“Just give me the goddamned martini already!” I can already picture my Auntie J sitting up in her hospital bed with all of the energy that she has left, demanding for a double martini, with three olives probably, as she her perfectly manicured nails waved in the air showing the doctors and my Uncle that she meant business.
There are two very fond memories that I have of my Auntie J; the first being her doing my sisters’ and I’s nails in Kentucky during the summer at the cabin and her defending my choice to become vegetarian when I was thirteen years old. Tonight, as they prepare to move her from the hospice as she bravely and as beautiful as ever says goodnight to her battle with cancer, I am happy to know she is demanding one last martini.
The women in my family aren’t just gold, they are fucking badasses.
When my Mamaw passed away at 95 a few years ago she was still the sassiest gal in the South. I remember thinking of her as Dorthy from Golden Girls asking herself, “Isn’t it amazing how I can feel so bad and still look so good?” right before she found herself getting called home. My great grandma passing away was more of a surprise to all of us because she wasn’t sick like my Auntie J is and she wasn’t even in her nineties yet. The story goes that when she was moved to the hospice as the paramedic was tucking the blanket underneath her to make her more comfortable, she sat up and snapped at him, “You better not be trying to get a feel of my butt!”
It is true, the women in my family are made up of: sass, grace and a whole hell of a lot of funny.
As my family prepares to say goodbye to my Auntie J, my heart finds itself in its own brokenness from the past two weeks. This year for me has been full of surprises and pain and loss. A lot of each. In tandem, however, there has been a lot of good living in this year too. Two Thursdays ago I found myself at 1AM bawling my eyes out almost as hard as I was on the Monday night before as he held my hand. There was something about that week where I started to feel very regretful, restless and hasty about all of the things that I wanted out of life.
I wanted for my future husband and I to live in New York City for a year, just because. That Monday night I cried that dream away because how realistic was that? Would I give up the chance of true love one day just because a gentleman didn’t want to move to a big city? I wanted to live abroad, and wear headbands that probably looks better on the girl who lives across the street from me with a nose ring. For the first time, I was desperate to learn how to ride a bike so that my future family and I could ride bikes to the farmers market, as my husband picked out fresh flowers for myself and our daughter. Her name would probably be something sweet like Lola or Mason. All of a sudden I didn’t know what I wanted out of my life anymore.
Since the time I could remember I was always one of those two-five-and-ten year plan kind of gal. I longed to know what the future held in store for me. I wanted the map, with only one road to choose from. Throughout my years at university I became less anxious about the future and truly marveled in enjoying the present as I purposefully set intentions for only a week out. It was liberating. It was a side of me that allowed for more grace and needed lessons to have a place in my heart. Something about these past two weeks though I scrambled throughout the day searching for things with longevity. No longer were dreams enough, I needed something tangible in my hands.
Maybe it was a wake-up call for girls like me. The one whose head is more often than not faced towards the sun, getting sun kissed drunk in the dreamers disease. The one who holds this magnetic force where nothing bad can touch her. And if it does, she easily brushes it off and uses it as a line in her fight song that is soon to follow. I will be the first to admit, I have this childlike naïvetés about me that relies too heavily on things finding a way of working themselves out.
As I spent the past week trying to make sense of the choices I have made in my life and continue to search for something with a longevity, permanentness for the first time tonight I felt some sense of direction, some sense of understanding of it all.
Last night I worried about my future husband, the regrets that I might have as a future mother, if I am ever granted such a blessing, and wondered about what they would say about me when I was gone. Ill heartedly I made a list of all of the things I could erase from my life, as if life is one big barter and only the pretty pieces get to be chosen for the memoir. Tonight as I reflect on the fierce women in my life, I realize that they were too busy trying to be the best damn wife, friend, mother and self to worry about the ugly messes in their life. Every day, they chose to rise up to the occasion with a beautiful set of hair and graceful heart. Each of these women that I mentioned where a daughter of God and they lived their life as such. Their hearts only opened up more through their pain. They maintained a sense of humor and kept the sass on standby, because sometimes that is the only way we can survive.
The next few weeks will be weeks of trial, error and emotions that I have never felt before. I am going to be brave in my vulnerability as I let a good man hold my hand. I will have to choose a graceful heart with the acceptance of knowing I am loved, even when I fail to love myself.
I would like to propose a toast to my Auntie Judy. May the martinis that I ever enjoy in your name be as strong as you were a woman. May your grace and beauty continue to shine through Uncle David and Taylor as we hold you close with us every day for the rest of our lives. Thank you for allowing your soul to hold a story in this world that wasn’t all perfect or all pretty and allowing us to bare witness to a life of elegance, love and bravery.
I would also like to propose a toast to the other fierce women in my life; thank you for allowing your life to be an illustration of picking ourselves up through the messy cahoots and allowing our hearts to be strengthened even after the universe has broken it.