When my mother was several years younger than I am now and she felt warmer than she thought she logically should be or, for that matter, displayed any number of symptoms, she’d sigh in this resigned way and utter in her slow Oklahoma drawl, “I guess I’m going through the Change.” That’s Change with a capital “C.”
At that point I’d abandoned my hometown of Oklahoma City and gone to school in California. The first time I recall her saying this was after my freshman year of college, and I really didn’t know what she was talking about. I’m a pretty straightforward person who doesn’t bother with euphemisms. When people are no longer living, I say they are dead—none of this passing on business for me. I never got a “visit from my Aunt Flo.” I got my period. Period.
Which segues me right back into Mom’s constant proclamations that she was going through the Change. All I know is that her transformation seemed to be taking a long time. I heard about it every time I was home for the summer until I graduated. And when I got my first apartment in Oakland and Mom came to visit, she still wasn’t done. In fact, I’m pretty sure she still hadn’t passed that milestone when I got married. Of course, she was only 49 then, so it’s conceivable that she had not yet crossed that bridge, but I wasn’t versed in the ways of menopause because it was so far in my own future as to seem irrelevant. I guess I don’t actually know when she technically went through menopause.
When I was a child, Mom was at home. She was always first in line to pick me up from school. She was the assistant coach for my sister’s softball team. She sewed dresses for me, drove us kids to piano and guitar lessons, and had dinner on the table every night at 6:00.
But while I was away, she became active in the Oklahoma Women’s Indian Federation and rose in the ranks to become president—this from a woman who rarely mentioned her Choctaw blood the whole time I was growing up in her house.
And she became an advocate for rape survivors, which means that when a rape was reported, she was called in to be with the victim and explain her rights and options before, during, and after she was examined. Mom held the hands of a lot of traumatized women in pain and shock. And if the survivor chose to testify at trial, she’d accompany her.
Mom also taught herself how to use a computer and got her GED. She took up beading, went to powwows, and probably did a lot of other things I didn’t even know about.
On second thought, maybe when I went off to college, she did go through Changes with a capital “C.” And she just kept evolving. Maybe she never was talking about menopause…