During these past months of tribulation and isolation, many of us “of a certain age” feel that perhaps we have been robbed of a year of our lives. The isolation and the lack of social contact have been painful. The pandemic has stolen a big segment of our lives.
During this time in “suspension,” I have spent hours thinking about my own legacy. Have I done enough, accomplished enough? Has this “lost year” been simply weeks of nothing but reading books and watching television, interspersed with laundry folding and looking out of the windows?
What will people remember me for?
I remember attending the funeral of a woman who was known to be unpleasant. She was accomplished, and she did a lot of things in her life–work in the community, church choir, volunteering. She kept busy and was well known in the community. But she was a virago.
I was brought up short at her funeral. After the minster gave the customary glowing but generic remembrance, her son went to the pulpit to eulogize her, and he obviously had a struggle coming up with positive things to say about his deceased mother. He looked around at the folks in the pews, cleared his throat, and told us that the thing he most remembered about her was that she always made really good Sunday dinners. Chili was mentioned, as I recall.
There wasn’t a ripple in the congregation, but I felt as if I had been hit by lightning. What would my children say about me at my funeral? Would they have to resort to saying how much I liked cats? Would they say I made a good tuna sandwich?
I have felt at a loss this past year, as I have not been very productive. I wander around the apartment, looking for projects. I color my own hair now, and do my own manicures. I have a book going, but not well. My mind is full of politics, pandemic concerns, and thoughts of my own legacy.
I never knitted a sweater. I didn’t bake anything from scratch. I was never a room mother. I fell asleep reading bedtime stories. I was never known for my patience.
But I loved my children and supported them, from speech tournaments to horse shows. I sat in waiting rooms, signed permission slips for tattoos, and kept my mouth shut about dubious boyfriends.
I wrote things. Those things turned into books. I gave some talks, tried to be inspiring, and most certainly failed. I wasted a lot of time daydreaming. I furnished at least a hundred different homes in my imagination, and even traveled by myself. I fell in love with New York, and wrote part of a book in the New York Public Library.
I stood by my friends, some of whom did not stand by me. I remained true to my marriage, despite many difficult times. I made a salad every night to go along with dinner. I did a lot of hugging.
But when I read about people like Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, or read a book written by Margot Livesey or Ursula K. Le Guin, I feel deflated, less-than. What have I been doing with my time, for heaven’s sake?
It’s something that haunts me. At my funeral, all I can hope for is that nobody will remember me for my tuna sandwiches.