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Lions Roar : July 2009
63 SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2009 ➢ page 99 someone else’s pain/my own pain. But i had to step back in order for others to step in. now other people were helping Julia. Months later, i encountered a remnant of things past when Julia left a message asking me for help with her taxes. i lived through a thousand angry scenarios before i called her back. i was the shell-shocked veteran ready to hit the dirt at the sight of a trash bag fluttering by the side of the road. Sometimes it was only a trash bag; sometimes it was an ied. this time, it was only a trash bag. Julia was amazingly san- guine about my filing her tax return. She wanted control, but she also wanted someone to take care of her problems. the pendulum continued to swing, more slowly now that i saw her less often. She was pleased with me one time, angry the next. We enjoyed an evening at the theater. then i returned from vacation to three increasingly furious phone messages: Julia said she had been outed as a lesbian and that she needed to leave the retirement com- munity. Why was i ignoring her? She hung up on me when i called her back. Once again, i was left with the toxic detritus of her rage. new england fall colors Sunlight shines on brilliant orange trees along a country road. Julia’s goddaughter decided to move her up to connecticut to be near her. i felt sad and relieved. this was what i wanted, and yet i wished i could have helped Julia the way i’d set out to do. the goddaughter said she couldn’t bear to think of Julia fading away alone in north carolina. it tortured both of us. you were damned if you helped her and damned if you didn’t. as the plans for the move progressed and it slowly became a reality, there was a seismic shift in my own psyche. from this new vantage point, the person who had taken responsibility for Julia’s sorrows was a stranger, and clearly someone with bound- ary issues. i saw my place in our dynamic—how my stepping in, taking responsibility, trying to control a disaster—had given Julia someone to rebel against. the energy left my anger, like air escaping from a balloon. On a fall day, we were driving past oaks and maples, gum trees and sycamores in shades of red and yellow. “that’s what should happen to old people,” Julia said. “We should turn different col- ors as we age. Wouldn’t that be lovely?” We saw corneille’s The illusion at the local repertory theater. Julia didn’t understand the plot but enjoyed the lighting and the staging. She still loved the look of the world, even though she couldn’t understand what it was saying.