I was feeling a little glum yesterday while driving home from my daughter’s house, partly because I was driving away from my adorable daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter and grandson and all their joyful energy and laughter and partly because I was driving through a lot of radio coverage of the Orlando massacre, which made me sad not just because I have friends and family members in and around Orlando and because the first gay people I ever knew well lived there but because the word “Orlando” will forever stand for unspeakable evil, just like Sandy Hook or Aurora or 9/11, which is an awful thing to happen to a fine town, and also because I can't think about Orlando without recalling my mother’s collapse after her second round of chemotherapy, a misguided and mistaken course of treatment that would not have ever been attempted if her doctors had been aware of the living will she wrote while she was an RN on an oncology floor and knew everything horrible that chemotherapy could do to a person and elected not to have it done to her if she should ever suffer from terminal cancer, but then the doctors’ unwillingness to use the word “terminal” and my mother’s increasing dementia and our lack of ready access to her living will and who knows what other inexorable factors led to my mother’s receiving chemotherapy that may not have hastened her death but surely made it less pleasant, and where was I going with this?
Oh yes: the drive home sunk me in increasing glumness so that I had to turn the radio away from the news and hit "scan" and the first place it stopped was on that Lukas Graham song “Seven Years” which I love even though it’s a little cheesy but then it struck me that the only part of the song that applies to me now is “Soon I’ll be 60 years old, / will I think the world is cold / or will I have a lot of children who can warm me,” which means I’ve got more verses behind me than ahead of me, if that makes any sense, and I wanted to step backward into the youthful enthusiasm and hopefulness of my 20s and 30s, but only if I could take along with me the wisdom that comes with age so that I’d avoid all the stupid mistakes I made in my 20s and 30s, but that felt like wishing away the present, some parts of which I would be happy to discard (violent massacres, joint pain, uncivil public discourse) while I’d really like to hold on to others (brilliant adult children, adorable grandchildren, my dog, my home, tenure), so the music wasn’t helping at all, and then I got home and found that the phone in the living room wasn’t working and the laundry detergent bottle had sprung a leak and dripped all over the laundry room and some small critter, probably a mouse, was scampering around in the bedroom and my husband is at a conference so I was going to have to handle all this by myself, which seemed too much to pile on top of the fact that I’m far from my grandchildren and many people are dead in Orlando, including my mother, and even though her death is totally separate from the Orlando massacre and certainly didn’t merit so much news coverage, it still hurts.
So I took myself out on the back deck to sit and chill and listen to the cicadas buzzing in the treetops, a sound notably less intense than it was a week ago, when being outside any time of day made me wish for noise-cancelling earplugs, but now the decline in volume suggests that all those cicadas so intently bent on sex are moving on to the next verse of the song, so that the buzzing from the trees that sounded at first like “LifeLifeLifeLifeLife” will soon herald death in massive numbers, which is not at all likely to relieve my glumness except that the buzzing has become oddly soothing, and then I stretched my legs out in front of me and saw my sparkly blue toenails, which made me smile when I remembered my granddaughter's exuberance when she begged to paint her mommy’s toenails but Mommy was busy feeding baby brother so I said “do mine instead,” and she did mine, her very first attempt at toenail-painting, which she executed with a level of concentration suggesting a strong commitment to excellence combined with a youthful insouciance unwilling to be hampered by artificial boundaries, and she enjoyed it so much that she then painted my daughter’s toenails sparkly silver, so that we have similarly adorned toenails that might make strangers in a grocery store wonder whether we’ve been doing pedicures in our sleep but that to my eyes scream of youthful joy and energy, and then later just before bed (in the room where there may be a mouse I can’t locate or I may be suffering from auditory hallucinations) I put some lotion on my feet, some wonderfully light and silky lotion with just a hint of scent that I can’t quite pin down but I love so much that I stole it from my parents’ house, although it’s not really stealing because it’s entirely possible that I sent that lotion to my mother as a gift but she never used it and then she died and she wasn’t going to need it in the grave, and my dad kept trying to get me to take some of my mother’s things but she was much more petite than I am and wore a lot of pastels so her clothes wouldn’t work for me and her shoes made my shoes look like clown shoes and I don’t wear much jewelry (but I took some of hers for my daughter, who does, but kept a lovely silver scarf pin for myself) so if nothing else I was happy to take this wonderful lotion, which is called Joyful Garden Morning Song, which describes my mother to a T since she was never happier than when she was puttering around with her roses and making her begonias grow.
So a day that started in the joyful presence of my grandchildren and then took a long detour through a tunnel of glumness ended with my great big clown feet sparkling with blue nail polish and soothed by my mother’s Joyful Garden Morning Song lotion and I felt surrounded by love. We’re all going to die, some peacefully and some violently and some, like the cicadas, without every really knowing they’ve lived, but if I have to live in a world full of pain, I’d rather do it soothed by the love of my elders and sparkling with the joy of my offspring. So my toenails may be blue, but my heart is happy.