“You're only given a little
spark of madness. You
mustn't lose it.”
- Robin Williams
When three old friends get together—
What do you say to someone you used to know really well, friend and roommate, after a couple of decades have passed by?
“Well, I’m still married!” (We are all still married to the only guys we ever married. That’s a shocker, actually. Never would have guessed us to be the ones destined for monogamy.)
“I guess we should talk about our ailments!” Yeah, we’ve got some. They’ve both had knee surgery; one has had back surgery; one has had a hysterectomy. Menopause wasn’t a happy time, but we’re all through it, even though we’re only 52. Me, I’ve got mild arthritis and major insomnia, high blood pressure and sinus problems. Getting older is still a surprise to me.
”I don’t party like it’s 1974 anymore.” Well, no. It seems silly, somehow. I’d just sleep through it if I tried to.
We compared our pets, our children, our parents, our grandchildren and step-grandchildren, and our siblings. We compared our jobs or lack of—two out of three retired. We compared our lack of money, although I suspect that my lack of money is closer to poverty.
We remembered moments from back in the day—how’d those three girls get to this point? When we dreamed about the future, we never dreamed about hysterectomies, arthritis, our kids moving out, our hair turning gray…
We’re still the same, though—we talked, and we laughed. We laughed a lot. We always did.
We’re hoping to get together again next month!
Here's the first stanza of "The Raven":
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door —
Only this and nothing more."
On January 17, 1990, I wandered into the obstetrician’s office for a checkup. The baby was supposed to have been born already, but it had not come yet. I was tired, and I didn’t know it, but 19 years of insomnia had begun for me. I was humongous and uncomfortable, but glad to be free from teaching. I had begun my maternity leave, feeling sure the baby would come soon.
The doctor checked me over and said that my blood pressure was too high. I wasn’t in labor or anything. He sent me to check in to the hospital. I drove over to the hospital, parked, and moseyed in the front door. At the desk, I told a young man who had been sitting with his feet propped up, that the doctor’s office told me to come on over to the hospital to have a baby. I was pretty calm, but the young man was no longer calm. He jumped to his feet, ordered a wheelchair, put my humongous self in the chair, and tried to find a room. No rooms were available, so I soon found myself in the VIP suite. This was exciting. I lay down on the bed, still wearing my jeans, and began calling people.
Eventually, my husband arrived, along with my mother-in-law and several members of my husband’s family. They thought I was in labor. Since I was in the VIP suite, there was a couch and a number of chairs for all of these visitors. Realizing I wasn’t in labor or anything, everyone calmed down quite a bit.
At some point, the doctor came along, and I finally learned that they were going to induce labor in the morning. I didn’t know if the baby was a girl or a boy yet. I was going to name it Zachary Wayne if a boy, Diana Jean if a girl. I called my mama and told her that they were going to induce labor at 6:00 AM in the morning on January 18.
Mama got Daddy up at 4:00 AM so they could journey to the hospital. When they got there, nothing was happening. Inducing labor didn’t work. This kid did NOT want to come out! (She's always been pretty stubborn.) Daddy wouldn’t come back into the labor room, but he talked to me on the phone: “How about some action in there?” I said, “I know! Nothing’s happening!” A very long day went by, a day so long that the hungry doctor ordered pizza for himself. Finally, about 7:00 PM, Diana Jean was born by C-section. She was only 13 hours late! Her daddy called everybody in the natural world to announce her birth; he was very excited. I couldn’t believe I had a baby. Although I was 34 years old, I somehow didn't feel exactly qualified for motherhood.
All of this happened one very long day 19 years ago. Although they kicked us out of the VIP suite after delivery, Miss Diana Jean will always be a VIP.
ITHACA, by C.P. Cavafy [1910, 1911]
As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensasion
touches your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would have not set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.