Feeling Old

I had a rather cryptic e-conversation with a therapist friend who recently attended a grief workshop. She mentioned that they stressed things I’ve written about but aren’t commonly known, such as there being no way to do grief wrong (it might be painful, but it isn’t wrong). She said I was ahead, and that this wasn’t the first time.

I responded, “It’s nice to know. But then, I already knew.”

She came back with, “Yes, you did. And I am sorry you had to learn.”

I was about to agree that I was also sorry that I had to learn about grief the hard way, then I realized how remote all those years of grief seem now, so I wrote back, “It’s funny, but it was so long ago, none of it seems to matter anymore, except, of course, for the part about Jeff being dead. That will always matter to me.”

She agreed, “Except, of course, about Jeff, that will always matter. I feel that about many things.” Then we come to the cryptic part. She ended by saying, “Maybe it is age, maybe perspective, but I am feeling many things not felt before.”

I’m not sure what she meant by that final sentence, but it got me thinking about the things I feel now that I have not felt before, and only one thing came to mind: I feel old. That’s sounds so terrible, but it really isn’t. I don’t feel old as in decrepit or sick or helpless, but old as in a different era of my life.

When we were young, the old seemed separate from us, as if they’d never been like us, as if they’d always been old. Most of us were smart enough to know that wasn’t true, but since we’d never seen the elderly when they were young, it seemed true. The other side of that feeling is that we never really thought we ourselves would cross that line from youth to old age. Most young people feel they are different from the elderly, that they will be the exception and will remain forever young. Well, I certainly wasn’t the exception, and now the line has been crossed and I am on the side of the elderly.

Oddly, just as I’d imagined the elderly when I was young, as if they’d always been old, that’s how I feel. As if I’ve always been old. My youth is now as distant and as unimaginable as old age once was. That girl I was, that young woman, that half of a couple, that griever are all lost in the past and no longer seem to have anything to do with the woman I am today.

I don’t think this feeling is a bad thing since it is what it is. It doesn’t feel negative, anyway. It’s just an acknowledgement of a different time of life. The whole maiden, mother, crone trilogy, perhaps. My mother stage sort of came first because as the oldest girl of a rather large family, I so often had to take care of the younger kids. My crone stage came in having to shepherd Jeff and my parents out of this world — a midwife to the dying, so to speak. What’s left is the maiden stage, and that’s not happening. Though in a way, it is. Buying my first house so late in life, starting over in a new place. Just . . . starting. That is all part of the maiden era.

People often talk as if the elderly are simply youngsters in a decaying body, and that might be true for some people, but that isn’t true for me. Despite my facetiousness about going through my “maiden era,” I don’t feel the child in me struggling to escape the burden of age. I feel ageless, or perhaps I feel more as if being my age — the age I am right now —is the right age. And so it was during all the “right now”s of my life. (Meaning that whatever age I was, that was the right age for me at that time.)

The bad part of being old is that the body is wearing down and wearing out. Weird little things happen, such as rolling over in bed and suddenly the knee is out of whack and you can’t walk or your trusty immune system doesn’t work as well or things slide down the wrong tube when swallowing. But even these matters don’t seem so much a part of growing old as of . . . entropy, perhaps.

I might change my mind about all this as I slip from a young elderly age into an older elderly age, but whatever happens, I hope I can continue to see the aging process as just another phase of the adventure we call life. After all, that’s how I tried to deal with grief: accepting it as much as possible as another experience — a rather painful experience (to put it mildly) but no less valid than the pleasant times.

Just as our culture seems to frown on people who admit to feeling grief, as if grief is failing, it seems to frown on people who admit to feeling old, as if that too is a failing. But I didn’t hesitate to admit to feeling sad, so I certainly am not going to hesitate to admit I feel old. It’s just the way life is. And it’s just the way I am.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When I left my parents’ house and was living on my own in an apartment, my father said he never worried about me. It wasn’t so much that he thought I could take care of myself. It was that when I was out of sight, I was out mind. This sort of philosophy has followed me much of my life. People always enjoyed being with me, but when I wasn’t around, they seldom thought to call. (When I was in my mid-twenties, I had a lot of friends who seemed to like me, but I got tired of being the one to carry the friendships, so one day I decided to wait until one friend called and then I’d check in with everyone. No one called. Not one person. Either they didn’t like me as much as I thought they did, or they succumbed to the whole “out of sight, out of mind,” mentality.)

Apparently, despite the spectacle I make of myself with my fifty-year-old iconic car and my fancy hats, I am forgettable. Though he denies it, my contractor forgets me, which is why, when I haven’t heard from him in a while, I text him to remind him I am still here and he still has work to do on my place. The text doesn’t get the work done because as he becomes involved in other things, I slip from his mind again. (Though to be fair, he did send someone out last week to pound down the metal edgings along my pathways without my reminding him.)

My car mechanic is the same way. Every week for the past few weeks, I’ve stopped by to find out what he’s doing about getting the part for my brakes, and every time he says he’ll drop by my house to take a photo of the necessary part. (The part he ordered didn’t fit, even though it was supposed to.) And every week, as soon as I left, he promptly forgot me.

I’m being halfway facetious with this “out of sight, out of mind” scenario because I could nag the poor workers until they finally showed up. But maybe they wouldn’t show up anyway. Considering how busy they are, even if they didn’t forget me, they probably wouldn’t be able to fit my atypical jobs into their schedule. And in a way it’s okay since this gives me a lien on their time, so that when emergencies arise, I feel comfortable calling. And they are very good about taking care of emergencies.

Are my brakes an emergency? They could have been. With all the nearby fires last week and all the evacuations, I would have been in a pickle if I had to evacuate. Of course, my neighbors would have offered a ride (if they remembered me), but then I’d have to leave my car behind. Generally, though, the brakes not working don’t qualify as an emergency since I walk to do local errands, and I go with a friend when she hits the “big city” to stock up. (We joke about the big city, but it’s merely a slightly bigger town with a Walmart.)

Today, as usual, I visited the mechanic’s shop, and he seemed a bit embarrassed when he realized that he’d spaced me again out last week. So he promised to come for sure today.

And he did.

Now that he has a picture of the part he needs, it’s just a matter of finding it. I did tell him about an air-cooled-VW parts place that has a help line, so if he can’t find the master cylinder, they might be able to help him get one. You can buy all the parts necessary to build your own classic VW Beetle from scratch, so it seems rather strange that something as important as the brakes would be hard to find, but what do I know. Even though I’ve had the car for fifty years, I still don’t know a whole lot about how it’s all put together. (I’ve actually learned quite a bit over the years, just not how to fix anything.)

The mechanic doesn’t need to remember me to order the part; he just needs to look for it, and I’m sure he will do so since a part is probably more memorable than I am.

Once the VW bug is fixed, maybe I’ll start bugging my contractor more frequently to see if we can get some of the work done around here. Maybe.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Accidentally Noticeable

When I was outside today, checking on the weather, someone walking by stopped and commented my yard, saying I have the greenest grass in town. (Not surprising since most grass around here hasn’t started greening up yet.)

It seems odd to me how often people stop to look at my yard, or comment on my hat or my car, as if I’m so very different from everyone else, and perhaps I am, though I never planned to be so noticeable. Each one of the elements of my persona (for lack of a better word) started almost by accident.

The first thing that catches people’s eye are my hats. The sun tends not to agree with me and sometimes even causes small hives on any skin left bare, so I always cover myself on sunny days. Long sleeves are a must, as are wide-brimmed hats. I used to just wear a plain straw gardening hat because it was cheap. When that disintegrated in the sun (better the hat than my head!) I started using a straw cowboy hat that Jeff had bought and never used, and then as that hat wore out, and as I found new ones, I started stocking up. People seem to have such a distaste for “hat hair” that hats have so fallen out of favor they tend to be hard to find. The decorations on my hats were also . . . not exactly accidental, but not planned, either. Several years ago, I set my then current hat next to an ornate bow I’d taken off a gift from my sister that was too pretty to dismantle. The juxtaposition seemed serendipitous, so I slipped the ribbon over the crown of the hat and oh, was it pretty! And thus “Pat in the Hat” was born.

My distinctive car is also something that happened by accident. Back when I bought my Beetle, it was the same as half the cars on the road. Nothing special. What is special is that years after the majority of those VWs disappeared, I still have mine. Over the decades, it became rather a mess, and I wasn’t sure it was worth keeping. A few car guys salivated over my bug, telling me that if I bought a new car, in five years, I’d have a piece of junk, but if I restored the bug, in five years, I’d have a little gem. In the end, it was the potentially huge automobile insurance bill that would accompany a new car that made me decide to keep — and restore — my bug. As it turned out, it was a good thing (at least until recently and the problem of getting the right part to fix the brakes). It certainly made my cross-country trip memorable because of all the people who sought me out to talk about my car and to tell me their VW Beetle stories.

The most recent thing that has set me apart is my lawn, which truly was accidental, and the attention truly surprising. I mean, it’s just grass.

But apparently not. As the passerby today said, no one in town has grass as green as mine. It’s so emerald-bright, that it’s hard to miss. The funny thing is, I had no idea what type of grass I was getting. My contractor had told a landscaper that I was interested in sodding a corner of my yard; not long afterward, the landscaper contacted him and said he had a couple of pallets leftover from a job. Even though I didn’t think it would be enough for the small square of lawn in the front corner of my lot, I said I wanted it. Well, it turns out there was about four times what I needed, so they kept laying down the sod and laying it down until it was all gone. And wow! So much green!

The rest of the landscaping, such as the path meandering around my yard, was also somewhat of an accident in that I never planned it. My contractor, knowing I was trying to elder-proof my property, suggested the paths, and I agreed to let him do it. Even the red of the path that offsets the grass so well was his choice. (Or rather the landscaping company’s choice since it was all they had in stock.)

It’s amazing how accidents and happenstance turned me and my life into a spectacle of sorts, which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad thing for someone as self-effacing as I am. Any of these things gives people a reason to stop and chat. And even if they don’t stop, they for sure know who I am.

It does make me wonder what the next thing will be that adds to my persona. I’m certainly not planning on being any more noticeable than I already am, but then, I never planned any of these things. They just . . . happened.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Safe and Well and At Peace

I am very grateful to be safe and well and at peace today, with only minor irritations to plague me, such as smoky air and wind. It doesn’t seem right to be grateful on my own behalf when there are so many problems in the world right now, not just internationally, but locally. Wildfires on either end of town pretty much isolated us yesterday because the highway had to be closed. (Not that the closure itself is a problem for me since I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, and even if I wanted to, I can’t drive until my brakes get fixed.) Some friends were evacuated, though most were allowed back home today. (The smoke is so bad in town, I can only imagine what it’s like out there near the burn zone even if they are so lucky as to be able to return home.) Others are still homeless, and from what I understand, a couple of houses did burn.

Then there are all the people I know who are still suffering long term affects from The Bob, as well as those with new and old cancer diagnoses.

I don’t even want to get into the whole war thing, except to say, doesn’t such a hot war seem out of place in the world today? Don’t we call ourselves homo sapiens sapiens? Not just wise man, but wise, wise man. Yeah, right.

On the other hand, even though it feels wrong to be grateful that I am safe and well and at peace, as if I were indulging in a bit of smugness (though truly, I am not), wouldn’t it be worse if I were not grateful? As if I took my good fortune for granted?

You grievers of all people know how little I take my good fortune for granted. We all have suffered such great losses and because of that, we are grateful for whatever peace and safety and wellness we manage to find. We also know how quickly fortunes change — health disappears in an instant, death comes between one breath and the next, what is given can be taken away.

I guess I’m answering my own question. Not the one about war, because that is unanswerable, but the one about it being worse if I were not grateful. Yes, it would be worse to take whatever good comes my way (even if it’s only good in relation to other people’s ill fortune) as if it were my due.

So, today — as every day — I am grateful to be well and safe and at peace. And I wish the same for you.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Small Town Girl

A friend asked me if I missed Denver, and I didn’t even have to stop to think to be able to answer that no, I didn’t. In fact, although I was born and raised in Denver and lived there during my early adult years, I was done the city long before I left it.

This (my leaving) was back in the “imagine a great city” era, where the first Hispanic mayor (a transplant from Texas because Texas already had an Hispanic mayor and Colorado didn’t) bought a name for himself with the promise of growth. And grow, Denver did, but so did graft and crime and various boondoggles such as the whole mess with Denver International Airport and the Silverado criminal activity. (I’m not saying that mayor was directly responsible, but it is interesting to me that two of the major players in the destruction of the Denver that I knew and loved were both Texans.)

I definitely don’t miss the city Denver was growing into back when I left. I don’t even miss the Denver of my childhood, though back then, it was a good place to grow up. The air was clear, traffic was light, there was no skyline to speak of, and almost everywhere you went, you could see the mountains. (Oddly, the ubiquitous mountain views masked my lack of innate orientation because although I can’t feel the compass directions as some people do, I always knew where I was in relation to the mountains.)

If there would be any things I miss, those are the very things I have found in my new town, such as the feel of the air, being able to walk everywhere (especially the library), knowing people, not having to deal with traffic, and the lack of megalithic stores. (My trip a few days ago through three of the major front range cities in Colorado left me feeling exceedingly claustrophobic. There was just too much of everything; too many people, too much traffic, too many too-tall buildings, too much pollution, just . . . too much.)

Oddly, I don’t miss the mountains, which formed the backdrop to most of my life, not just in Denver, but on the western slope where Jeff and I spent most of our years together, and the high desert of California where I lived for almost a decade after Jeff died. Admittedly, it would be nice to have a distant mountain view to keep me oriented, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m gradually building a map in my head of the area I now live, and can mentally turn it around to match what I am seeing, but even that doesn’t really matter. I just follow the streets, and they take me where I need to go. One thing I have here that I never had before was a next-door friend. The neighborhood I grew up in was mostly inhabited with older folks, and there weren’t any girls my age on the block. The neighborhood I now live in is also mostly inhabited by older folks, but it makes a huge difference that I am one of them.

A major reason for my not missing Denver has nothing to do with geography or politics or population or anything else outside of me. It’s that I am not that person who grew up in Denver. Sometimes it seems as if the woman I am sprang up full grown sometime after Jeff died, but I know (as do you), that any peace I have attained, that any growth — mental, emotional, spiritual — was hard won.

I am exceedingly grateful, actually, that I don’t have to live in Denver. Somehow, despite having grown up in a large-but-not-yet-great city, I turned out to be a small-town girl at heart. And metro Denver is anything but a small town.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Twelve Years. Unbelievable.

Today is the twelfth anniversary of Jeff’s death. If I hadn’t made a note of the anniversary on my calendar, I might have forgotten to commemorate the day. I remember the date he died, of course, but I lost track of time and didn’t realize today was the 27th. It used to be I couldn’t forget even if I wanted to because the day was written in my bones, in my soul, and I could feel it with every breath I took. But now, not so much. I still miss him, still feel the void, still have the date emblazoned in my mind, but my body has forgotten.

It’s an odd — and confusing — experience, this thing called grief. I am long past the mourning stage. When rare tears do come, they barely spill over, not like the early days when tears were so copious, they chapped my cheeks. In fact, the emotion of it all is so distant, my life with Jeff and my grief after his death seem almost mythic, a half-remembered dream that dissipates in the bright light of daily activity. (Come to think of it, when I speak to him — or rather, to his photo — it’s generally at night, just a few words mentioning my day, words that really mean “I am here, I am alive, I matter.”)

It’s hard now, in my settled, peaceful, and generally pleasant life to believe I was that shattered woman who screamed her pain to the uncaring winds. That sort of wild grief seems so out of character for me. Until then I believed I was a rather placid, stoic, and resilient person, and I believe that of myself again today, but during those first years of grief? I was anything but placid and stoic. And no wonder — the very foundation of my life, my identity, my hopes for the future, everything that anchored me to the earth had disappeared in an instant leaving me teetering at the edge of the abyss.

I’m surprised I survived that feral time. Apparently, though, at rock bottom, I really am mostly placid, stoic, and resilient. It just took a while for those characteristics to rise to the surface after I was hit with the tsunami of grief, but I learned to go with the flow, to take whatever came, to feel whatever I felt, to deal with the pain however I could, and to wait for a more peaceful time. I also learned that such all-encompassing and savage grief has a strong physical component that supersedes any character trait or emotional response. Hormones go nuts, our brain chemistry changes, and often we suffer from stress-related issues. Losing a life mate ranks at the very top of stressful situations, and that stress itself causes physiological changes.

But I came through all that. And now it is twelve years later. I am different. My life is different. My expectations are different. It’s confusing when I remember what my life once was — my years with Jeff and my years of grief — and compare it to what my life is now. It simply doesn’t compute. (Which is where that mythic feeling comes in. I know it happened, I know I was that person who lived that life, but it doesn’t seem real.) I cope with the confusion over this dichotomy the same way I coped with my years of numbness during Jeff’s illnessness and my years of grief after his death — try not to think of the past, try not to think too far ahead, try to accept that each day is sufficient in itself.

Still . . . twelve years. Unbelievable.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Too Concerned with Age?

People tell me I’m too concerned with age, and perhaps that’s true, but I don’t necessarily see such concern as a bad thing. It keeps me focused on what I can do now to protect myself later. For example, I do balance exercises, stretching, walking, knee exercises to strengthen my knees, and various other activities. There might come a time when I can’t do these things anymore, and so I do them now when I can, and when it counts. Exercise always counts, of course, but it’s a lot easier to maintain one’s muscles than to redevelop them after they have atrophied.

I am also cognizant of where I am and where I place my feet. I hear over and over again (and I see the proof in people I have known) that if you want to live to a vital old age, don’t fall. In fact, the last advice the orthopedic surgeon gave me during my final appointment after he’d done what he could to fix the wrist, arm, and elbow I’d destroyed in a fall, was, “Don’t fall.”

I have fallen since then, though luckily, I didn’t even bruise myself any of those times. I am aware, however, that such luck might not always hold. After all, it deserted me back when I took that horrible fall after a dance performance. (I was heading back to my car and when I walked between two cars, the motion-activated parking lot lights went off, and in the darkness, I tripped over a misplaced parking berm. Actually, the berm wasn’t misplaced. The idiots who maintained the parking lot repainted the lines for the parking spaces so that cars were parked in the open spaces between two berms.) Come to think of it, I was lucky back then, too. With all the damage, I could have lost the arm, but I didn’t, and I even managed to gain normal usage

I come by my wariness of falling through experience rather than advancing years, but I am still aware of how necessarily it is for a healthy old age to refrain at all possible from falling. Surprisingly, this awareness of a need for not falling doesn’t set me up for a fall, though you’d think it would. Like if you’re trying not to think of a pink elephant, that’s all you can think of. (I bet you thought of a pink elephant, didn’t you?) Because of this, I use my hiking poles, even though at times it makes me feel old, as if I were so feeble, I needed two canes. But better to use them when I can rather than when I have to.

To be honest, I don’t think I’d be so concerned with age if I weren’t a caregiver. When one is young, you never equate yourself with the elderly. You simply know that in the division of life, you are young, and they are old. But now that I am getting older, I see myself in these nonagenarians, and I wonder what I will be like at that age (assuming I live that old. Both my mother and her mother died in their middle eighties). Some problems are inevitable, but are all of them? I don’t know. But the question arises every day, and so I do what I can to hold back the growing tsunami of my years.

All things considered, I am doing well for my age. Doing well for a younger age, actually. A lot of that “doing well” is because of my concern with growing older, because despite what people might think, I don’t sit and stew. I do.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

A Small Life

It’s amazing how many hours there are in a day when one gets up early, like way too early, before the sun is even a hint in the sky. Already I’ve read, played on the computer, cleaned house, went for a walk, fixed a meal, and now here I am, trying to put together today’s blog.

For a change, I have plenty of time to write; it’s just a shame I don’t have anything exciting to write about. There’s just me, and that for sure is not exciting. I am not one of those folks who live large. I’m certainly not lavish or extravagant (though I did recently splurge on a winter coat that was marked down for clearance). Nor am I living in what is considered luxury by other people’s standards.

The truth is, I live small. I spend most of my time alone. Even before the whole Bob mess, I stopped going to restaurants or any place groups of people hang out. (Groups were never really my thing, anyway.)

And yet, my life seems luxurious to me. I have a lovely small house and a comfortable home. (Although in today’s world, “house” and “home” are synonymous, I don’t consider them so because you can have a house that’s not a home and a home that’s not a house.) I have a small job so I can afford luxuries like eating. I drive a small car that was paid for decades ago. I have all the books I want to read a small walk away. So, yes, luxurious!

Still, luxury in my eyes is not exciting to others by any means. And even though I mention such things as my house out of gratitude at this still-surprising upturn in my life, I fear sounding braggadocious if I expound too much. But basically, this is my life. A small life.

And yet, I do wish I had something more exciting to write about than me.

Maybe someday . . .

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Talking Ourselves Out of Things

When talking with a friend the other day, I happened to mention the supplements I was taking for immune system support, but then I had to admit that I don’t always take them. She said, “It’s easy to talk ourselves out of things.” And boy, isn’t that the truth! She and I both try to stretch every day, but we find it easy to talk ourselves out of doing it. Too tired. Not enough time. Too lazy. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, that a day or two won’t make any difference, and it’s true. A day or two won’t make any difference, either in the case of the supplements or the exercise, but a day or two tends to become three or four or even more.

Even that wouldn’t be a problem — many people go their whole lives without exercising or taking supplements — but I’m to the age where if I let these things go too long, I might not get back to them, and then there would be a problem. The exercises particularly are helping since so many are geared toward strengthening knees and back, and when these go, you end up with a whole mess of problems. When you’re young, you can slide for years, but there comes a time when there might not be years, and if you don’t do it now, you might never be able to. (And if you don’t do it now, you will guarantee that you will never be able to.)

I’ve spent a lot of time the past couple of decades around the elderly, and I see how their lives changed because of injuries or illness or lack of exercise. Many times, of course, the changes came no matter what they did, but other times, life got to be too much, and they just gave up and gave in. Gave up on trying to better themselves on their own; gave in to the doctors and all the medications the doctors prescribed, as well as all the medications the doctors prescribed to offset the side effects of the original medications.

Obviously, I have no idea what the future holds for me. But I do know if I take care of myself now as well as get into the habit of making an effort when that’s the last thing I want to do, the future could be a bit healthier for me.

To that end, I’m trying to force myself into accountability. Not force myself to exercise (stretching and walking) or take the supplements, or eschew sugar, or get off the computer early enough so that it doesn’t affect my sleep. Just the accountability. Keep a record of when I do the things I should do for my health and well-being. That way, maybe I will stop talking myself out of doing those things, and just do them.

Admittedly, some of these things, such as taking a walk every day, are affected by my crazy work schedule, but for right now, I just want to get into the habit of accountability. Though chances are, in a couple days or so, I’ll talk myself out of doing that, too, because it really is easy to talk ourselves out of doing things.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

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Life is a Grand Adventure

I don’t like dreaming. I don’t like the feeling of weird and inexplicable things happening; I don’t like the feeling of being out of control, and mostly I don’t like having to deal with any nightmarishness. I read once that if you wanted to remember your dreams, to take Vitamin B6 before bed, so I immediately stopped taking any B vitamins before bed, and that certainly aided my ability not to recall dreams.

That being said, there are a few dreams that seeped through the B block, dreams that I recall even decades later. In one such dream, I was being led from one elevator to another. When I got out of each elevator, I had to ascend few stairs, so although I was descending deeper into the earth, it seemed as if I were actually going up. I came out of the final elevator to the top floor of a round arena. At the bottom of this round room, a woman stood at what looked like an altar, and through a loudspeaker, I could hear someone saying, “You are now 6,000 feet beneath Death Valley.” At the time, I took that to mean I would be soon dying, but apparently not, because I am still here.

I seldom dream about Jeff specifically, though I have the impression he is a constant companion in my dreams as he was in life. A handful of dreams during the first years after he died were about him specifically. In one such dream, he came into my room, stood at the foot of the bed and touched my blanket-covered feet. He then climbed onto the bed, on top of the covers, and cuddled up to me. He was in his underwear, and in the dream, I knew he’d come from where he’d been sleeping, though I had the impression he’d been with someone, as if he had another life. He said, “I miss you.” When I woke, I felt as if he’d come to see me one last time, though I have no idea what is true when it comes to life, death, and especially dreams.

In another epic dream, I was walking in the desert under a clouded white sky. The sand was pure white and windswept. No vegetation grew in that desert. No dark rocks relieved the hilly expanse of white. It was all just . . . white. As I walked, three white horses sped across my path, then four white bunnies in a bunch, then one at a time, two small white squarish creatures I could not identify, and then finally, one immense white owl. I thought, “I must be dreaming because such magical and mystical things don’t happen in real life,” but that world and my feelings of reality were so solid, it didn’t feel like a dreamscape. Still, I tried to peel back the veneer of the dream and wake myself up, and when I didn’t wake, my dreaming self figured that what I had seen was no dream.

Last night’s dreams, though vivid, weren’t as epic as any of these, but still memorable for the insights they offered me. The first one was brief, just a walk on part. Literally, a walk on. I was walking with an indistinct person when that person stopped abruptly and said to me, “Boy you sure do take short steps.” In the dream, I made a mental note to take longer steps, and when I took my walk today, I made sure not to take baby steps as apparently I have been doing.

In the other dream, I was young, perhaps in my twenties. An old man, a friend of sorts (who wasn’t anyone I know in real life), told me to save my money so that when I was old I could go on a grand adventure, that everyone needed one grand adventure in life. The “me” in the dream thought, “Even if I never go, I’ll still have my adventure. Life is a grand adventure.” For just a minute, after I woke up, I retained the sense of being young with most of my life ahead of me. When the truth dawned, that I was old, and that I’d already gone on a grand adventure, I just shrugged it off, but I did remember what I’d thought in the dream, that life is a grand adventure.

It made me smile, this reminder that whatever else it is, with all its ups and downs, triumphs and traumas, life really is a grand adventure.

Despite these two dreams seeming to be my own subconscious speaking to me of things I should be aware of, I will still make sure to take my B vitamins early enough today so that I don’t dream again tonight.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.