Time goes, you say? Ah, no! alas, time stays, we go. –Henry Austin Dobson
I’VE RECENTLY BEGUN TO ASK MYSELF IF I AM RUNNING OUT OF TIME. During the play Hamilton, the hip-hop version of the life of American statesman Alexander Hamilton, I was struck by the lyrical thread that Hamilton’s vociferous writing and work ethic made him seem like a man running out of time. The notion of running out of time struck an emotional chord with me and surfaced feelings I hadn’t reconciled.
I wasn’t always a person in a hurry, but after becoming the mother of five children, my sense of time passing naturally accelerated. My friend Anthony’s response to my complaint of a shortage was, “the time you have is the same time everyone has, it’s all in how you decide to use yours.”
Several years ago, comparisons of, “the older you get, the more you look like your mother,” were flattering. My mother at 70, 80 and heading into her 90’s was a stunner of an older woman, she still is. She has a magnificent face and trim figure. Mom was a devoted member of a thriving megachurch, a hospice worker, volunteered at a local hospital and later in life remarried to a man that had been a part of our lives since my sister and I were children. To me, she had it all. I was flattered by the comparison.
And then slowly things changed. Mom wrote out the recipes for two of her signature southern dishes, peach cobbler, and creole gumbo, and passed them along to family members. Was she passing the torch? Then, she stopped cooking completely, saying she was simply tired of cooking. Something had changed.
Confirmation that Mother was not herself came while booking hotel rooms for the Chicago branch of the family to attend my youngest daughter’s wedding in Michigan. Mother flatly announced that she would not be attending! I was hurt, my daughter was hurt, we couldn’t understand why she would refuse to attend her granddaughter’s wedding, but nothing could make her change her mind.
My son-in-law had filmed the wedding and once it was edited, I prepared a lovely Sunday Brunch and invited mother and her husband Wayne over to watch. Mother was distracted and disinterested, but the jarring fact came when she did call out a name in recognition and I realized she called out the wrong name. I watched devastated that mother no longer recognized many of her grandchildren and family members. Clearly, she had noticed her memory loss and had refused to attend a wedding that would place her in a room full of strangers. I knew intuitively that my mother was suffering from dementia. The official diagnosis would come later.
My mom is physically a pretty healthy 94- year-old woman. And despite dementia and severe vision loss, she is a gracious and gallant woman. I marvel at her strength amid this adversity. In a way, she is teaching. But the reality of Alzheimer’s and glaucoma have caused me to dread comparisons. I wonder if I will finish the books that I want to write, make the impacts I’d like to make in my grandchildren’s children’s lives, travel to the countries I’d like to visit?
It’s ironic that after postponing many things in my life until I “retired,” that the writer’s chief tools, the imagination, the brain, the perhaps even the gift of sight might be taken away by disease.
I wonder how others with genetic predispositions to diseases like the breast cancer-related BRCA gene or Lou Gehrig’s disease, or other genetic markers for serious diseases adjust their expectations of longevity. Do they also prepare inwardly for the possible onslaught of a disease?
I aspire to match this fear with faith and to strive for optimum health. I further commit to loving my family, doing whatever I can to enjoy my life and to passionately continue to write. And yet, I respect the feeling of “writing like I’m running out of time” because I just might be.
For those who say, everything is in God’s hands, I say, yes it is, but I do have the right to ask. It is written in Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. I need time. I am asking!
Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.
Timepiece monument By Florin Huluba – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73275572