My mom had a birthday yesterday, a biggish birthday I suppose. On the eve of this age old aging tradition, some feelings were had, some tears were shed and some truths were realized. The feelings and tears were not mine, the realizations will however be something I will always treasure.
My mom fears age, she fears wrinkles, and hormones and health issues. She fears the small amount of fat deposits that have settled around her middle (and when I say small I am not under-exaggerating to spare her feelings). She fears being alone, she fears being lonely, she fears being forgotten. She fears what people will say, how they think she looks, and how she will be judged. She is the first to refuse to have a photo taken and the first to mention her own flaws. And this saddens me. It makes me want to cry out while shaking her shoulders until the thoughts manage to fly into her psyche and take root without her realizing. I want her to know how incredibly beautiful she is, how courageous she is, how worthy and how significant her life has been. I want her to see herself through my eyes, to see a woman that gave birth to and is raising three beautiful girls, to see a woman that has known loss yet walked through the flames with her head held high. I want her to see the naughty twinkle she gets in her eye, like a rebellious teenager. I want her to see the blessings she has been given, and to understand the depths of her intellect. I want her to hear the passion in her voice while screaming on the side-lines of my sister’s hockey game or at the ref on TV. I want her to see the joy on her face while laughing over a drink with friends, the softness in her eyes as she plays with our kitten. I want her to see that her age is something to be celebrated. Her wrinkles show life.
On the other hand there is death. I have been confronted with death numerous times in my life, however a recent story about a girl who I attended varsity with has left me jilted. At the ripe young age of 23 she was merely a glimmer in the eye of life, yet she encompassed so much of what it means to live. She was enigmatic, charismatic and alluring and this all comes from a distant perspective of her life. We were not friends, but on speaking to her friends and reading status updates, I feel their loss. This glimmer of life was taken far too soon- while on a gap year after varsity, travelling the world and following her dreams. Death. Gone. No more dreams, no more thoughts. Nothing. She will never see those dreams realized, her ticket home never used. She will never feel the joy of walking towards the love of her life, and making a commitment in a beautiful dress. Nor feel the thrill of growing a life inside of her, and holding that life in her arms and watching that life grow up. She will never achieve success beyond her wildest dreams, or know the disappointment of failure. She will not feel the cold sting of betrayal or the warmth of a friends hug once more. She will never again laugh uncontrollably, or cry for no reason. Her beautiful face will never get a single wrinkle, laugh line or scar. She will never have to worry about gaining weight or become obsessed with losing it. She will never have to look in the mirror and not like what she sees, because she will never see again.
This is what I realized. Life is wonderful, growing up is glorious and old age is a privilege denied to many. Cliché as it is. I did not read it on a motivational poster or search it up on Pinterest quotes. Although I am sure it is probably on both. I feel it in the core of my being. I want to live, and when I say live I do not mean merely exist. I mean I want passion; intense and barely controllable. I want to feel so full I could burst, and I don’t actually mind if it is full of love, full of pride, full of sadness or full of food. As long as I feel. I want to treasure each new stretch mark, and wrinkle and scar as I treasure each new memory, piece of wisdom and mistake. I want to read so much that my brain is full and my bank account empty. Dance so much that someday in the nursing home as I get up and my knees creek I can smile with a twinkle in my eye and a memory to warm my heart. I want to teach, and learn, and write, and travel. I want to argue, and fight and cry and forgive and forget. I want to sing the wrong words on long road trips and have conversations with strangers on airplanes. I want to laugh so much that the laughter’s only choice will be to forever etch itself on my face, and so be it if that means laugh lines and crow’s feet. But most of all I want to love. I want to love so much that I simply can’t anymore, and then find it in me to love some more.
And when the big O comes, and I’m reaching the climax (and by the big O I do mean Old Age, for those of you hanging out in the gutters) I want to follow the wonderful Jenny Josephs advice,
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!