I have these memories – from when I was growing up – of my mother having a lot of stomach problems. Terrible indigestion, whatever. The point is, she was pretty horrifyingly graphic and I just did NOT want to listen. Or talk about it. Or sympathize. It is hard to sympathize if someone is complaining non-stop. I’m sure she wasn’t; it just seemed like that.
My mother makes fun of me now, because I really did think, for years, that the people who complained should be taken seriously, taken literally. I thought they were dying. My bubby, who kvetched about everything. My mother and her stomach aches.
(I didn’t know then what I have seen now: that the complainers could and often did outlive the silent (suckers!) by whole decades, if not more)
It scared me. My mother’s aches and pains scared me; the constant noisy backdrop of illness scared me. When I wasn’t scared, I was embarrassed, but mostly, it was fear.
So now I don’t talk about it. If I have a head thing, a chest thing, a foot thing, I’ll happily tell you all about it. But not a stomach thing. Nothing in the middle, really, which is probably why – with constant pain when standing up or moving around – it took several years to get around to diagnosing my umbilical hernia.
Which wasn’t an intestinal or stomach or digestive-type thing at all, to my unbelievable relief. I mean, it wasn’t getting much WORSE over the years, which I figured meant it wouldn’t kill me, but it was such a relief to be able to tell people it was just a MUSCLE problem. Just a superficial problem; easily sewn up and fixed – yay!
Now I know, I guess I’ve always known, that stomach things CAN kill you. Not talking about stomach things can kill you.
I wonder – here’s the horrible part. Deep breath.
I wonder if that’s why my father didn’t like to complain or talk about anything he was experiencing. I mean, I know he didn’t complain; I know he tended to assume his ailments were nothing. He’s the one who hiked a few miles to North York General in the middle of HEART FAILURE because there was no free parking any closer.
But was he always like that? Or did he turn into that because my mother was the Belly-Pain-Complainer role and his was the Mostly-Silent Consoler role?
And so – because he’s gone, so that’s mostly moot – I wonder next, will I die that way, too?
I wonder if I will someday die from not talking about the things that happen where food goes, the same way nice ladies used to not mention their uterus or breast tumours until it was too late and they were dead or dying. If my mother’s life of stomach pain will someday kill me.
There is supper to cook and the sun is streaming in and life is good, so I have no idea why today is the day for these thoughts. The sun is streaming in and the song “Od Lo Ahavti Dai” is streaming through my mind.
One of my favourite Naomi Shemer songs, it means “I have not yet loved enough.” Here’s a reasonable translation:
Oh - I haven't loved enough,
The wind and the sun on my face.
Oh - I haven't said "enough",
And if not now - when?
,עוד לא אהבתי די
.הרוח והשמש על פני
,עוד לא אמרתי די
ואם לא אם לא עכשיו
There is so much still to do. It’s a good song.