For my mother who started the circle turning.
It was 20 years ago today that I turned 20. Twenty was a hard year for me. Firstly my sister’s father died on my 20th Birthday. I think I’m right in remembering that he was only 54. Bowel cancer. Yet another cancer that’s got a lot to answer for… I remember that night well. I was staying as a guest at Mom’s house (My old room was turned into a guest bedroom when I left for university.) when she got the call that he’d gone. Of course it was the middle of the night and my sister was already asleep. I don’t know how but Mom shoved her contact lenses in without hurting herself but she raced to get dressed and dashed out the door. After she left, I stood in my sister’s bedroom doorway, wishing there was a way I could protect her from what would happen to her the next morning. I was helpless in misery. Her life had changed and she didn’t even know it yet. Mom had left me with strict instructions to let my sister sleep so I did. I had classes early the next morning so I left before my sister woke up. I burned at the thought that my sister had lost her father. Wasn’t there something that I could do? There wasn’t. The funeral was moving but I only remember bits of it: photos going into the coffin, the gentle smile of someone who knew him as a friend, and meeting my sister’s paternal sisters. However, my main memory was of standing next to my uncle by the grave; we looked at one another with a strong determination, almost telling one another “We’ll get them through this” while my mom and sister were crying.
Mom came to visit me in my apartment a couple of weeks later. She was obviously still raw with emotion but I had to tell her something important: did she realise that he had died on my 20th birthday? No, and immediately she was shocked. I could see guilt coming to her eyes – which was not the emotion I wanted from her. I told her that he’d had 365 days to choose from to die and he chose my birthday so I thought it must mean something. I expect, knowing her the way he did, he wanted her to have happy memories of that day and be happy for the time that they had together. She could allow herself to be happy on the anniversary of his death because it was also my birthday. He died on my birthday because he wanted her to be happy: and he knew I wouldn’t take it personally. He really was a stunning man and I still miss him.
My useless boyfriend seemed to be of very little help to me at that time. Twenty was the year that I would be rid of him. I left him for a number of reasons: I was keen to have babies while he determined not to, I was discovering my religion (not something I talk about because I consider my relationship with My Maker to be personal and private) while he was determined to make me into an atheist, and he was already taking me for granted even though we’d only been together a couple of years. It was a cocktail that was lethal to the relationship but very good for me as a person: I felt I had the moral high ground when I left him. I felt like a stronger individual. Although it wasn’t easy, it was the right thing to do.
Mom, am I right in thinking that Twenty was also the year I changed majors at university? I started in Elementary Education and moved to European History when I decided that I might go for teaching older students. Once again, it was the new and improved stronger individual that made the decision when I walked into an elementary education maths class and a professor tried to tell me that 2×2 is not 4 – it’s 2 groups of 2. Now, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want to spend my hard-earned money only to discover that 2×2 is not 4! To be sure I was doing the right thing, I sent my CV to the local high school and did some volunteer work for a fantastic teacher. I would have made a great teacher, even she said so. I volunteered for a number of years at the high school and I’m still in contact with that fantastic teacher; although she has moved on to bigger and better things.
Now it’s twenty years after my 20th birthday and I’m still seeing the circular pattern that life has given me: I formulate my ideas; I go forward to implement my ideals and come back to reaffirm my philosophy. Theory into practice into theory again. There are times when practice will change your personal philosophy. Sometimes events reaffirm your beliefs. Some things don’t change: 2×2 still equals 4. The two most important women in my life are my mom and sister. Some things change for the better: I’m on my second marriage and I have two great stepkids. My stepson will be 20 this year – I wonder what life has in store for him? My theory is the circle rolls on…