For the record, I hate to fly. I mean, I’m a bad flyer. Not so good when you choose a second career where travel is often required! I am a white knuckled, seat rest clenching, excited inhales during turbulence flyer, and yes, I’m someone who has abused the flight attendant call button. I have sat, tears streaming down my face during landing, clutching a photo of my children and reciting the Hail Mary while simultaneously shrieking that, “I will never fly again!”
So, it only makes sense that on more than one occasion, I have found myself mentally writing my own obituary while enduring another bout of turbulence somewhere over Arizona. Morbid, I know. But, it’s become a necessary therapy for me to keep calm. A Bloody Mary or two helps me be more creative, I’ll admit, but visualizing how I want my loved ones, especially my children, to remember me, has helped me down from the ledge more than once. Airlines take note, I think that Valium dispensers in airplane bathrooms are a very sound idea!
Okay, so back to my epitaph.
To begin, one must know that I was adopted at birth. Although my birth mother was only 17, she was mature enough to know that she couldn’t raise a child on her own. I’m thankful to her for seeing me as a child and not a choice. I am also thankful to my parents who have given me every opportunity to take the life she gave me and use it for good. People often ask me where my drive comes from. Now you know. I am not going to waste the life I was gifted. Yes, my life is a gift. There are days I don’t want to get out of bed. Days I don’t want to do the laundry or argue with my kids about the importance of good oral hygiene (try explaining that to a 2-year old). But I do. I do it because there are others who were never given the opportunity to try.
I have hundreds of photos of my parents. They are beautiful people. My mother is a picture of dignity and grace. The mental snapshots are the best, however. My father is a physician, and I remember watching my mother get ready to attend benefits for the hospital. Not many women wear St. John better than my mother. She is a lithe woman, barely over 5 feet and 100 lbs. soaking wet. The jersey material clung so well to her body, moving with her, never wearing her. My mother isn’t a fancy woman by nature, but she knows how to turn it on. I would watch her sit at her dressing room table and apply her makeup, than her jewelry and finally, the dress and shoes. I love my mother so much. I am so grateful for the relationship she and I share. There have been trials, tribulations and pitfalls. I still cringe when I think about the time we fought over my being caught at the local movie theatre with a boy, and screaming, “I wish I was never adopted!” at the top of my lungs as I slammed the car door. Ouch. Only as a parent do I now understand how much those words must have stung. I have apologized since, more than once, and I still wince at my memory of that scene. But, she took me back and continues to do so. When I snap at her because she reminds me “again” to take a coat or check the status of my flight. And I take her back. When she comments that I look better with long hair right after I have it cut, or when she mentions that lessening my carb intake could help me drop a few pounds. That’s what mothers do. That’s what daughters do. They love. They laugh. They fight. They cry. They love again. Mostly importantly, they accept and celebrate one another, warts and all.
I want my life to matter. I want to count. I want to belong. Growing up, I never felt that I truly belonged because I didn’t resemble anyone in my family. Being adopted at birth, my parents knew very little about my genetic background. I was a blonde haired, blue-eyed misfit surrounded by a family of dark-haired, dark skinned and dark eyed people. And I was tall. I was the second tallest in my class when I was in first grade, despite being one of the youngest in my grade. The pediatrician told my parents that if I continued to grow at that rate, I would be well over 6-ft. The cat’s now out of the bag regarding why I’m decent at so many sports. My parents enrolled me in everything. They figured that if I was going to be an Amazon, I might as well be good at sports. In the end I turned out a bit on the tall side at 5’8, but nowhere near WNBA status.
One of my biggest fears is that I will die in a plane crash and that my children will not remember me. I can’t imagine the impact that has on a child. Others have said time and time again that you can be replaced pretty much everywhere- your job, your charity your tennis team. However, no one can replace you as a parent. Wow. That gives you a lot to think about when you’re at 35, 0000 ft. I’ve written a dozen letters to each of my children. On paper napkins. On barf bags and the back of in flight magazines. None of them have ever made it off the plane. I’m not completely sure why. I want my children to know how fiercely I love them. I want them to know that every sacrifice I’ve made for them I would make again in a heartbeat. Somehow, however, putting it down on paper gives me a creepy feeling it could happen.
I am going to screw up a lot as a parent. I am going to miss an important school function, forget to bake cookies, lose my temper when I shouldn’t and be the “only” parent who won’t allow my 6-year old to have an iphone (I’m sure!). At the end of it all, however, I hope my children remember me as a doer. As someone who worked hard, played hard, gave others a helping hand and laughed a lot, even when it might have been a tad inappropriate. I want them to remember their mom as someone who was present, involved and passionate. Opinionated. Tough. Loving. Compassionate. Generous. Someone who said, “I love you” and meant it. Principled. Human.
With my head bent into my hand, bear knuckles turning white, chugging Finlandia Vodka and riding out the turbulence of yet another traumatic landing, I have to admit, I will most likely never die in a plane crash. Not because of the statistical probability or anything like that. I just have way too much work to do! I still have a life to live and a legacy to leave behind.