The Hot Flash by Claire Acerno

The shit about getting older is not that you get tired at four in the afternoon, or that your face starts to look like it’s melting, or that you can’t remember what you knew five minutes ago, or that you work out five days a week just to look like the very worst version you imagined yourself at when you were twenty five, or the eyes that you used to be able to thread a needle in the dark with, now need reading glasses to see your own face in the mirror. Or when you check out a cute random guy you realize you’re about twenty five years older than that person and you are now that old perv, or… I could go on and on but you get the point.
When I was a kid I thought “the change” was the sole cause of older women’s misery. My only knowledge of “the change” was so mysterious so taboo. When I was around ten years old the menopause monster took my mom and left some psycho, crazy lady in her place, my real mother never to be seen again. Ooooooooooo scary. But really when put it in perspective with all the other stuff that’s happening to you as you get older menopause is not THAT bad, just one more thing. The experience shouldn’t be kept in the dark… younger women and men should know what ‘s the what.
Here’s one story, mine…
I wake up at three thirty AM, sweating my titties off. I throw off my covers, strip off my tee shirt and sit at the edge of the bed. In about a minute the heat rises higher and hotter, like a symphony orchestra hitting its crescendo. I can feel cool air all around me but it won’t seep in; little flutes blowing their sweet tune but offer nothing to the pounding melody. I wipe the sweat from my forehead and from in-between my titties. I wait another two minutes the strings reverberations mellow out, the music stops, quiet. The hot flash is over. I lay back down, one over from the sweat spot and pull up my covers.
I am thankful that my husband is not snoring. All my life up until this thing started I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I could sleep through a thunderstorm, or an earthquake or my husband’s lion snores. But now, whoosh, flash boom, I’m up. I’m sure this is why a lot of older couples end up having separate bedrooms. If I were solo I could reach for a remote or turn on the light and read. Separate bedrooms are just weird though. Sleeping next to my old snory-schnozoli has always been my favorite thing about being married.
A trivial matter spins in my head now, the flowers in my back yard. I had planted them with my granddaughter about three weeks ago; they had been raked up unbeknownst to my gardener today. When I noticed this mistake earlier this morning it was a non-issue. Humph, oh well, was all I thought. Now the subject looms big and urgent. Those tiny little sprouts so sweet, so hopeful. It was our bonding ritual, I’d give Olive the watering can and we’d walk outside and check their progress. Her little two-year old hand in mine, the innocent anticipation of life coming into bloom, simple, yet so magical. I go round and round with the thoughts of our little aborted flowers. Crazy thoughts that take momentum; a train speeding downhill, loud and unstoppable. I wonder what I’ll tell her and how she’ll take it…  I should’ve warned the gardener, how careless of me, I wonder if the sprouts are in the green garbage cans and I can replant them, I wonder if I can buy grown sunflowers and stick them in the ground, I wonder if I shouldn’t say anything at all.…
On and on and on. I try praying, meditating, chanting but to no avail. There is definitely something wrong with my brain. I feel for the freaks that turn the light switches off and on a hundred and one times before they go out the door. I am one. OCD. It is 4:43 am.
I imagine going down to the garden in the moonlight and lying in the cool dirt, face down, breathing in its fragrance, digging my toes deep and inhaling nature’s secrets. My one leg taking root as I grow, reaching up as the earth sends its wisdom in my trunk; my brain opens up to the wide sky where all knowledge enters me. The elements siphoning me their silent genius. The sun grows me tall. My granddaughter holds my outstretched hand as she flies in the air like a kite. Wisdom from my connection to earth flows through her body as she looks over the clouds to her glorious future written there.
I am nutty as a fruitcake, or a sunflower, with these images of dirt and nakedness going round my skull. Am I mad? Maybe I’m not certifiable, suppose these hot flashes are a godsend? Maybe I’m just getting closer to the end of this life, not close enough for me to be resigned, but further from the beginning when time was only a song by the Rolling Stones, not the mother jumper who messes with me now. Here I am fifty-one, I’m finally awake, something is trying to get my attention with a story that won’t stop. A metaphor for life, death, middle age, passing knowledge from one generation to the next.
The next day Olive came to visit, I told her about our sunflowers, she didn’t bat an eyelash. We were out in the front yard and she pointed to the big red and purple flowers that lined the walkway and said “Nan, look! There are lot’s of flowers here that the gardener didn’t rake up.” Like a child in the dark, who sees monsters in shadows and shapes only to be wronged by morning’s sunlight. My midnight rantings, my insanity, it was all made up. Just a hot flash, no biggie. Olive’s already got the chalk and is coloring on the sidewalk. I know my granddaughter will be fine, I will be fine. Life is good. And I should probably consider buying a book light.
Claire offers the following bio: I lead a boring life with my husband and youngest son, who is now thirteen. I have three grown children, all whom I adore. I love to dance, Don’t like to take life too seriously, except when I do. I plan on starting to work when my husband retires. I think I have something left in me to go around. Just not after 7pm, I like to go to bed early.