Aging is interesting. Like a first pregnancy, it takes us into unfamiliar terrain, prompts new perspectives and is tinged with both excitement and fear. Last week I had a cardiac calcium scan, where they look for calcium buildup to gauge the heart risk of high cholesterol. I got a score of 200. Yikes! One website said I have the heart of a 78-year-old. (I’m 74.). Another site said a score of 200 indicated that, without some change, I would have a stroke or heart attack within the next three to five years. My doctor just said he wanted to start me on statins. Interesting… Several years back a brain scan indicated that my brain was shrinking and had white matter. Both scans put me deeply in touch with my mortality. The idea that my brain is shrinking was particularly disturbing. I’ve passed whatever apex I’ve aspired to and it’s all downhill from here! No one who knows me will be surprised. I find the heart business comforting. My family has two natural paths out of this life – heart attack and cancer. At age eighty-two, my paternal grandfather had a heart attack while driving in Wilmington and came to a stop against a telephone pole. No one else was injured. My father was eighty-five when he got up one morning, poured orange juice for himself and mom, sat down in his chair and died. If the statins keep me around for ten more years, a heart attack sounds just fine. Of course, none of this is known. At each doctor’s appointment, we work to continue in good health knowing that one day the other shoe will drop. It is not given to us to know the how or when. Scans only supply intimations. When I shared the cardiac scan info with my son, he said, “Mom, you have the heart of a lion.” How could I not adore this man!
Matter persists they say – not just the stain on your favorite sweater or the mole on your arm. Molecules themselves have endless lives in a material soap opera. This week one’s Christ, then Mozart then Charles Manson. That’s what they say. Descartes believed he thought hence he existed – something his laundress and wife doubted not his dirty socks evidence enough. Who would use his atoms next be thoughtful or obtuse a tree, a bird, a slug? I die therefore I live. We’re each on loan from earth’s library one size fits all pretty or dull, fast or slow joyful or sad. Cinderellas headed to the ball when the clock strikes twelve, we become someone else. Relentlessly frugal earth wastes nothing in its global recycling. So too must the light which animates us continue its journey becoming the sparkle in other eyes or the ache in another's heart.
Driving Route 73 in Knox County, I could eat the air: gobble stands of balsam nibble tidal wrack. A pickup speeds toward me. The seagull, busy with roadkill, is slow to rise. He’s smashed by the truck’s grill and bounces, dead, across my roof. Each day I see his body, white and inert, at roadside. So sudden the flight from life to stillness at the road’s edge.
All my life, in addition to manager, teacher, dog walker, night librarian, cleaner of tiles, rocker of babies, folder of laundry, dish washer extraordinaire, I wanted to be a writer. Women are rarely one thing. We can’t resist our innate talent for nesting, team building, nurturing, placing others before ourselves. This is our gift. Our hearts are larger than we know. We learn this by plumbing those depths in safety with women on similar treks. Not only can we write, speak, laugh, cry, loose old bonds which keep us tied, but we find, after many drafts, the titles we long sought rest in our own hands.
Before a war we think we know exactly how the war will go. Accountants happily project raised GDP and its effect. Predict each country will adopt a free economy and co-opt democracy who’ll bloom just like a desert rose but that is never how it goes. During war the News Hour lists each soldier whose return is missed and the places they called home, a soldier’s life reduced to loam. No locals named, not friend nor foe who is who? How can we know? The war drags on, a swamp, a mire repeating tours, souls under fire. It’s forgotten once we start wars pay for nothing not a part of their pile of pain and loss yet we ignore the total cost. Lives, limbs and minds are left behind. We're told the same lies every time. The goals and actions are a fake leave ravaged landscape in their wake. Once home, our soldiers dream the war and wonder what it all was for.
Why can’t we eat clouds? The tall white ones would be vanilla like Turkish taffy. Grey scudding clouds black as Necco wafers. Snow clouds pure as rock candy whose splinters of crystal melt on the tongue. Green tornado clouds taste darkly of Key West and Matcha tea. Dawn’s pink clouds are gossamer light as cotton candy at the church fair. Sunset cloud's tang colorful and sweet as Life Savers. How fine to dine on clouds and color.
A stranger stands ahead of me in line at the Post Office in a dusty black hat grey gauze hanging below its rim. Her neck, also dusty, is bent, the vertebrae like tiny peaks. An old black jacket hangs from her shoulders. As she stands in line, she tugs at the jacket to straighten it. Her worn black pants fall to just above the cast on her ankle. Gauze wraps that too. I am afraid to stand near her, hang back as the line moves forward. I cannot see her face but fear it may be ghastly. Her turn comes at the counter. I’m next. When I glance over, I recognize her. She is the gypsy I’ve seen here so often. Her dark penciled brows and bold rouged cheeks usually paired with dark skirts and tops. Today, hurt, she does not look herself. She leaves a suitcase by the door while she gets her mail. That task complete, she straightens her jacket, collects her suitcase and wheels it and her pain back into the world.
depositphotos_150954514_xl.jpegOctober 11, 2021
As I approach the river in the fog a heron takes flight, dark winged angel. “Good morning, Mom.” I say. Since her death, I greet each heron and feel blessed by the sighting. Mom’s love of nature saved my life. When sun sparkles on saltwater and I feel the wash of waves, Jamie, my summer brother, is near. As teens, we surfed September breakers then collapsed onto the sand laughing always laughing. All my old boyfriends are dead (except for the one I live with.) Maurie, lifted his 6’4” frame into the boat like a wet otter, his homely face offset by a quick wit. His farm town roots were exotic to this suburban girl. He believed withdrawal would work. Good thing we broke up. John, a handsome bad boy, drove his dad’s T-bird. He was my first male obsession. He rose at Jamie’s funeral to hug me, share our grief for old times, old backseats old friends. Ann died last year. Forty years of friendship, knitting and laughter. Each project and strange new style prompts me to call her. In New Mexico, when Linda decided to drive - Ann and I jumped in the back seat. I am still laughing.
When the tall stranger steps into my kitchen in his tux asks for coffee and brioche, I’ll slip up to my room don my gown, plait my hair curl with a favorite book in my reading chair. With wind brushing my skin soft music in the air, I won’t invite him in. But when his face appears, I’ll smile and say “Darling, I’ve been waiting here.”
A hundred questions cross my mind What was that song dad used to hum? What college did my mom attend? Where did Aunt Marge’s friend come from? I failed to ask or make a note of many things while they were here just within reach alive and near. A hundred questions cross my mind About Dad’s mom who died so young. I’ve no idea what she died from. My favorite stories too are gone The battleship for whom Dad played Hail to the Queen a serenade. Salts stood attention at the rail Dad asked them down to drink and sail. He went onboard to drink instead. These questions come at oddest times Old photos with the names now gone A tune, a food, a place, a song I wonder and will wonder long.