When my mother was the age I am now, she had open heart surgery. This means that a surgeon cut through her breast bone, opened the rib cage and had it held open for a couple hours while repairs were done to the tubing bringing blood to her heart. She had a triple by-pass. This means three tubes needed to be re-opened so that her heart could continue to function. This was one of the culminations of almost 30 years of adult onset diabetes. Having just delivered my first child and focused on this growing bundle of life, the significance of this event in my mother's life was only partially understood.
It was not until my own major surgery fifteen years later that there was deeper understanding. In our bodies, it is not just the brain that perceives, responds and holds memory. Experience is held in every organ, every cell, even every atom in the body. Some call it pain, others discomfort, still others do not understand their unaccountable fear or sensitivity to needles, smells, situations (such as hospital rooms).
Surgery for removal of reproductive organs at a time when child-bearing is past should be no big deal. It's not like an arm or a leg - which we are told feels like it's always there. But the body remembers traumas. Anaesthesia feels like falling into a black hole - have it too often and I suspect the black hole will be permanent. Even donated blood has a feeling. For me, it was something feral, yes wild. Are the memories of the donor somehow fused into me?
But pleasures are also remembered, and surely held more firmly in the body and blood than pain. Probably the reason that a woman can bear to have more than one child. The traumas of birth are over-ridden - though not forgotten.
My mother's heart was never completely whole again. The other insidious effects of diabetes which were never corrected or balanced, took their toll. How do I make up for loss in my own body? So many compensations, balancing activities, even lifestyle changes have been adopted - are they ever enough? Does mortality - in the end - have its own attractions?