I am helping to plan a High School Reunion, which is happening, in two weeks, on an “off year.” (Meaning, an anniversary which is not a multiple of 5.)
Yesterday, I was talking to a classmate on the phone, whom I hadn’t spoken to for many years.
She asked me, “Is your mother still alive?”
I said that, no, both my parents had passed away.
She said, “Oh, I’m sorry. When did your mother pass?”
And I said, “Wait. I can never remember that. Hold on ….”
And my mind did that squirming-like-a-toad thing it does, when I can’t remember something I should know.
I said, “Geesh. I don’t know why that happens to me. I always have to think about it. Now, I know my father passed away in 1997, my son was born in 1998, and ….”
The year of my mother’s death still wasn’t coming to me, and I panicked a little, because I was thinking, “You should be able to think of that! What is the matter with you?”
I explained, (assuming that my classmate most likely thought this memory lapse of mine was very weird), “There were so many things going on at that time: I got a big promotion, we moved to a different town …”
Then, I gave an estimate, “It was about 5 or 6 years ago, I think,” still feeling some shame about the not-remembering.
Now, as I’m writing this, in peace and contemplation, I should be able to figure out that date, pretty easily.
Here goes: When my mother died, my son was going into 5th grade. He is now going into 10th grade. So it was 5 years ago that my mother passed away. It was 2008.
Now, 2008 should also be an easy year to remember, because she was 90 years old at her death, and I completely remember the year of her birth: 1918.
I can’t forget the year of both my parents’ birth. That year is right there, in the top of my mind.
I think 1918 would be quite easy for me to remember, no matter what. Also, that Very Important Year of 1918 also got mentioned — a lot — in my home as I was growing up because of this:
IT WAS THE LAST TIME THE BOSTON RED SOX HAD WON THE WORLD SERIES.
Boy, those Red Sox just couldn’t win (The World Series), for most of my life (and for most of the lives of most of the Red Sox fans in the world).
I confess this, too: I have to pause and think about the year that Very Infamous Streak got broken. I THINK it was 2005. I’ll go check (on Google) ….
Nope. I was wrong. It was 2004.
Now, Red Sox fans will probably think that’s incredible, that I couldn’t remember the year. (And I was a big Red Sox fan, for many years.)
I have trouble with numbers. I guess. Maybe because they are details, shmetails. Maybe because I EXPECT to have trouble with numbers.
I’m not sure. All I know is that certain dates escape me.
For example, I remember, once, I got my mother’s birthday wrong. Her birthday was April 22. And I forgot it. For some reason, that year, I thought it was the 23rd.
And I remember the hurt look on her face.
Here’s her face without a hurt look on it (which is how she usually looked):
(That’s a photo of my parents, copied on regular paper, that’s on the side of my refrigerator.)
I didn’t like hurting my mother, but sometimes I did.
I still have a really strong reaction to hurting people. I can get very upset and worried if I think I’ve hurt — or might hurt — somebody else’s feelings.
Being afraid of hurting somebody else’s feelings can paralyze me, sometimes. Make me afraid to act. Make me regret my actions, to an excessive degree. I can magnify the hurt I might cause and minimize other things. (See here, if you want to read about the cognitive distortion of Magnifying/Minimizing) (and two other distortions relating to this post — Shoulds and Mind Reading.)
This is what I sometimes tell people in the therapy groups that I do, when I see that very human (and often quite beautiful, but painful) fear of hurting somebody else:
Other people are not as fragile as you fear.
Other people have said useful things to me about that Fear of Hurting Others, such as this:
If we are connected and we care, we will inevitably hurt and be hurt.
That’s not an “official” quote, so I just went a-googlin’ (using “hurt quotes”) to find something similar.
And I found some interesting things:
“Of course I get hurt.” — Jackie Chan
Also, keeping with the Baseball Theme, here are two quotes that came up by Satchel Paige:
“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”
“Airplanes may kill you. But they ain’t likely to hurt you.”
That last quote is helpful for me, right now, for another reason: I’ll be flying in August, with my son, to London. Flying is something else — besides hurting other people’s feelings — that I can get anxious about.
And here’s another number I have trouble remembering — not just the year, but the date of my mother’s passing. I had to look that up, just now, too.
August 12, 2008.
I’ll be in England — or Scotland — on the 5th anniversary of that date, with my son.
(Note that I have trouble remembering the exact dates of that trip, too! Geesh.)
Here’s how I’m going to wrap-up this post today. Here’s what feels left unsaid, right now:
On August 11, 2008, my mother told people, while I was asleep, that she wanted to tell me something. “I have something I need to tell Ann, ” she said. I was with my mother for some times while she was dying, but I was not there for that. Or for the moment of her passing.
And I don’t know what she wanted to tell me. Sometimes I wonder about it. What was it? Was it something she wanted to warn me about? (She worried about things, sometimes.) A feeling she wanted to express? Did it have something to do with forgiveness? Something about hurt? Or maybe about love?
I just don’t know. And it’s difficult not to mind-read, about what she wanted to say.
Here’s what helps me to remember, right now:
What we miss seems more important, sometimes, than what we get.
And it’s not. It’s all important.
Thanks for reading today.