I don’t remember when I got old. One day I was young and had full control of my faculties, and the next day I was dribbling a can of Ensure down the front of my shirt on the way home from a colonoscopy.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still fighting the good fight. I still allocate the GDP of a developing nation every few weeks to have chemicals poured on my head in an effort to get some color — any color — other than gray to stick. But it’s an exasperating process, and the results are short lived. The last time I left the salon, there were grays poking through by the time I hit the parking lot. So why don’t I just let nature have her way with me? I’ve got friends who’ve done it and look amazing with gorgeous gray hair. But every time I consider it, I chicken out.
And let’s not even discuss the whole Body versus Gravity thing. Gravity won, somewhere around the turn of the century (That’s this century, not the 20th century, you snarky assbadger! I can read your thoughts from here, and I will remind you that I am old, but not THAT old.) Happily, the military industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about in 1961 gifted the world with numerous tensile fabrics that help hoist, harness, and hitch our various parts back to a rough approximation of where they used to be. God Bless America and the entire Lycra industry!
The other thing that started circling the drain about five years ago was my hearing, but I blame Pink Floyd for that. Specifically, a concert in 1987, when I was caught up in a crowd surging the stage and ended up smashed against a speaker trying to avoid the brawl that erupted. (You have to be impressed by the aggression of the crowd, given that 99% of them were stoned out of their gourds. They were Comfortably Numb…just not so numb that they couldn’t throw punches.) It was so loud, I remember thinking, Wow, I can actually feel the music in my brain…
When I began seminary in the fall, I sat way to the right side of the main classroom. It took me a long time to figure out that the reason I thought the class was so god-awful quiet was because I can’t hear diddly out of my left ear, and there was an AC unit humming on my right. I moved to the middle of the room and that helped, but I still missed almost all of what was said to my left over the course of the year, which is a shame, because some really smart people sat on that side.
So I’ve resigned myself to fighting on behalf of my hair, let go of the notion of ever having anything on my corpus be perky ever again, and have even come to terms with being partially deaf. But just when I thought it was safe to look in the mirror…
I realized I couldn’t see.
Yesterday, I hauled myself off to the eye doctor, after trying for months to make out the date on my watch, the numbers on the clock, and the signs on the highway. I did everything I could to make it possible for the doctor to send me home with just a thanks for stopping by, and come back when there’s a real problem.
“I’m sure it’s just that I’m tired,” I said, helpfully.
The doctor ignored me.
“I read too much. That’s what it is,” I said, mentally disparaging one of my professors for assigning so much material.
The doctor didn’t respond.
“I’ll bet some reading glasses from the drugstore would help,” I said, in a final attempt to help the doctor do his job, nice person that I am.
He pulled his head from behind the refractor and looked at me. I was expecting him to say Yes, you are right, now just toddle off to CVS, but instead he said coldly, “The problem is that your eyes are as old as you are.”
What the hell?!
I mean, logically and all, I know that’s true, but my first instinct was to rare back and clock him, then stand over his lifeless body, maybe spit on his face for emphasis, and smash my fist against the palm of my hand, growling, “Don’t tell me about my eyes. You don’t know me! You don’t know my life!”
But instead I just nodded meekly. He said, “You need bifocals,” and then rolled around on his little wheelie stool to put a couple drops of what felt like sulphuric acid in each eyeball.
After my retinas stopped burning and the doctor finished shining a klieg light into the innermost depths of my brain, he put more drops in. I stumbled my way back to the waiting area, my eyes now doing a kaleidoscope thing like Kaa from the Jungle Book.
Thirty minutes later, during which I sent a couple of nonsensical texts, as blind people are wont to do, a woman came and got me. “Let’s go pick out some frames!” she chirped, as if I’d been waiting all my life for that invitation.
Now, I’ve never worked in an optometrist or ophthalmologist’s office, but there seems to be a flaw in the logic of having someone pick out frames when their eyes are dilated like a fucking marsupial. I couldn’t see at all. The light from the windows was blinding, and all I could make out was lumps — which I took to be other people, but which may well have been tables and chairs.
I turned to my daughter, who was guiding me like Teacher taking Helen Keller to the well.
“Help me,” I said.
“I will,” she scratched on my palm.
So I have no idea what my glasses, which I’ll pick up next week, are going to look like. Nor do I know what was on the receipt I signed at the doctor’s office, or at the restaurant we went to afterwards in an attempt to let my pupils return to normal size before I Mister Magoo’d us back up the mountain.
And at some point last night, still half-blind and lounging in the recliner I bought a few months ago when sitting upright seemed to be way too much of a challenge, I officially gave up.
My youth is gone.
I need to face the facts: I’m a middle-aged half-deaf bifocal-wearing gravity-stricken gray-haired trainwreck who still hasn’t written the damn paper on W.H.Auden.
And that’s okay.
‘Cause all my friends are, too.
No, ha ha! That was a joke. My friends are all vibrant, gorgeous, witty and whip-smart. I’d hate them all if I didn’t love them so desperately.
But it’s okay that I’m a wreck, and the reason it’s okay is threefold:
- As the outside falls apart, the inside gets stronger. Weird how that happens.
- I am confident that the good Lord knows me and loves me, despite all the stuff I do that must make him alternately weep and cringe.
- As the Desiderata says so beautifully, I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, and I have a right to be here.
And what’s even better? Those things are all true about you, too.