In honor of the fast slide towards a half-century that I am doing at the moment, and back by popular request, I give you the following:
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 refinanced the house to pay for my highlights.
And let’s not even discuss the whole Body versus Gravity thing. Gravity won, back when we were all partying like it was 1999. The only saving grace is that 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, and these things, like hair color, can be had for roughly the same price as a used Toyota. 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. It was so loud, I remember thinking, Wow, I can actually feel the music in my brain… and …that rattling sound is my temporal lobe self-destructing.
When I began seminary last 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 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 and thought I was rude for ignoring them.
So I’ve resigned myself to fighting the good fight on behalf of my hair, letting go of the hope that any part of my corpus will ever be perky ever again, and have become accustomed to only hearing what’s said on my right. But just when I thought it was safe to look in the mirror…
I realized I couldn’t see.
So 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 a Thanks for stopping by; we’ll see you in ten years!
“I’m sure it’s just that I’m tired,” I said to the doctor, who was peering intently into my soul while flipping lenses like Tigger on crack.
“One or two?” he said, ignoring my helpfulness. Flip, flip, flip. “Three or four?”
“Umm, four?” I guessed. “I think I read too much. That’s what it is,” I said, mentally disparaging a few of my professors for assigning so much material.
“Five, or six?” Flip, flip, flip. “Now again, one or two? Three or four?”
“Uhh, okay, well, I’ll go with three. Was that a choice? I’m not really a numbers person. But hey, listen, I 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 stopped flipping the lenses long enough to pull his head from behind the refractor and look at me. I was expecting him to say Yes, you are exactly right, now just toddle off to CVS, but instead he said, with all the bedside manner of the Grim Reaper, “The problem is that your eyes are as old as you are.”
What the flying hell?!?
I mean, logically and all, I know that’s true — these are the eyes I came with — but my first instinct was to rare back and clock him, then stand over his body, maybe spit on his face for emphasis, and smash my fist against my palm. “Don’t tell me about my eyes. You don’t know me! You don’t know what I’ve seen!”
But instead I just nodded meekly. He said, “You need bifocals,” and then rolled around on his little stupid 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 some more magic drops in, and I stumbled my way back to the waiting area, my eyes doing a kaleidoscope thing like Kaa from the Jungle Book.
Thirty minutes later, during which I sent a couple of completely illegible and 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 like ten thousand suns, and all I could make out was lumps — which I assumed were other people, but which may well have been furniture.
I turned to my daughter, who was guiding me like Teacher taking Helen Keller to the well.
“Help me,” I begged.
“I will,” she scratched on my palm.
So I had no idea what my glasses, which I was scheduled to pick up a week later, were going to look like. Nor did 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 that night, still half-blind but safely ensconced in my recliner (which I’d purchased a few months earlier, when sitting upright like a homosapien seemed to be WAY beyond the realm of realistic expectations), 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.
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!