Dear Melody (The Exit Sign)

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Dear Melody,

Consider yourself hugged every which way.
Remember when you didn’t sign that contract that wasn’t offered to you?

Remember how somehow we never imagined that ill health, fruitless job hunting, family wars, wayward children, dying parents
…was what we were in for?

They get us every time!   Who reads the fine print after all?!
We are just happy to be jumping into life…

And remember when there would always be more time to change directions?  More time for more projects, experiments and adventures?


The imagery I use to explain this to younger people goes something like this:

At 20 something, you don’t even know that you are in a hallway.
At 30 something, your peripheral vision picks up something reddish that is too indistinct to recall.
At 40 something, you can see a reddish spot at the end of an extremely long hall.
At 50 something, you can make out that it probably is an “EXIT” sign but it’s so far away.
At 60 something, you can clearly read the Exit sign and there is a slight panic feeling as you look at all your plans on the shelf.
At 70 something, you are rushing around trying to get everything done, discarded or reassigned.
At 80 something, you are so close to the sign, you hear it buzzing, and if you have done it right, you are enjoying your last projects.
At 90 something you are becoming part of the sign and smiling at those 20-somethings.

May I offer you some advice about your mother?  I am not waiting for your answer, so here goes…

She will die…and probably sooner rather than later.  It is wonderful that you are making that trip back home with her. So take a tape recorder or a video camera (or both) and record all the tender details as well as the obvious events.

you, Melody…you must shut your eyes and try to think of all the things you have ever wanted to ask her about the family, your father, her parents…your childhood…anything that comes to mind.

Do not censor yourself. Note every thought and find a way to ask the questions. Tell her whatever you need to get her to talk. You are a reporter, so if she recoils at being recorded about some of the material, get rid of the machine and take notes. (You will not remember accurately, so please take notes!). Ask all those questions you will regret not having asked. Couch it as “for the grandchildren” if necessary, and occasionally say: “this question is not for them; it’s only for me.”

If there are wounds, repair them now.
If there is pain, express it now.
If there is regret, apologize now.
The hope is that she can do the same for you.
But remember: no expectations; it may not happen…but at least, you’ll get all the rest.

I tell you this from personal experience of Not having done this and many times needing some info, some contact, some word. Ken and I both lost our parents in our early to mid 30’s. We were not at a point in our lives to even really know about the EXIT sign so we did not think to ask anything before it was too late. We have seen so many end games in other families because as book dealers we are there at some part of the end.  We have seen many unsuccessful endings; people who can’t let go; some who are so eager to dump it all; adult children who are still struggling as if they were teenagers with deceased parents who can never give them the resolution they so badly need.  All this from buying books!

Replace the stuckness, sadness and pain with resolve and you may get resolution (and information)!

Write whenever you want or need to.
many hugs