by Mark Wood
Age 55. Newfoundland, Canada
My purpose in life evolves and adapts according to circumstances. The same way my dog would acquire a new name as their life unfolds. They start off with a puppy name and after 14 years they’ve earned a slew of affectionate identities. Sweet, honourable, sufferin’ dyin’, Dame Judy Denche, Lulee the friggin’ Bee…for example. Or Yoda, Snoot Bear, Thunderhead. Yeah, my purpose is a lot like that.
Or Yoda, Snoot Bear, Thunderhead. Yeah, my purpose is a lot like that.
As a teenager, my identity was defined by being a classically trained musician and an athlete. I enjoyed the thrill of performing in an orchestra to large audiences and some notoriety representing my province as a tower diver. By the time I finished high school I was teaching swimming and playing in a rock band on the weekends. I really got through to people teaching swimming. It’s about communication and trust with visible results. I got a lot of satisfaction from that. A tremendous amount of self worth. Playing music in bars is always a blast, people admire and enjoy the spectacle. My purpose in those days was teaching and entertainment.
When I was twenty one I became a deep sea diver and worked in Mexico. Safety hadn’t been invented yet and half the guys in the company I worked for died when an oil rig sank off the coast of Newfoundland. My purpose was survival and adapting in the workforce. I took a job in a university bookstore and enjoyed the safe, menial task of helping people find their books. After a couple of months I realized the best part of the job was the vast amount of knowledge in books surrounding me. I set out to read the store alphabetically…anthropology, business, chemistry, classics, english, and so on…
At thirty I got married and devoted myself to raising two sons. My purpose was to be a good husband and father. I didn’t think I would be any use until they could have a conversation but I saw that they really could communicate within a couple of months. This was a new version of me and I was determined to do it right.
I always told them the truth. Son, there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. Play along with everybody else though, don’t ruin it for them. You can make up your own mind about God. Oh, one more thing…there’s a car on the moon. By the time my eldest when to kindergarden he knew more about the world than most people. I asked him what he expected to learn on his first day and he said…hydraulics and stuff. I told him not to get his hopes up, it might be a while before the topic comes up.
Son, there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy… You can make up your own mind about God. Oh, one more thing…there’s a car on the moon.
After twenty years of marriage, my wife left in spectacular fashion, abandoning everything. I told my sons that there was more love to go around because it was only split three ways now instead of four. We came up with a chant…Who makes the rules? We do! What are the rules? There are no rules! It empowered us. They still went to bed on time, went to school and I learned to cook. We named our house Do What You Wantsville and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves for a couple of years. I lost the house in the divorce, took my share of the cash and we moved in with my Mom. We call her Fresca Nan because she loves Fresca and is also a 70’s icon.
We settled in well with Mom. She felt secure with her son and two grandsons around. She also loved my ancient Husky dog, Zasso, aka Ash, Gwarlicus, Stumblina, Pretty and Prancy. Her passing last December was an outpouring of love and memories. Being the main man of the family I was the one to take her final trip to the vet.
In January, mom tried to sneak out of the house early one morning in an ambulance. Lungs filling with fluid, slowly drowning. She didn’t want to wake anybody. The paramedics gave her oxygen and stabilized her. I caught up with her within half an hour at the hospital, resting with an oxygen mask on.
I squeezed her hand, she looked up, took off her mask and said…there’s a casserole in the oven. I dismissed the notion. She squeezed my hand tighter and said…listen, there’s meat defrosting in the sink. I want you to put it in the fridge. By then I just played along. Thanks Mom, that’s all I came here for. She smiled, told me she was in good hands and wanted me to leave. I thought we almost lost her.
After a battery of tests it was determined that she needed a heart valve replaced and another one repaired. (All under warranty, now there’s a health care system that works.) I saw her every day while she was in hospital and I lost sleep. The night before the surgery I wondered if I’d lose her and actually have to grow up. She was delusional from the anesthetic for two days after the surgery and I wondered if she’d ever snap out of it. She regained her Fresca Nan marbles and began recovering in hospital.
I really miss me. I’ve learned from loss that…as high as you go is as low as you go…The reverse is true as well…as low as you go is as high as you will go.
Fresca Nan came home and I nursed her back to health. Within a couple of weeks, my girlfriend left me. That was a loss for four months. My body and mind just quit. I stopped eating and sleeping. Under those conditions the body acts like a cornered wild animal and produces a fight or flight steroid. It’s called glucocorticoid and essentially just burns body fat. I lived off that for a month while my unhungry stomach growled and burned in waves. A series of stress events is called compound stress and has been recently classified as a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A week ago I finally emerged from my room. My purpose now is to exercise enough to get hungry, tired enough to sleep and find out what makes me happy. I think making other people happy makes me happy. I really miss me. I’ve learned from loss that…as high as you go is as low as you go. It’s a compliment of our capacity for love. The reverse is true as well…as low as you go is as high as you will go.
I’m due for a serious, delirious amount of love and happiness.