Until recently I did not take mid-life crisis seriously. It was not something discussed or taught in my psychology classes. It appeared to me to be one of those popular myths the media promotes and profits from. According to Wikipedia 15% of middle age adults experience “a period of dramatic self-doubt … as a result of sensing the passing of their own youth and the imminence of their old age.” In recent months I have been made aware of the pain and suffering caused by men who fear growing old and who in the selfish pursuit of their own desires and pleasure discard their wives and family. Men who have recovered from a mid-life crisis say during the crisis they questioned why they are here and what is the meaning of their lives. Once they come to terms with their mortality the crisis is resolved.
My own observations suggest that this type of crisis may occur at any time during adulthood and would be better described as an existential crisis. I have since read two popular books about the topic and have concluded it is the cause of many divorces. It is frequently triggered by the death of a parent or the diagnosis of a chronic or life threatening illness. Men appear to be especially prone to this type of crisis. Perhaps childrearing responsibilities help protect women from fearing old age. I don’t know.
I do know that while I have gone through and resolved spiritual crisises triggered by being sexually molested, I have not gone through a textbook style midlife crisis. That is, I do not fear old age. It is just another stage of life with its own opportunities and pitfalls. Any fear of death I may have had was completely erased in 1985 after I was a victim of a hit and run accident.
It was a beautiful May day. My husband was working that evening and my kids were particularly well behaved. “You guys have been so good,” I told my kids, “Why don’t we go to the Brentwood Five and Dime.” I loaded my eight and ten year old into the car and drove to Brentwood. When we got there the store was closed. I had gotten so spoiled by the mall I had forgotten this was a traditional mom and pop. They were closed on Mondays.
“Don’t worry,” I told my kids. “We will just go to the mall.”
I approached the exit. The light was red so I waited until it turned green. When the light changed I slowly accelerated. I could not have been going more than five miles per hour when I heard the first crash. “What the hell?” I thought. “What was that?” Then the car started to spin out of control. “Oh, my God,” I thought, “Lyndon (my husband) is going to be mad.”
As the car spun in a clockwise direction I desperately tried to remember which child was sitting on that side of my car. Which of my two children was dead? Then I heard a crash on the left side. Oh, it doesn’t matter, I thought. Both kids are dead. I felt a deep inconsolable grief as my car started to tip over. We are all going to die. Who is going to take of Lyndon? Then miraculously we landed right side up. My daughter started screaming. I felt relief. She was alive but what about my son? Stop screaming, I thought. I can’t think. Was my son dead? I was afraid to look but knew I had to. Bystanders were racing around the car trying to open the car doors. My seat belt had me pinned to the back of my seat. I pressed the red button and pulled the belt off of me and turned. Both children were alive. Dazed I opened my door and stumbled onto the pavement. Passerby’s rushed pass me and pulled both of my kids out and sat them
down on the curb.
“He’s leaving,” a black woman standing in the middle of the road said.
“Who?” I asked. My eyeglasses had fallen off while we are spinning around but I could see a black sedan back away from my car and turn down the
side street. “Get his license plate,” I said to the black woman. A man in a suit identified himself as a volunteer fireman. “The police have been called. “
“Why did he leave?” I asked.
“He is probably intoxicated or stoned,” the fireman said.
“Oh,” Not sure what to do I went over to my kids and sat next to them. A cop handed me my bag and my eyeglasses after he found my license.
We all survived. My son just looked liked someone had beaten him up but our seat belts saved our lives.
A week later I drove my daughter to her dance class. On my way back to our house I was brooding about the accident. What if my children
had died? What if I had died? What if my kids survived and I didn’t? Oh, my God, I thought. Who would take care of them and my husband if I died? I looked ahead and there in the sky I saw it. I can’t explain it or describe it. It wasn’t a thing that you see with your eyes like a car or a house. The clouds – God was there spreading his wings. I would always be able to care for my family even if I died. I would spread my arms from heaven and protect them forever. A sense of peace filled me.
Since that day death does not frighten me. I know my family and I will be safe for all eternity.
That is why I do not fear death and old age. I look at my hands. They are getting knarled and wrinkled like my maternal grandmother’s hands. I loved my grandmother’s hands. They were so interesting with their wrinkles and crevices. I would trace the veins. Now my hands are becoming as beautiful as my
grandmother’s. I feel good. I feel safe.
When I look in the mirror I see my gray hair and my grandmother’s face staring back smiling. I am beautiful. My face is becoming wizened. That is good. I wouldn’t have it any other way. No plastic surgery. No hair dye. I will grow old and wise just like my grandmother.
Old age is a new adventure, a new challenge. It is an opportunity to perfect Maggie.To become more me. To draw closer to God. To share my hard earned wisdom with those younger than myself. I am not afraid. Old age is going to be the best part of the journey. When it is time God will welcome me home.