When I read my daughter Lori Berhon's beautiful blog the other day, I realized with wonder how each of us had had such an emotional reaction to our walk down streets that spoke of years gone by. Streets that had left each of us, and others no doubt, with their own memories. How ironic that both of us had the need to write it down.
Originally I hadn't thought of using my thoughts for my post on HuffPost, but then I thought it was something we should share -- I, the mother, feeling my own thoughts, and my child remembering her own.
So here goes mine: As I made my way towards the local school to cast my vote in Tuesday's New York Primary race, I breathed in the first fresh air of coming autumn and was filled with the wonder of life. I looked up to the sky, and smiled.
For the past few weeks, and for one of the very few times in my life, my body had failed me. I had awakened one morning with a sensation of a spinning in my head that wouldn't stop. I had slowly made my way to my bathroom, holding on to whatever piece of furniture I passed. I washed my face with cold water, let the water run over my wrist and slowly made my way back to my bed. Hours later I found out that my blood pressure had elevated to a frightening number.
I had never had anything but either a little low blood pressure or normal blood pressure. This was so out of the ballpark. To say it frightened me would be more than true. I thought about what could have caused this, what was new in my life?
A year ago, my working career had come to an end. Was this the culprit that had been laying dormant for this past year?
I never try to think about my age. I've always felt that a number can determine not only your attitude about yourself, but how others treat you. I have always just wanted to be treated for me, not some woman who is no longer young. Although slim, I had the strength of woman much younger than myself. I had worked full time at a highly stressful job, and no one thought about my age, no one questioned, "Can she do it?" because I never gave the impression I couldn't. I took such pride in how well I functioned, how little I asked of my children other than their love, and how little I really ever asked of anyone. I was STRENGTH. I didn't need help. I was there to help you, not visa-versa. I was vital, attractive, smart, funny, caring, a person people could tell their problems to, and I think loving. I know I felt loving.
I had lost my mother when she was 64, my darling brother when he was 54 and my dad at 68. I had been the lucky one. And now without warning death reared its ugly head. I almost let these last few weeks of illness make me into the woman I didn't want to be. I almost gave in to the number.
The other day I had I sat with tears running down my eyes listening to Paul Simon sing to Oprah on the opening show of her 25th year. Watching this last hour and the 300 special guests in her audience, all I could feel was the wish that I could have achieved something in my life a tiny bit as kind and generous and beautiful as this woman had done. I feel that my fears have now become so trivial.
Walking through the streets that morning, feeling the breeze in my face, made me so grateful to be alive. I was better, and I knew it. How did I know it? As soon as I finished voting, I walked into the office of the elementary school where I had once been the President of the Parents Association a long time ago, and asked if they needed any volunteers. They do.
All I needed to get better was to accept the fact that I am alive, still vital and can still contribute to this world. A number is just a number, and when mine is up, well so be it.