Sleeping in Seattle
By Maryanne Pope
“As within, so without.”
– Hermessianex, Greek Poet
According to my new large-print Oxford dictionary (so I don’t need my reading glasses!), a barometer is an instrument that measures atmospheric pressure and is used in forecasting weather. The older I get, the more it seems my body is a barometer of sorts, in that my physical health at any given time seems to be a measure of my thoughts and feelings – the inner pressure, if you will, which often reflects the outer pressures…life.
In other words, if something on the inside isn’t quite right, I get sick. My mind isn’t smart enough to be able to forecast the coming storm but thankfully my body is. Case in point is the fact that I have come down with some sort of bug three times in less than a month.
The first was three weeks ago when I woke up feeling a bit off. I raced to the bathroom and let’s just say the day started badly and went downhill from there. A few hours later, Soda had her first seizure. Twenty hours and four more seizures later, she was gone.
Fast forward to last Friday morning, when my friends, Heather and Dave, and their three girls, Taylor (14), Paige (12) & Ella (6), dropped by for a quick visit on their way to Seattle for a soccer tournament.
I told them about my trip to Calgary the week before and the reminders I’d had about how important it is to appreciate good health, if we are blessed enough to have it – because so many people don’t. Then I told them about how difficult it was, visiting my Dad (80) in his nursing home.
“Everybody seemed so sad,” I said. “During lunch you could have heard a pin drop.”
Then I told them how later that same day, I got really sick at the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund pub night & silent auction. In retrospect, of course, this makes perfect sense. The week before, I put Soda down. Six weeks earlier, my Mom passed away – so that was my first trip back to Calgary with no Momma Pope to hang out with.
So on top of all this sadness lurking in my cells, seeing my Dad so unhappy as he struggles to accept a failing memory while surrounded by old people waiting for their departure date wasn’t overly conducive to putting me in the best frame of mind to visit with dozens of peeps. Not surprisingly, an opportunistic bug took advantage of my vulnerable state. I left the pub night early and after a good cry, slept for twelve hours.
Then I told Dave, Heather and the kids how, right before leaving Calgary, I went to visit Davina (92), a friend of my Mom’s. I was supposed to take her out for lunch but because of the pain in her legs, she didn’t feel up to it.
I looked at Heather and the girls and repeated what Davina had told me: “I hate being in pain all the time, Maryanne. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I’ve had a wonderful life. But let me tell you, if I hadn’t enjoyed my life, I would really be kicking myself now.”
From where he was lying on my hammock, Dave called out to me, “Then come to Seattle with us, Pope.”
“Today?” I said. “No way!”
“Why not?” said Taylor. “You were just saying how important it is to live life to the fullest!”
It really sucks when kids actually listen to you and then call you on your hypocrisy.
“Yes,” I said, “I realize that. But I have stuff to do this weekend.”
“Such as…?” asked Paige.
“Gardening,” I replied.
“You have all summer to garden,” said Heather.
“Come with us, Popey!” said Ella (6). “It’ll be fun!”
“Pack your bags,” said Taylor.
“You have ten minutes,” added Dave.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that spontaneity is not my strong suite. I am a planner. And yet the next thing I know, I’m on the ferry heading from Sidney, BC to Anacortes, Washington. As out of character as this was for me, it felt right.
And we had an awesome time! Well, okay…Saturday and Monday were awesome; Sunday not so much. I woke up with the same feeling I had the morning Soda’s seizures started. I raced to the bathroom and sure enough, the bug was back. Let’s just say our road trip motto became: “We want Popey not Poopie!”
Although sleeping all through Sunday meant I missed a Mariners game and a fantastic meal at a waterfront restaurant, it was almost as if my body chose to shut down – again – when I was away from home where I wouldn’t be tempted by chores needing to be done. I could do nothing else in our Seattle hotel room but rest. And that I did.
I think I know why Dave, Heather and the girls took me to Seattle. They, like many others, are concerned about me being sad. But I’m not concerned. Because my Mom and Soda both lived long and excellent lives, rationally I accept their time had come. Emotionally, however, they took up a rather large chunk of real estate in my heart, so one way or another I need to grieve that loss.
And if sleeping away a Sunday in Seattle is part of that process, then so be it.
I have learned, time and time again, that when it comes to grief, you can run but you can’t hide. Although being sick is inconvenient and uncomfortable, I’m thankful for my body’s wisdom…now I just need to teach my mind to listen before the storm hits!
As fun as the road trip was, I think all of us were glad to get home again. For just as sickness can be a powerful reminder to appreciate our health, travel helps to remind us that since home is where the heart is, sometimes that’s where we need to be, too 🙂
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the upcoming book, Barrier Removed; A Tough Love Guide to Achieving Your Dreams. Maryanne also writes screenplays and play scripts. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund.