Swirls of white wisps formed paisleys and figure eights in front of my vehicle. I knew the drive by heart. My body would take over where my mind left off. Floating across the road with the snow, my mind went back to the time I’d lost control of my Ford Explorer on the highway with my youngest son in the backseat. The snow had been doing exactly as it was this day, swirling and scooting and wisping across the pavement, and probably forming black ice as it apparently had done that day some fifteen years ago. The vehicle fishtailed and then spun circles out into the oncoming lane of traffic, barely missing the oncoming cars, as I yelled, “Oh, sh-t! Oh, sh-t!”. It slid against the rough edge of the road, tipped up on two wheels, then dropped abruptly in the ditch. I learned, that day, that just because it can’t be seen does not mean it is not there. And the image of that swirling snow invisibly forming a danger zone has stayed indelible in my mind.
Time passes so quickly. Sometimes I am amazed by where it all has gone. I find myself in amazement that I am as old as I am. The other day as I found myself contemplating this new way of menstruating, how it was just part of my life now, unpredictable. I stopped and stared into space and thought, “Wow, that’s me I’m talking about. I’m the one. I’m THAT old! I am almost menopausal! How did I get to be almost fifty?” I realized that in the time I was getting everyone else to their next birthday, I’d been having them, too. I just wasn’t paying attention to my own. Now here I am, almost fifty and perimenopausal.
As I drove mechanically home from work, the snow was taking me backward in time. Without thinking, my heart began to ache remembering my children at that young age. I felt the longing for my little children – now 19, 24 and 28 years old. Realistically, I do not want to be the mother of small children again, yet I find myself returning to this feeling. I contribute it to a longing for the love and fulfillment that tying a child’s shoe, receiving a hug from arms that don’t reach all the way around, or seeing a little face light up at the discovery of something new can give. I believe I found the most meaning of my life during that time of raising children. Or maybe I was just too busy to think about anything else.
Now I have freedom. But why does freedom feel so empty? Do I really want my time to belong to everyone and everything else again? No, I definitely do not. I decided to steer my mind in another direction. No need spending my time looking back. Time to go forward.
Making the left turn onto my road, I became aware of how much snow had fallen. The yards were covered with a thin blanket. Christmas was approaching. And I was looking forward to celebrating with my children and their significant others. My oldest son, Drew, has two step-children now, as well, so that always makes things more fun and interesting.
A blast of wind picks up a layer of the dry, crisp snow and flings it in front of my vehicle, causing me to start. I smile realizing I love winter, no matter how cold and harsh the weather can get, it is exciting and – different. I welcome the interruption to the routine. In a normal winter, I would be looking forward to the accumulation of snow, but this sledding season would be hard for me. My companion, a Golden Retriever named Cleo, passed away in the spring. Most likely, with everyone busy and living over an hour away, I will be sledding alone. Cleo used to go with me, romping through the snow like she’d shed seven years of aging. She’d run down the hill beside my sled and bury her nose in the snow, then flop her overweight body down and roll onto her back. I don’t know which gave me more joy, the childlike thrill of whooshing down the hill on my sled, or watching my dog’s enjoyment of frolicking in the snow. I’ve thought of getting another dog. My husband’s blue eyes about bug out of his head each time I bring it up. It is a gentle bugging – he knows how much I miss her, but he doesn’t want to be tied down to a dog and the responsibilities that a pet brings. And I agree. We are gone all day at work; a dog would get lonely. And I am sure that as time goes on, we will embrace our empty nest and the freedom that it is affording us more and more. Besides, just because I miss motherhood doesn’t mean I want to go out and adopt a child, either.
Life is changing. I try to focus on what the freedom is providing me – time to quilt, write and relax. Time for me! It’s what I’ve craved for years. But somehow, it feels like I’ve been on some carnival ride – laughing till I was crying, crying till I laughed, screaming, jumping, feeling the thrill in my stomach, then wishing it would stop – till it did. I got off, and now I’m just walking along. What will this next phase of my life bring, I wonder?
I pull my SUV into the garage, a luxury of sorts. My husband has cleared a parking spot in the garage, usually reserved as his workshop, so I can park inside out of the weather. I feel the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. Life has had its ups and downs. I’m not like the dad on “Meet Joe Black,” I do have my regrets. But I am glad for them. They motivate me to do a better job, be a better person, and to love while I have the chance. As I shut the door to my vehicle and make my way into the quiet, dark house, I realize there is no conclusion to draw. Life is all about choice. Choice to keep walking, keep being grateful and stay open to the possibilities. And let life show me how.