An Awfully Big Adventure

I think it’s fair to describe my mother as a pragmatist, especially when it comes to estate planning. In the world of Mom, who plans “die with her boots on, the way God intended,” DNR is a compromise — one at which we arrived after I admitted that I didn’t think I had it in me to “shoot [her] like a racehorse.”

Her words. She’s a nurse, by the way. Which may explain quite a bit.

In deference to my squeamishness delicate sensibilities, she relented and the current plan is that, if I should find her slumped stiff in her chair or sprawled out on the kitchen floor, I should take 15 minutes and linger over cup of tea before calling 911. In return, I said that if income permits, I’ll totally fund a one-way trip to that clinic in Switzerland where they let you off yourself after a glass of prosecco while listening to Mozart…or however the wealthy do it. But she really likes Mozart, though maybe not as much as Bach? Anyway, I’ll let her compile her own set of Death Island Discs.

(BTW, the place gets referenced in this book, by this author, although since I read it as an e-galley in advance of publication, I’m probably not allowed to say anything about it aside from the fact that I was profoundly moved by this novel, which made me laugh and cry*, despite numerous passages that were begging to be marked with #whitewhine**)

Of course, I am a librarian who moonlights by writing unpublishable fiction, so I’m thinking it’s going to be the cup of tea, followed by the sort of halting-yet-rambling Bob Newhart-esque cold call at which I excel: “Hello? Hi, yeah. This is 911, right? Great. I was worried I’d misdialed. I do that with my bank PIN all the — right, sorry. Um…so…weird situation, here. My name is Gillian, by the way — doing pretty well under the circumstances, thanks for asking. Speaking of which, I was hoping you could help me with something. Right, so…my Mom is lying on the floor, completely unresponsive…and, uh, I’m starting to worry that she, um, might possibly be dead? I was wondering, if you’re not busy, could y’all send someone to check it out? I’d really appreciate that. Oh, my address? Sure thing. Hang on. Gotta double-check the zipcode. I know, right? Who mails letters to themselves? Ok, I got it. [Address redacted]. Right-hand side of the street if you’re coming up [Street redacted]. Just remember it’s the 2nd stoplight after the tienda. A LOT of people drive right past and miss the house. GPS? Oh, sweet. You should be all set, then. 10 minutes, huh? Wow, that’s awesome. You guys are fast. Ok, well, thank you so much. Ok. Uh. Have a good day. Hope to see you shortly. Uh…bye! Ok, great. Yeah. Bye!”

And that would be that, I guess.

Now I’m hoping Mom will be around a good long time, and since she seems to come from good and hearty***, albeit somewhat scandalous  stock****, I suspect she’ll get her wish several decades from now. Meanwhile, she periodically reminds me of her wishes, in case I forget. Like, anytime anyone or anything dies or just gets really, really ill. Ailing relatives, elderly pets, roadkill that looks like it crawled into the nearest bike lane to expire, you name it…it’s all just supporting evidence in my mother’s case that “No one should have to suffer like that. Better to die with dignity.”

I’ve given less thought to my own demise. Well, no. That’s not entirely true. I’ve given less PRACTICAL thought to my own demise. Neurochemically speaking, odds are I’ll off myself, if I’m not careful. Meanwhile, anxiety and an overactive imagination tend to work in concert to conjure up unspeakably horrific end-game scenarios, which I am convinced are imminent. So, in a weird way, it kind of takes the pressure off: my death is inevitable, hyperbolically awful, and (more often than not) liberally seasoned with irony.

*Not in a Lifetime Movie way 😉
**Oh, you poor thing. You’ll never get to CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO EVER AGAIN. Or go on posh ski vacations with models and, I dunno, reenact the opening of The Spy Who Loved Me. You know, the way everyone else in the world does ALL THE TIME.
***Who survives mesothelioma?!? (Not to mention the Pacific Front during WWII, despite being underage.) My Grandpop, that’s who. And that’s not even his only health issue, past or present. As for Grandmom, Mom once remarked “a stake through the heart wouldn’t kill that woman.” She was very nearly right.
****My Great-Aunt B. was obsessed with genealogy for a long time, dredging up all the limbs of the family tree that had fallen off and submerged themselves in bogs…until the day she simply stopped — just like that — and would never speak on the subject ever again.

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