Reflections on Aging

I’m glad my head is not as big as it looks in a magnifying mirror.

I Am Not Old

I am not old…she said
I am rare.
I am the standing ovation
At the end of the play.
I am the retrospective
Of my life as art
I am the hours
Connected like dots
Into good sense
I am the fullness
Of existing.
You think I am waiting to die…
But I am waiting to be found
I am a treasure.
I am a map.
And these wrinkles are
Imprints of my journey
Ask me anything.

– Samantha Reynolds

A frozen morning in late January. A pandemic still clutched the world.

In preparation for Writers’ Group on Saturday, I neatened, dusted, and vacuumed. I also baked a dozen banana-maple muffins and a moist rhubarb cake. The next day, with a clean house and sweets on hand, I had little to do and nowhere to go.

A few hours of pampering beckoned. First, a steamy Epsom salts bath. I lounged in the silky water as a coal-tar and menthol solution cooled my scalp. I shaved my legs. Not necessary in terms of appearance, but required to keep my long-johns from chafing against stubble. I pushed back the cuticles on all twenty nails. Emerged refreshed.

I massaged Hawaiian body cream into my feet and legs, elbows and arms. Donned my bathrobe, fetched tweezers and a magnifying mirror then headed to the big, bright bedroom window.

I gazed at my reflection, shook my head, and wondered, “When did I get to look this old?”

In her late eighties, my mother asked me, “How will I pluck my eyebrows when I’m old?” I realized, I wasn’t that ancient—I could still find the stray hairs and yank them out. There are fewer now and half of those are grey. Plucking doesn’t seem so urgent. I don’t think Mom needed to worry. My older sister recently had cataract surgery. Although pleased with her improved vision, she said, “I have a lot more wrinkles than I thought.”

Perhaps our eyesight is supposed to dim with age so that the world, and our visage in a magnifying glass, looks softer, gentler, smoother. Our blurry vision allows us to be kinder to ourselves and to each other.

Two other hairs, besides those erratic ones above my eyes, caught my attention. Brittle. Blonde. And long! Witch-like, they sprouted from my chin. I once saw just such a hair on the face of a teaching colleague. I said nothing. Did her students notice? Oh what whispered barbs those teenage mouths could utter. I ripped out the offenders, grateful to be so long retired.

The short grey hair on my head, I like. I stopped colouring it eighteen years ago. A windy day, a winter toque or a wide-brimmed summer hat do little to disturb it. It’s easy, it’s fun and I am thankful there is still so much of it.

I peer harder. More wrinkles. More under-chin flab. Saggier jowls. My eyes have shrunk.

My amber teeth will never regain their onetime alabaster brightness. Thank goodness, in an attempt to improve my exterior, I seldom perform this ritual. Such close scrutiny can be demoralizing. However, today I am happy. Because I realize, that in spite of the wrinkles, the sags, the stray hairs, the yellowing teeth, I like my face. I like myself.

My mother told me that beauty is skin deep. She was wrong. Loveliness may be skin deep but beauty radiates from within.

We are all beautiful.

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