I’ve been thinking about my neck recently. It’s not a topic I’ve really considered until just a few weeks ago when a woman told me my neck was making me look old. Of course, she was attempting to sell me some expensive skin care cream that would work miracles if only I’d apply it multiple times between morning and night when I would then switch to the nighttime formula that contained even more expensive ingredients. All natural. Organic, even. Even so, my neck would still be a problem.
“It’s got a bit of fat beneath the chin there. I can’t do anything about that,” she said.
Up until that moment I hadn’t noticed the fat beneath my chin. Now, it’s all I can see. Except, I can’t actually see it—not the view I need anyway. I need to see it from the side, but that’s all but impossible on my own. So from now on, I’m only looking at everyone straight on. No more profile shots.
So, if everyone would kindly queue up in a line facing me and only me, I’d really appreciate it. Save me tons of money.
Grief doesn’t always give fair warning before picking you by the scruff of the neck and shaking you until both eyes leak copious amounts of tears. No, sometimes grief slides in without even a whisper, wraps its arms around you and squeezes so gently you don’t even realize it’s to blame for your distress until you’re writhing on the floor in agony.
Today, grief was triggered by a song I’d never heard before. It was an Emmylou Harris cover of the John Prine song, Hello In There.
The damned song grabbed me by the throat and choked tears out of me. I’d already been thinking of old friends who’d died way too young, and the song added to my melancholy.
Today would’ve been the 65th birthday of my first real friend, the first bond formed on my own, without my parents’ intervention. Johnnimae Bachus, my polar opposite.
We first met in Sunday school at Calvary Baptist Church, gravitating to one another in that mysterious way children do. Johnnimae was petite and ladylike while I was a gangly weirdo. Her mother created all of Johnniemae’s wardrobe—each dress was perfect. She could twirl a full circle with her skirt floating elegantly around her, suspended in beauty above her perfect little knees. When I tried to emulate her, my sturdy shirtwaist clung to my skinny legs and I looked like a dork,
We attended the same kindergarten—she cried for her mama until she saw that I was there. I felt quite emboldened by her confidence in me. Still I tried to copy her in everything she did. She’d color a page in blues and greens, so would I. She’d express a song preference and it would become mine. One day she became fed up with my copycat mentality and ruined her picture by coloring it in bold black marks. She did me a favor that day and I developed my own style.
Johnnimae moved away in our eighth or ninth grade year, and due to some silly school girl politics, I wasn’t invited to her going away party. I lost track of her, but we reunited at a mutual friend’s wedding several years later. I was the matron of honor and she was maid of honor. She was still perfect, while I was still a dork.
Not long after, that same mutual friend called me out of the blue one sunny day to tell me Johnnimae had died. She was maybe 24 or 25 and poised to graduate from pharmacy school. She was engaged to be married. Her life was filled with joy and accomplishments and a world of possibilities. Then, on one ordinary day she went for a swim with friends and somehow ingested or inhaled an amoeba and died soon after. The shock at her loss was immense. This golden girl was no longer in this world. How could that be?
So today I cried for her. Big old tears that wouldn’t stop and left my nose red and my eyes bloodshot. I cried while listening to Emmylou Harris sing about growing old—a privilege Johnnimae never had.
In less than one week I will celebrate my most significant birthday since I turned 21. But with a lot less fanfare, fewer drinks, and no hangover. Yes, I am approaching 65, the golden age of social security and Medicare in the United States.
I’d prefer to have ignored how old I’m about to be, but around six months ago I began receiving at least one piece of mail a day from a Medicare supplement provider. If I’d kept them all I could have wallpapered our guest bathroom with the literature detailing the fine points of each plan. Maybe I should have as a public service—most of my friends are nearing 65, as well.
A couple of weeks ago I opened a letter to find my official Medicare card inside. My biggest hope is that I don’t have to use it for at least ten years, but it’s tucked into my wallet just in case someone needs to card me at a bar or something.
Yesterday I received a phone book-sized handbook. Not a big-city sized phone book, and not a recent one, more like an old one from my youth back when we still received new phone books once a year. Nowadays we only receive the Yellow Pages, but I digress. I digress because that’s what old people do, and even though I’m not yet 65 I need the practice. “Get off my lawn you young whippersnapper!”
Don’t you just love how healthy and happy all the old folks look? Maybe I’ll look the same once I’m 65. Fingers crossed.
I know age is more than just a number. It’s how one feels and acts, right? At the moment I feel annoyed about all the Medicare literature I keep getting. I’ll bet some young whippersnapper is having a good old time sending this stuff out.
Sometimes I can forget that I’m in my sixties, while other times the limitations of my age rear up and smack me right in the face. Yesterday, as I chaperoned a group of 17 and 18-year-olds on a trip to an amusement park, there was no doubt that I’d passed the threshold of youth and doddered into the realm of the (nearly) elderly.
The other chaperones were all lovely young women who made me feel welcome. Their children were among the recent high school graduates on the trip, while I was there for my grandson. They all had tons of energy. My meter was running low.
I did my best to keep up with the younger women, but between the 90° heat and my almost total lack of sleep the night before the trip, I lagged a bit. I might’ve whined a couple of times. But—I prevailed! Maybe not in a glorious manner, but I’m still alive to write this morning, so that’s a win.
I’m glad I was able to go on this trip, but if I’m going to be there when the next grandchild needs me I’d better start aging in reverse.
Oh, just a word about these “kids” we chaperoned. They were so well-mannered that at times I wondered who was chaperoning who. What an amazing group of young people with big dreams and bright futures. It was an honor to hang out with them.
Lately my health has been Rosanne Rosannadanna-ish. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
Yesterday I was in the waiting room of a radiology clinic awaiting a CT scan of my digestive tract when my right eye went wonky. First there was a bright flash of light from the corner of that eye followed by what can only be described as a parade of ink blot animals à la Rorschach. Well, to me they appeared to be animals. Who knows what some of you degenerates might’ve seen. There was an elephant dragging a walrus, a hippo in a tutu, a lamb with a baton, among others.
I called the eye doctor’s office just before I was handed my first barium smoothie, and had an appointment scheduled after just a few sips. Yum, yum.
The second smoothie didn’t go down quite as easily, but it could’ve been worse. Some folks in the prep area had to drink three of the concoctions. The CT scan was kind of fascinating. I’m always amazed by, and a little leery of, the ways in which systems within the body can be manipulated:
Them: We can make you think you’re urinating.
Me: No, you can’t!
Me, two seconds later: Holy cow! I think I’m urinating.
After the test I grabbed a quick bite to eat and went directly to my eye doctor’s office. They took more pictures of the inside of my eyes than a helicopter mom takes of her offspring.
Not my eye, but still pretty cool, right?
I’d worried that my retina was detached, but apparently people in my age group are susceptible to such floaters.
Mosteye floatersarecausedby age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside youreyes becomes more liquid. Microscopic fibers within the vitreous tend to clump and can cast tiny shadows on your retina. The shadows you see are calledfloaters.
Diagnosis: I’m old.
I’m scheduled to see my gastroenterologist tomorrow, and if all goes well I’ll get a similar diagnosis from him: “Nothing to see here. Move along. You’re just old.”
Today though, I’m going for a facial. My insides might be old, but my outsides don’t have to advertise that.