It’s My Time

By Francine Garson

The years of changing diapers, easing little hurts with band-aids and kisses, and checking math homework, are over for me. My adult children are self-supporting college graduates. Yahoo! We speak often, and I feel welcomed and included in their very busy lives. I love them, and I like them too. Working part-time allows me the freedom to write, read and take piano lessons, because I want to this time around. I am married to a wonderful man whose biggest fault is loud snoring, and a twenty dollar investment in a white noise machine has made even that tolerable. I have a heady sense of newfound freedom and an exciting notion that a new chapter in my life, one that will be written by me, is about to begin. Yes, it’s my time. Finally. Now.

But along with my exhilarating all-things-are-possible outlook, an unwanted guest has arrived. I did know that he/she/it would be coming. Yet I didn’t prepare and ignored the signs of its impending arrival. My own plans and wishes have become irrelevant. An uninvited alien called menopause has taken up residence in my previously predictable and dependable body.

As a younger woman, I scoffed at an aunt’s complaints of violent hot flashes. Violent? How could a change in body temperature be called violent? But as I now know, the sudden explosion of a furnace-like heat that begins deep within my chest and spreads to my scalp leaving me red-faced and helpless is fierce, savage and certainly violent. And although red and gold leaves drift to the ground, I keep a small desk fan at work and wear tank tops at home. I must apologize to my aunt…

A night of uninterrupted sleep is another casualty of menopause. Sudden rises in body temperature, leg cramps and a general insomnia are my nightly companions. I’ve tried to look at these extra hours of wakefulness as a gift of time. I could read, write or clean the house (well, maybe not that). However, I’ve found a huge difference between an inability to sleep and the energized feeling of being awake. So as I shift position and gaze at the bedside clock flashing 4:00 am, I’m not tempted by the last twenty pages of a novel, the notebook on my night table or the unwashed kitchen floor. I just want to SLEEP! And in what feels like mere moments after sleep finally does come, my unfailingly accurate alarm clock announces the arrival of a new day.

“Wake up,” I bark at my husband and push my face into my crumpled pillow.

So my uninvited guest has brought hot flashes, leg cramps, and insomnia to the formerly reliable and well-run home that my body has been. Of course I know that aging brings physical changes. I take an occasional Advil for the touch of arthritis that nags at my shoulder and pull out my reading glasses at restaurants. Chicken sorrentino or scarpariello? However, during any of the sometimes dramatic bodily transformations from puberty to pregnancy that I’ve experienced, I’ve always recognized myself. When my body morphed from that of a girl to a woman, I was still inside. When the gentle curve of my pre-pregnancy belly took on watermelon-like proportions, I was still in there. But in addition to playing some not-so-amusing games with my body, the menopause-alien has invaded my brain.

Whether in the classroom, during a game of Trivial Pursuit or when asked for the twelve-ingredient recipe for my mother’s lasagna, I have always been able to rely upon my infallible memory. Other people conducted frantic searches for misplaced keys and routinely apologized for forgotten birthdays. Not me. I remembered where things were, what needed to be done and who had to be called. But all of that has changed.

“Francine, you left the garage door open.”

“Mom, I’m waiting at the train station. Where are you?”

“Mrs. Garson, this is Dr. Nelson’s office. You failed to show up for your dental appointment.”

But I still remember the name of my fifth grade teacher…

Even more troubling than my short-term memory loss is the erratic pendulum that now controls my emotional state. My eyes fill when my husband calls my broccoli soufflé “a little dry.” A missing sock hidden somewhere within a folded stack of towels makes me shake with frustration, and a dropped water glass causes me to scream. When my call to an airline is answered with “All operators are assisting other customers,” I slam down the phone.

Then I take some deep breaths and repeat again and again…” It’s my time. It’s my time. Alien, go home!”

About this writer

  • Francine Garson A former college counselor and law school administrator, Francine Garson’s work has appeared in All Things Girl, Still Crazy, WorkLifeGroup.com, Writer Advice, and WritersType. Her flash fiction received a first place award from the League of American Pen Women in 2010.

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