Subscribe to Dawn Downey's Blog: Stories About Mindfulness, Gratitude, and Transformation Rest in Peace
As I told my yoga teacher and my critique partner, storm fronts blowing over Missouri have been kicking up migraines, which in turn are kicking my head's booty. Write? Hell, it hurts to blink.So let's go back to exactly a year ago. What were you doing? I was thinking about my best friend Yolanda. (Spoiler alert. Her mom is now a thousand years old plus one.)Rest in PeaceMy best friend and I agreed we’d have to kill her mom.Yolanda was the solitary caregiver for her...
As I told my yoga teacher and my critique partner, storm fronts blowing over Missouri have been kicking up migraines, which in turn are kicking my head's booty. Write? Hell, it hurts to blink.
So let's go back to exactly a year ago. What were you doing? I was thinking about my best friend Yolanda. (Spoiler alert. Her mom is now a thousand years old plus one.)
Rest in Peace
My best friend and I agreed we’d have to kill her mom.
Yolanda was the solitary caregiver for her thousand-year-old mother. The job was solitary because the rest of her family had found better things to do. And I didn’t know how to help. I was a lousy friend.
We were on the phone, which had connected us since our college days. Me, in my writing chair at home in Kansas City, laptop closed at my feet; Yo, in a waiting room in Los Angeles. Lord knows how she kept track of what office she was in. Social workers, Alzheimer’s specialists, attorneys, financial planners. Not to mention adult day-care providers.
Yo said. “Last week, I asked the doctor how much time does Mother Dear have?”
“And the answer?”
“He gave me a serious doctor look. You know, over the spectacles. ‘Yolanda, exactly what do you mean?’” Yo sounded tired.
In the get-up-and-go department, she’d always been unbeatable. During an epic shopping vacation together, we’d walked all over Las Vegas. In sensible flats, we pounded the pavement from one casino’s designer boutique to another. At the end of one day, I tried on a pair of gold lame platform sandals. And breathed in the scent of fine Italian leather, but set them back on their perch. They were far too impractical. We hiked a mile to our hotel. Just shy of the door, I paused. “I have to get those shoes.”
Yo had said, “Girl, when shoes call your name, you can’t ignore it.”
Back to the store we went, eschewing taxis, ignoring the heat, gossiping and cracking jokes all the way.
What had I ever done for her?
I shifted in my chair to block the afternoon sun, which was slanting through the window, then switched my phone from one ear to the other. I magined Yo squirming to get comfortable in a cheap reception-room chair. She would be dressed in an expensive outfit that telegraphed either dutiful daughter or financier, depending on whose office she was waiting in. Dreadlocks piled on top of her head in an intricate sculpture, designer bag in her lap.
For the moment, at least, Yo was at home, on the phone with me. She said, “I gave the doctor a serious look right back. ‘I mean … when will she die? How much longer till I can rest?’ Then he got real quiet. ‘Yolanda, your mother’s healthier than you are.’”
I leaned forward. “What?”
“Dawn. Mother Dear’s going to outlive me.”
“Oh my god.”
Her mother beat her out on every health measure: low blood pressure, low bad cholesterol, high good cholesterol. She was tall and thin, well-fed, and energetic. Yo’s blood pressure boiled, her bad cholesterol surged, and her good cholesterol dried up. She had the wrong BMI, bad knees, and no way out.
And here I was—much like her mother—living out a leisurely pampered retirement. I don’t know why Yolanda stayed friends with me.
I drummed my fingers on my forehead. There must be something I could offer. “Assisted suicide is legal in California.”
“Hah! Good one. Sadly, Mother Dear’s happy to be alive, even if she doesn’t know who she is. And the doctors love her. They’d never believe suicide.”
I’d assumed we’d be there for each other when parents died. And she had been right beside me at Dad’s memorial service. He’d left instructions insisting his loved ones wear bright colors, no black allowed. I'd bought a hot pink suit and Yolanda'd come in lime green, the two of us looking like Popsicles. Yo had brought a roll of toilet paper with her, carrying it like a clutch bag. Whenever sniffling erupted on the family pew, she tore off a few sheets and passed them down the row, turning our tears to laughter.
Now fate was snatching away any chance of my sitting with her when the time came. Instead, I’d be going to my best friend’s funeral with her mother. “Guess we’ll have to kill her.”
“After you’re in prison, no more chauffeuring. No responsibilities.”
“You’re right. No decisions.”
“The food’s bad, but—you won’t have to cook.”
“There’s workout equipment. I’ll get in shape.”
“You’ll finally get some rest. Nobody’s going to mess with the bat-shit crazy woman who murdered her own mother.”
“Dawn, you always make me laugh. That’s what I love about you.”
She's No Tomboy
Dear Ms. Downey:Thank you for your interest in becoming a Tomboy. We were surprised by the depth of the applicant pool for this position, making the selection process quite daunting. Unfortunately, you were not chosen as a finalist. Because you requested feedback, we hope you will find the following information helpful. Your high school love of field hockey promised great potential. The choice of field hockey by a fifteen-year-old girl attending a California school, where her peers...
Dear Ms. Downey:
Thank you for your interest in becoming a Tomboy. We were surprised by the depth of the applicant pool for this position, making the selection process quite daunting. Unfortunately, you were not chosen as a finalist.
Because you requested feedback, we hope you will find the following information helpful.
Your high school love of field hockey promised great potential. The choice of field hockey by a fifteen-year-old girl attending a California school, where her peers are beach bunnies—this offers a rock solid foundation for Tomboy-hood. We were thrilled picturing your bloodied shins and scraped elbows. But we cringed when you gave up hockey for modern dance. Replacing gym shorts with pink tights indicated a shocking lack of commitment to our core values.
A second point pertaining to the California section of your application. The picture of you hugging a tree was clearly photo-shopped. Granted, it is possible you were hugging a tree while wearing a bikini and standing on a beach towel. It is not possible that an oak tree has taken root in the sand. (One of the roots appears to be a young man’s foot.)
We were delighted you took up cross-country skiing while you lived in Minnesota. Bravo. Any adaptation to Minnesota winters assumes a pluckiness of spirit that makes us want to don our best plaid shirt in celebration. Unfortunately, video has surfaced that shows you taking a tumble during your first ski lesson. This to be expected, as falling down is 50% of Tomboy success. But you fell on top of what looks like a small child. It was hard to discern, through the cloud of flying snow, flailing legs, skis, and ski poles. The broken arm you suffered in this skiing accident would have helped your case, had it not been the child’s mother who broke it.
Although we saw promise in your “daily treadmill run,” as you put it, there were problems here as well. Showing up at the gym twice a month does not meet our definition of daily, nor does an average speed of 2.5 miles per hour meet our definition of run. It is commendable that you purchased tennis shoes specifically designed for the treadmill. We always look favorably on the acquisition of equipment, the pricier the better. Crossing the parking lot with the shoes in your purse instead of on your feet, because they were too cute to get dirty—well, we’re afraid that worked against you in the end.
We were impressed with your gutsy adventure in the conservation building at the state fair, volunteering to let a reptile wrangler wrap his pet boa constrictor around your shoulders. We must remind you our mission is a wholesome one, and it is impossible to describe this snake incident without using the words writhe and slither. Such language (in addition to the salacious implications of a dalliance with a serpent) disqualifies the activity from our consideration.
You have requested extra credit due to your advanced age at the the time of the boa interaction. While we agree that old age ain’t for sissies, pushing seventy is not, in the strictest sense, a Tomboy activity.
In a related issue. Yes, by all means, feel the burn. No, hot flashes do not count.
In sum, though we wish you well, we see absolutely no future for you with our organization. Please take this letter as an invitation to get on with your life.
Jean Louise "Scout" Finch
The Anti-Nature Party
Good Evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for nominating me to represent the Anti-Nature Party as your candidate for President. When I am elected, I will end the nature-loving elitist conspiracy that has polluted our great land. Nature has been creeping onto our farms, across our schoolyards, and even into our kitchens. As your next President, I will build a wall around Nature.That's right, I will stop Nature in its tracks. I’m sure, now that...
Good Evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for nominating me to represent the Anti-Nature Party as your candidate for President. When I am elected, I will end the nature-loving elitist conspiracy that has polluted our great land. Nature has been creeping onto our farms, across our schoolyards, and even into our kitchens. As your next President, I will build a wall around Nature.
That's right, I will stop Nature in its tracks.
I’m sure, now that I’m your official standard-bearer, the press will be rooting around in my past. So I will tell you now, that back when I was young and foolish, some of my best friends were nature lovers. They climbed trees. They swam in lakes, where fish do hanky panky with each other. These people pressured me. They said, "Let's go hiking." They said, "You'll love the great outdoors." They said, "There's nothing like wide open spaces." And so—I’m not proud of this—I experimented a couple of times with fresh air. But I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale.
The mistakes of my youth taught me there are very bad things in Nature. Trees are bad. They fling themselves onto our power lines. They spit their leaves into our gutters. Trees hide bugs. Yes, they do, ladies and gentlemen. Trees hide bugs. And trees provide safe harbor for birds. As you know, birds have no human decency about what they do to our cars. It is trees that give birds the cover to pursue their immoral pursuits. Trees are thugs; trees are criminals; trees are crooked; and when I am your President, I will lock them up.
Nature is dirty. Dirt gets on your shoes. It gets on your new tires. It seeps into your house and lays around on your floors. Dirt corrupts people who can’t protect themsleves. There is a primitive tribe who speak a foreign language—short, simple-minded people; they’re called children. These people will pour water on dirt, mix it around with their naked fingers—I have seen it with my own eyes—these people will put their tiny muddy hands on your pants. I will not allow Nature to spew mud onto innocent pants. Dirt is crummy; dirt is cruddy; dirt is dirty; and when I am your President, I will lock it up.
Nature is devious. It has spiders, which build cobwebs, which you can’t see, until they get all over your face, and they cause you to smack yourself on the head, trying to get them off. Nature has lizards that dart across your path when you clearly have the right-of-way. These illegally-darting lizards cause you to squeal, and jump, and twist your ankle, as you try to prevent your foot from touching them and catching lizard germs. Nature has flowers that smell so sweet that you stick your nose into them, and end up with your nose sneezing all its contents onto your sleeve. Nature is sneaky; nature is tricky; nature is shifty; and when I am your President, I will lock it up.
Our opponents claim the Anti-Nature party is unnatural. They claim the Anti-Nature party is too anti. They claim the party is a mouthpiece for realtors and vacuum cleaner salesmen. I will tell you this about all the nonsense they say the Anti-Nature party is: It depends on what the meaning of the word is is.
Ladies and gentlemen, on election day, vote pro-choice. Choose room service over picnics. Slippers over sneakers. Treadmills over trails. Vote Anti-Nature. Thank you and good night.