Going home to Wisconsin always puts my head in a weird place. It's as though the further I drive into the state, the further from my real life I feel. The self who lived in that town, in that house, in that green and yellow bedroom, doesn't exist anymore, but the self I am now is someone no one there really knows.
What do you talk about with the people who remember your eighth birthday party but can't name three of your current best friends... the people who know how you earned the trophies and ribbons packed up in a box in your old room but couldn't really explain what you do from 8:00 to 5:00 each work day?
I'm sure my parents view me in a different light than they did ten years ago, five years ago, maybe even last year. I don't really know what they see, though. Are they worried that I'll never get married? Wondering if they'll ever have grandchildren? Just pondering what they did wrong that I ended up one of those bleeding heart liberals they're convinced is ruining the country? Or am I giving them not enough credit?--Do they look at me, assume that I'm happy, and figure that's all that matters? I hope it's the latter. I really don't know for sure.
My parents aren't the same people they were ten, five, or even one year ago, either. Each time I see them, they've picked up some new quirk. They're hoarders now, more than they ever were before. For my dad, it's videotapes and off-brand snack foods. For my mom, it's baskets and fake flowers. I can't explain either of those addictions, but I hope it's not hereditary.
Moreover, with each visit I just notice how much older they're getting. My parents are senior citizens now. They shuffle and hobble under aches and pains they would have shrugged off years ago. Scattered throughout their sadly unkempt house are prescription bottles and medical boxes and blood sugar meters. My mom retreats off to the kitchen to give herself an insulin shot. My dad curses that he's forgotten his pills again. My parents are the elderly couples on TV commercials, talking about the high cost of prescriptions in the US. I used to wonder why old people took so many drugs anyway; now I'm sure my parents could explain it to me.
I watched my mother on Thanksgiving, going through my grandma's bank statements and bills, writing out checks from my grandma's account and sliding them across the table for her to sign. And I realized it's only a matter of time before my sisters and I will need to do those same tasks ourselves. I worry lately that it will be sooner rather than later. I see adult children on TV and in movies, coming home to take care of their aging parents. For some reason I never made the connection that eventually that adult child would be me. I froze my parents in time when they were around 50, back when I first left home and went out on my own. Only recently have I really noticed how much they've continued to age since then.
Thinking about this suddenly made me fast-forward my own life. I'm not a worrier by nature, and I rarely give much thought to where I'll be any further than a few months from the present, but this weekend, I caught myself having a mild panic attack as I wondered what would become of me when I'm my grandma's age. Who's going to take me to the bank and the doctor's office? Who's going to decipher my bills for my no-longer-sharp mind? I have never been all that social with strangers, never felt the urge to befriend anyone more than ten years younger than I. I may have to fight that urge as I get older, might have to hope a nice young someone moves in next door and takes me into her life as though I'm a surrogate aunt.
These aren't the things I want to worry about, aren't the things I need to focus on quite yet, I know. But as I drove into Minnesota yesterday, closer and closer to the landmarks of my daily life, I didn't shake off the out-of-sorts feelings like I usually do. Hence, yesterday's late-night post of suckitude. Believe it or not, the "R" post you're reading now is one step chippier than the one I was writing before I posted that. At the moment, I'm really grateful for NaBloPoMo. I don't want this somber rambling to stay in top position for very long.
I shouldn't claim Thanksgiving weekend was all bad, though. In fact, perhaps now's a good time for a comparison sort of list.
The not-good: A dead iFraud just when I was in the mood for a little Lucy Kaplansky in my car.
The good: A fun no-iFraud-necessary road mix to keep me company while driving, courtesy of a friend with excellent taste in music. Also, finding This American Life (followed by Prairie Home Companion) on a Wisconsin Public Radio station on the way back.
The not-good: No pumpkin pie, stuffing, or proper wine. Instead, stale, freezer-burned apple pie from last year's church fundraiser, day-old KFC, and chilled Lambrusco.
The good: An excellent (and cheap!) meal at a new restaurant in Sheboygan with a high school friend. (Seriously--entree, wine, tax, and tip, all for less than $20. Can't get that in Minneapolis, I'll admit.)
The not-good: Bandaging up a nasty cut that my 96-year-old grandma didn't even notice she had.
The good: Realizing she still has a sense of humor, even if it doesn't come out much anymore. (I am still smiling at the way she said, "This chair puzzles me," and I'm sure my little sister is, too.)
The not-good: Futile conversations with my dad about politics. Biting my tongue as he proclaimed, "Rudy Giuliani is going to be the next president" and "Those damn Democrats are ruining the country." (Um, yeah, because they're the ones who've been in power the past eight years?)
The good: Realizing I'm not the only one from a mixed political family.
The not-good: Twiddling my thumbs in my parents' house most of the day Friday, for lack of anything better to do.
The good: Finally (finally, finally!) finishing that damn Calamity Physics book!! I knew I'd get through it eventually. Even if it did take me the better part of the year.
Let's bow our heads in thanks for that last one in particular. Goodbye and good riddance, I say.