of asking that’s so sincere that you have to open up. I did. Talked about my relationship with my two younger brothers, growing up with Mom and Dad, etc. We didn’t openly show affection in our family but it was always there. Just talking about it with Ellin gave me a lift.

      Thanks, Martha!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The borders are only closed to us Physically, not Mentally. We can never go back and change our past but we can and probably should revisit the memories as often as necessary so that we can learn from it, for our betterment and peace of mind. So that we can be freed from continuing pain and misunderstandings that we were not able to properly perceive or deal with at the time because of hurt or guilt or pain or denial or whatever reasons we had for feeling the way we did. It is sometimes easier to try to forget or ignore parts of our past that are painful, but we can never let go of them and be free of the chains that bind us to our past unless we are able to look upon our fear and pain and overcome it through understanding. It is probably not a job best done on one’s own but one that will be worth the effort.

    Love the last paragraph!

    love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said, lwbut. I do revisit the past and use those memories to try and make myself a better person. It’s damn hard. I’m talking about the negative stuff ingrained in my personality. I think it’s work in progress that will never be completely finished.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re right Garry, worry doesn’t solve any problem. I think your coping mechanism is healthy. There’s no way we are going to get out of this world without a certain amount of loss and pain. Out loved ones who have passed on would never want us to dwell upon it. They would want us acknowledge our loss and move on. You did the best you could and let it go at that.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful piece Garry! So glad we got to talk about your family and your deep seeded angst about them. But it’s never too late to come to terms with your past and your feelings about it. Especially regarding the people in your past. As time goes by, your perspective changes about your deceased loved ones. It usually gets easier to access your feelings, which may have softened over the years. I know I had a lot of anger at my Mother for many years after she died. Then suddenly, I could remember all the wonderful things about her that I had loved as a child and young adult. Now I remember the bad but choose to dwell on the positive.

    With living relatives, you still have the opportunity to amend the storyline if you want to. But remember to stand up for yourself when it comes to narcissistic, selfish and/or rigid siblings. Think about how you’ll look back, in the future, on your actions today. With approval or regret? Never lose sight of yourself in your relationships – you are not just your brother’s keeper! Literally.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ellin, thanks (again) for the chat. Don’t know when I last did something like that with someone other than Marilyn and she figures in the bloody soap opera. Your advice about my brothers really resonated.
      I hate that it’s a matters of choices but that’s what it is now.
      FAMILY!!!

      Like

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s