When does one truly become an adult? I remember when I was growing up, my biggest fear, always, (once I got over the fear of being kidnapped from my bedroom in the middle of the night - but that's another story)was that my parents would die before I was ready, before I was old enough, to deal with it. I remember thinking, at whatever age I was, "well, I'm not old enough NOW to deal with it, but probably when I'm about 20, 25, 30, whatever age seemed "adult" to me then, I'll be old enough to "deal with it." My mom passed away five years ago when I was 42, and I didn't feel old enough at that age to be without a mom. Now, I suspect my father will pass away before I have turned 48, and I don't feel adult enough to cope with that well, either. Which, oddly enough, isn't really what's on my mind tonight. What's on my mind is that I am 47, and still can't bring myself to do some of the things that I SHOULD be able to do as a 47 year old adult. I still feel like "I'm not old enough to do that yet" for some things. Tonight, I'm wondering when I will be old enough to do the adult things that I should, without having to be pushed to do them by someone else more mature than I, or without feeling like an awkward teen inside as I'm doing them. OR - does everyone feel that way, but you just DO them anyway, and THAT'S what really counts??
Two days ago I learned that a friend's husband had suffered a massive stroke, and was in the hospital in Jamestown,in a deep coma, not expected to live. She was keeping vigil at his side. I felt like I should go visit her, sit with her awhile in the hospital. I was hoping we could give her a little break, or bring her some flowers, or a chocolate bar and Diet Pepsi, or take a walk outside, or, just sit, and be. She and I become friends many years ago when I was lucky enough to work at Ten Broeck Academy. Lucky, too, because along with Sue, I also met my best best friend, Steph, there. And she and I and Sue and another great guy, Steve, all shared this little two room trailer attached to the back of the school, and oh are there stories and stories to come out of all those years we shared that trailer. I could write a book. Eventually, we all went different ways. Steph went to a school closer to her home, so she didn't have to drive 90 miles each way; I took a job here in the town I live in so I didn't have to drive 30 miles each way to TBA, and when Sue's husband neared retirement, they sold their house in Franklinville and moved to a little house right on the water on Chautauqua Lake, and Sue switched to teaching in a school over there. (Steve, who deserves his own story some day, passed away probably about ten years ago from brain cancer, and I still miss him every single day.) We have not worked together, the three of us, for at least ten years now, but have remained close. I'm not sure how to explain the bond, but it's tight. Funny, too, because Sue is ten years older than me, and I am five years older than Steph, but it never really mattered. We just all connected. And have stayed connected, despite distance. Anyway, Steph and I decided yesterday we should drive over to Jamestown today after school to see Sue. It wasn't the best day for Steph, and I even suggested we could wait until tomorrow. She decided that we should go today, that waiting probably wasn't a good idea, since Sam's time was very clearly limited.
I sent a facebook message to Sue's son to make sure it would be appropriate to come over to see her. Not being yet a true adult, I'm never quite sure what the protocol is for these situations. Just because my heart told me I should go be with her, what if it was the wrong thing to do? If your husband is dying, do you want a friend sitting with you, or should that be only private family time? Sigh. I just never know. But, Cory said to please come over - that it was fine - that Steph and I were practically like family to him and Sue anyway. Not necessarily true, but it was enough to reassure me that yes, following my heart's instinct this time was ok. Steph checked with Cory again today about 2 o'clock, because my worst fear was that we would be too late. And if we were too late, then we really probably didn't want to go. But you can't exactly say, "Hey, we'll be over about 5, but if your dad passes away before that, be sure to let us know, and then we won't bother you by coming over." There just wasn't anything good about this situation at all, and plenty of things that could turn out to be - DID, in fact, turn out to be, plenty awkward.
We got there at 5. The hospital had no one by Sam's last name registered. I told her a room number. No one. I called information. Nada. We were totally perplexed. Only hospital IN Jamestown, right room number, no one. Steph facebook messaged Cory again from her phone: "We are here - where can we find you?" Cory's response? "At home. Dad passed away at 3:15" We were too late. My worst fear. I most definitely did NOT want to go to the house. This poor woman's husband had just passed away less than two hours before- that is a time for family, for grieving, for weeping. NOT a time for friends to drop by. Steph convinced me that since they already knew we were there, we HAD to. AWKWARD. All my NON-adult instincts were kicking and screaming, "noooooooooo - I CAN"T do this" at the same time that I was. We stopped, talked to some relatives who had just gotten there, left a note for Sue, and fled. Just in time, I felt like. What I most felt like doing was throwing up, but instead we decided to go have a drink and get something to eat since we had driven the two hours anyway, and since even Steph and I seldom get to spend any time together. We had just sat down and been given menus in Red Lobster when Sue called my cell phone. She had parked at a neighbor's, just as we were driving away, and BEGGED us to come back. She pleaded, said, "Please come back - I need you." I could not fathom that, that someone would want friends there at that time, but she sounded so sincere, so very very sad, how could we not? So, awkwardly again, we left the table, left our menus, explained that we would be back and left Red Lobster. Going back was worse. But being there was the best, most adult-like thing I've done in ages. We went out to the end of the dock, hugged, rocked, talked, cried, laughed, cried some more, promised to come and hang out this summer and teach Sue how to back up her lawn mower - something she is worried that she doesn't know how to do - and were there. We were too late to sit with her and offer her any comfort, or peace, at the hospital while Sam was clinging to life, but I guess it wasn't really too late after all. And even though Stephanie, who is five years younger than me, had to force me to do the grown up things I did not want to do, and would not have done if I had not been forced, I did them. They felt wrong, and awkward, and uncomfortable, and I wanted to throw up, and I did cry, but I did them all, and they felt right when we were done. Does that count? Does that mean I AM an adult because I did all the things I SHOULD, even though I didn't want to? Will I EVER be the one who just does them on my own, without being made to, because I know they are the right thing to do? I guess THAT'S when I might feel like I am truly a grown up, when I can do them because I know they are the right thing to do, even though I don't want to. Until then, I guess I will have to settle for at least being able to do them because someone ELSE knows they are the right thing to do, and makes me. I guess it could be worse - I could NOT do them, even then. Many people don't, and I know that.
We went back to Red Lobster, and I had not only some fruity rum drink with a pineapple piece in it, but a Long Island Iced Tea, which was irresponsible and un-adult-like of me, since it has 4 or 5 shots of alcohol in it, and I had a two hour drive home. Funny thing is, I should have been under the table, but didn't even catch the slightest buzz from it. Steph determined that the amount of stress we were under cancelled out even the powers of alcohol. I figured maybe it was God saying, "OK, you were too late, but made the best of it and did the right things anyway, so I'll cut you some slack tonight. You can drink these drinks, and I will allow you to still drive safely home anyway, even though you should not be able to. But don't push your luck..."
I won't. I promise.
But I'm still left wondering, at what age will I truly become an adult? Is it possible to be 80 years old, and still not feel "grown up - ENOUGH" for some things? Wouldn't that be weird. Because here I am, at 47, thinking, "Well, I'm not very mature YET, but wait til I"m 80. By then, I will be." Won't that be funny if I'm not.