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Angry orchid.  Photo by Julie Seyler

Seething orchid. Photo by Julie Seyler


The other week, I was awakened in the middle of the night from a dream about a raging argument I was having with my uncle, who died in February. The argument was about his mother, who had died 30 years ago this coming August. It was so disturbing – I could not go back to sleep.

The man spent his life complaining of the hardships his widowed mother created for him and his family. Much of the time I was growing up, my uncle’s family was on the West Coast, and my grandmother had been my mother’s problem for decades.

I got along with this grandmother, so when my mother died, I gladly took over her care. Yet my uncle continued to complain about his mother, including paying for her grave, when he and his wife moved back east.

I consider myself a rational person. I thought I had worked through my anger at various family members over the years. But with my uncle’s passing, it seems I didn’t resolve anything.

Anger is a terrible thing. I’ve had a hard time controlling it since I was a child. It has gotten me into trouble many times over the years. When something doesn’t make sense to me, I question. When something seems downright stupid to me, I question and disparage. This would make me popular with peers, but not with figures of authority, including parents and supervisors. (Questioning is great for being a journalist, but makes one a lousy employee.)

So over the years, I’ve learned to channel my anger by taking myself to the woods where I can concentrate on other things – the lovely day, making sure I am still on the trail, not tripping over tree roots and rocks.

But mainly I concentrate on the birds I might find overhead and underfoot. When I am out in the field, the only thing that angers me is myself for not finding the bird I hear singing to identify it.

Now I wonder if I am have only avoided the issue.

As I get older, I admit to being glad I have no children to resent me for unintentional or intentional actions. However, I also don’t have children to take care of me as I age – as my parents, grandmother and uncle did. What happens when my husband and I can no longer take care of ourselves and our house?

Aging and the money scare the hell out of me. Makes me angry, too. I doubt I’ll have the kind of retirement my parents had, and my husband’s parents continue to enjoy in their 80s. They take their trips, they go to concerts with their friends, and family checks on them.

Is this why I woke from screaming at my dead uncle about his dead mother in the middle of the night, my fear and anger at something over which I have no control? Probably. I will have to keep working at it.