No apologies from here. Today's my birthday, and I'm not young, and I don't care who knows it or thinks less of me because of it. I used to believe I had to hide my age and be coy, but you know what? It took a whole lot of living to get me this far. I've made some incredibly stupid mistakes and been befriended by unfathomably wonderful people. And there's this huge upside of no longer having to even pretend to be sexy. Shave my legs regularly? Are you kidding? You don't like 'em, don't look at 'em. As for my wrinkles and jowls and grey hairs, I can't disguise or defend them, so I won't. They're mine. I came by them the hard way.
As an author, I once figured readers would shun me if they knew how old I was getting. Probably too elderly to still be in touch, someone such as me. Maybe even demented, or too out of it to even get a sentence put together. Having no way to connect with their lives. No common points of interest.
Except a whole lifetime of experiences--uniquely mine, when bundled together. Memories I can call on, when I'm inventing a character. Times I've known, people I've valued or detested. They don't make me proud, especially. They're just sort of like the freckles on my left hand, arranged in a pattern neither pretty nor ugly, just there. Just mine. If I'm ever in an explosion and survive, I'll be able to recognize my own left hand, should it get blown off and then found. No doubt I'll bleed to death, but still. There's some completion in this.
So what experiences complete me today, in no particular order? Well, for starters, I've been in love. Believed in God, lost my faith, found it again, unchurched--I choose to remain so. I've jumped out of airplanes, been hit by a car, was assaulted by a rapist who couldn't get it up, heard the voice of a dead loved one, survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and learned how to read palms. I've had books published by traditional outfits as well as newer ones. Poems, newspaper articles, and one song: yes. Them too. I've painted pictures, done illustrations, and sold some of my work. Acted in an off-Off-Broadway play, was a stage manager for many, did advertising posters for a gazillion, and designed sets/costumes. I've had ringworm, scoliosis, great hair but bad skin (acne), and I used to be able to dance pretty well. Impacted wisdom tooth? Oh baby. I helped save the life of a boating-accident victim, won debating awards, was a real big nerd in high school (I still am), loved Science Fiction (I still do), and wanted to see angels (I haven't). I've attended the Tony Awards in New York City, called the cops on a man dragging a lady into the street, had my apartment(s) robbed in two different townships, and was my mother's primary caregiver when she came down with Alzheimer's. I really, really didn't want to do that last thing. It was the worst experience of my life. I did the best I could, but it wasn't enough. Still, I own it.
I never married or had children. The fact that I kept falling in love with gay men probably had something to do with it. The love of my life wasn't gay, as it turned out, but it wasn't me he was in love with either, so there you go. I went to a Super Bowl, a Mardi Gras ball or two, a private party for Bruce Springsteen (no, I didn't get to meet him, but still), and the funerals of all four of my grandparents. My sister and I nursed an injured fawn back to health on our farm when we were kids. Dying animals have broken my heart. I can swim, but not very well. I am angered by angry people, so am currently blocking a whole lot of 'em on Facebook (if the shoe fits...), but am too much of a weenie to actually unfriend them. I quit smoking several decades ago but drink too much. Horses sort of scare me, up close. I used to not be frightened at all of dogs and grew up dearly loving several, but now (after being bitten by one on a leash taking a poop as I innocently passed by on the sidewalk encumbered with a grocery bag), I dislike most of them. I'm not proud of myself for that.
Dentists and roller coasters were the two things that scared me most, until the tornado came down my street at three o'clock in the morning some years ago. I'm not as frightened of cancer as I should be. I miss both of my parents terribly, but if I could have my mother back the way she was during the Alzheimer's years, I'd have to say no. I own no car and no longer care to drive. I once glimpsed a ghost in Tarrytown, New York. I used to think I'd been a victim of alien abduction. I do have a mysterious scar on my left hand I've had for decades and can't remember getting, but if you drink enough, these things happen.
So many people I love have been lost. I no longer listen to music; no reason, except I seem to prefer silence. I'm happiest out in my back yard on a nice day, just watching birds and insects. My paternal grandfather was the same way. My daddy was the most decent man I've ever known. I learned to love football because of him. My mother bought me and my sister our first Beatle album without being asked--can you imagine? She tried to teach me piano but I had no gift for it. I won't eat fruit, except for bananas and maraschino cherries. I once almost drowned in the ocean at Pawley's Island, South Carolina, but didn't tell anybody because it embarrassed me. My teeth are crooked and it's my own damn fault because I refused to get braces.
I've thrown a rose into an open grave as the coffin was lowered. I've screamed for my life when my sister and I were trapped in a woodpile as kids and heard a rattlesnake in the pine planks. I've held cats in my arms as the vet put them to sleep. I hate to cry, but have been known to do it. A lot. A lot. I own that, too.
My stomach is big and I hate it, but it's mine. I no longer enjoy walking--it hurts my hip. If I could lose about thirty pounds, the hip might be fine. But I'd probably have to exercise to lose it, so there you go. I love many, many people. My blood sister is also my best friend: lucky me. I don't have a problem with guns, but detest making a religion out of them. I'll never give money to the NRA. I painted protest signs in college and marched in anti-Vietnam demonstrations. Not because I was against the military--I was just against the drafting and deaths of so many farm boys I'd grown up with, who died without ever reaching the voting age of twenty-one. I think I ended up on Nixon's Enemies List. I sure tried to.
A classmate drowned at our seventh-grade class picnic, but I wasn't there (hospitalized with hepatitis). I once enjoyed archery. I've climbed to the very tops of trees. Menstruation always threatened to embarrass me (when you're fourteen years old and climbing a poplar while wearing a Kotex, this can be really sucky). I once made the decision not to kill a black-widow spider. I wore multiple rings on both hands for all of my life, until arthritis. I still remember my first kiss at age ten. Maybe he was gay.
June 1, 2016
June 11, 2016 8:21 PM EDTLove your honesty and spirit! Wish I had known you better back in the day.
June 11, 2016 8:51 PM EDTOh, Karen, thanks so much, but you couldn't have known me then because I didn't let anybody see the real imperfect frightened embarrassed me. Scoliosis made me feel so ugly. But now it's just a footnote. You're lovely. Live long and prosper!
June 12, 2016 3:22 PM EDTQuite a celebration of life. Glad you lived through Pawleys. Glad we are friends . Stay cool.
June 12, 2016 6:30 PM EDTYou bet. You're my friend for life. Love you, Maryann. Always and for forever.
June 26, 2016 2:56 PM EDTI gotcha beat by 3˝ years — a lot for a sprint; not much for a marathon. Here's what I don't get: Why are the images between my ears clearer the more distant they are? Except for some culturally-induced gaps in the late sixties (which, okay, leached over into the seventies), they're brighter and sharper the farther back I go. The night of the Cuban Missile Crisis? The matinee opening of Love Me Tender? Vivid (though in black-and-white for those two). Last month? What month is it, anyway? It's probably some kind of natural protection mechanism like the false warmth of hypothermia. Or maybe it's not "false" at all, and Life is exactly and only as you perceive it.
June 27, 2016 11:03 AM EDTHmm. Much food for thought here, Bill. Sometimes I think we're all just avatars in virtual reality. What, really, are memories? Are we living in The Matrix? Dunno! But thanks for your input.
November 28, 2016 9:09 PM ESTTough love will only come to someone who has a soul as well as your strong personal. Terimaksih I've read your article, very touching at all.