Just Write {178}

March 10, 2015

She tells me she wants to have two tomorrows, one for what I am saying we need to do the next day, and one for what she would rather do the next day. She is three, and easily believes she has a right to demand a double day. Of course, I can’t grant this wish, it’s like telling her I can paint an extra moon in tonight’s sky.

Her first days on Earth are vivid in my cluttered unfocused brain because they were so awful. Thankfully, I also remember them well because I fell in love with her, which I realize is not the immediate experience of every mother. Sometimes falling in love takes time. Someone should tell us that.

My Elsie Jane did not arrive after 40 weeks on my insides, she came a little early. In grand Elsie style, she kicked the nurse on her way out, causing said seasoned OB veteran to turn to me and remark, Well, I’ve never been kicked that hard in all my years.

It was actually long before that moment that I had a sneaking suspicion she would be just exactly as she is–loudly opinionated, passionately loving, creative, fierce, maybe even a little ferocious. And, remarkably, beautifully, herself.

So, if anyone should be allowed to live two tomorrows, it is Elsie Jane. She requires at least 48 hours a day to accomplish all that her heart and mind want to release, to give to the world, and take from it. I wish I could give her more time, more energy, more of myself. Of course, my fatigue sets in long before she will pay any mind to hers. I am nearing forty, she is three. We are unfairly matched.

There’s another feisty woman in my life. I show up to care for her, and I’m finding that it brings me joy, no matter the messes her body has made. On a certain day, I set her lunch tray before her and ask if I should cut the meat, put butter on the potatoes. Yes, please. She sits hunched forward, leaning a little to one side. She takes a bite and I ask if it’s good. I don’t know, she says. I haven’t been able to taste anything for years.

Well, I say back. That is terribly unfair, isn’t it?

Huh, she says, sounding amused…You know what’s unfair?


That I’m still alive!

(blink blink) I don’t know what to say without patronizing her, so I look right back at her and wait for more.

I don’t think a person should have to live this long, that’s all, she explains.

I hear you. I tell her. And I do, but I can’t possibly know what it feels like to be nearing ninety in horrible health. It looks incredibly hard. It is incredibly hard.

After I help her with a shower, I put lotion on her flaking dotted skin. I feel like I could tear that skin away with the most innocent of slips, a hangnail catching or my ring angled just the wrong way. So this takes time, this kind of care. I listen. I crack jokes. She laughs. Her eyes light up. Then they grow dull just as quickly, and she breathes heavily, almost panting at the work of this. You would think she just got done running, but no, she has only sat while I struggled her shirt over her head. Then she tells me, You just have no idea how many things you do in a day, until you can’t do anything anymore.

We will have to go back to infancy before we leave, if we live this long. We are all terrified of it, even if we won’t admit it. We may still get there though, sitting at ninety, hands too bent to use, eyes covered with glaucoma, ears full of nothing but a buzzing sound. Our bodies will be foiling us, over and over, as they begin to do much too soon, it seems.

On the brink of forty, I feel it all in my bones, the beginnings and the ends. All the trauma and the joy of having been so young, it is leaving me a little bit, maybe. Just think of it all–the bumpiest sledding hills, the sunburn after floating all day on the lake, and the nights of partying too hard, eating too much processed food, not wearing glasses while staring at the computer, keeping the mittens off in the winter. Then there are the long sleepless road trips, or the even more sleepless newborn baby years, and the hours spent outside or in, bending down, reaching up, hauling and lifting. Over and over like machines, we use up our only bodies, living like we have two tomorrows.

Most of all, our wear and tear comes from the inside out–the avoidance of feeling too much but feeling it anyway, somewhere in the deepest parts. The stress hormones rushing through. The adrenaline biting at our organs. The anxiety building up to depression sometimes. The grief, the heartbreak, the rollercoaster of loving other humans.

Standing in the middle, the temptation is to feel defeated. My shoulder hurts, and really, so does everything else, on a bad day. My babies are growing too fast. The oldest generation is fading, dropping, at their end, with so little dignity.

At least once an hour, Elsie blurts out, loudly, I love you, Mommy! She’ll say it while grabbing my legs for a hug, or while seemingly otherwise occupied. She says it over and over at bedtime, and right away when she wakes up. At some point, she added more, totally catching my heart off guard.

I love you, Mommy….just the way you are. 

She is not looking for perfection, which is good, because I am only her middle-aged mother.

I carry those words with me when I go to work every day. I am wilting a little, and all the drooping and sagging began quite a while ago. The kids point out the lines on my face, and the swagger under my arms. And they love me just how I am. So I walk through the painful daily grind of a ninety year old woman who tells me, Oh Heather, I just don’t have any pep. And I try to remember to be embrace exactly where I am, exactly as I am, like my Elsie Jane.


This is the 178th installment of Just Write, an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments. {New here? Please see the details.} I would love to read your freely written words so join me and link up below. You can add the url of your post at any time. Just be sure it’s a link to your Just Write post, not to your main page. (Then link back to this post in your Just Write post so people know where to go if they’d like to join in.) (Any links not following those two guidelines will be deleted.)

Also. Please take a moment to visit someone else who has linked up! It’s a really good way to meet new writers and get inspired by the meaning behind their moments. Word?


suzannah | the smitten word March 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm

oh, yes. this will haunt me a bit, i’m sure.
suzannah | the smitten word recently posted..i’m just so good at spaceships

Sherry March 14, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Hi Heather,

I’ve taken a much needed, very long, break from all blogs…but today I decided to take a quick peek at yours and read this one. What a lovely welcome back message to myself. I’m not sure who the 90-something year old lady is that you visit but I can only imagine how you make her feel, and little Elise Jane? Seems insane she’s 3 (you only had the two boys when I started reading here). I love her spunk. And don’t we all wished we had two tomorrow’s??! :) Thank you again for your beautiful words, I genuinely love reading them.

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