The Last Dance
years. We grew up in Hanover, where my father was the dean of Dartmouth College.
We were ski racers. Sally was on the Olympic team. But I was having my third baby, so I was never in the Olympics.
One of the best things that ever happened to me was to be with Sally before she died. I was retired from the legislature and Malcolm and I went around the world. I would have been so horrified if Sally had died when I was around the world. When I got to California, she was dying of cancer. I couldn't do anything about her dying, except to be there with her. I have discovered that half of the grief about death is guilt. I didn't have any guilt when Sally died. I stayed with her for two and a half months. When she died, I wasn't sad.
"How do you feel about losing your memory?" I ask my mother next.
Well, I feel my life is over. I feel good about the life I've led. But I really feel that life is over now.
My mother had accepted the death of her twin sister. Now she is accepting the fact that her own life—a good, productive, meaningful life—is coming to an end. She is ready to let go. I am beginning to see the wisdom of her philosophy. During the week, I'm an adoption lawyer and a lobbyist in the New Hampshire legislature, and on the weekends, I am a soccer mom. My sons, Zach, 13, and Travis, 10, have games every Saturday and Sunday during the fall. Rather than getting stressed out by my schedule, I try to work on the "Zen of the Soccer Mom," following my mother's example of living in the present and appreciating what life has to offer.
"How did you feel when you were ski racing against Sally?" I wonder.
"I preferred for her to win," she replies. "I had a boyfriend and she didn't," she says proudly, pointing at the picture of my father.
Malcolm was the captain of the Dartmouth ski team. When I was a freshman at Mount Holyoke, I won the Women's Eastern Ski Championships. I was president of my freshman class. Then in the spring I became pregnant, so I married Malcolm. He was a Rhodes Scholar. He said he didn't want to go to England for two years without me. He had been a prisoner of war. He didn't want to be alone ever again. And so, there it was.
So I became a mother, for years and years and years. I grew up at Dartmouth, where there was a difference in how you were treated if you were a woman. Then I had five babies. He didn't use any birth control or anything, so I had five babies. I just did them and that was it. Robin was the oldest. I have not ever said this. Do you think Robin knows that I was pregnant?
My mother looks concerned as she addresses this question to me. "I think she does now," I reassure her, "but not when she was growing up." Momma seems relieved.
The first day, they brought me the baby in the morning. I just looked at her. They said, "You are going to nurse her." I said, "I don't know anything about nursing." And they said, "She's your baby, not ours!" I've never forgotten that. I nursed all my babies.
I nursed Alan right up to when he was nine months old. I had been in bed with two broken legs from a ski accident the year before. When I got pregnant again, the doctor offered me an abortion but I said no. I was pregnant on crutches right up to the time Alan was born.
I'm amazed by my mother's candor. I can't imagine being a mother at 19 or having four babies in six years, let alone being pregnant with two broken legs. "What did you think about mothering?" I ask.