Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Age-Old Conundrum

I’ve been thinking about age lately. I entered a new decade in September of this year. That’s pretty sobering. I celebrated with a glass of Merlot. My son set foot into a new decade too, way back in January. He was quite freaked out about it, but hell, he’s all the better for it. He has almost made it though the year and in just over a month he will have settled into being “forty-something” with several more years to boast the title.
My son and I are not the only ones noticing that time marches on despite any absurd, illogical, or fanciful notions that we might have conjured to stop it. Quite a few of my Facebook friends are being faced with the reality that they will not stay young forever either, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
Does anyone remember being not quite “school-age”? We were so anxious to ride that little, yellow, school bus, or to be dropped off on the elementary circle in front of the principal’s office by our moms. Little did we realize when we finally reached the kindergarten gate that it was only the beginning. For many of us, schooling would go on and on and on, and with it the years sprinted along as well.
What about being twelve? Remember? Most of us could not wait for the next year to pass so we would be teenagers. Ah! What were we thinking? Somehow being thirteen would mean we had arrived. That thrill was likely short-lived, however, and we looked ever forward to being sweet sixteen – driver’s license ready. I vividly still recall passing my driving test in the state of Kentucky on my sixteenth birthday. I was on top of the world. (I also earned my first - and only - speeding ticket that year.)
            At eighteen we could register to vote. Now that was a milestone, although I’m afraid with several elections swept out to sea, I’m more than a little disillusioned about the prospect of my vote counting for one, damned thing . . . but that’s another story.
            And twenty-one? That certainly is a marker. Does anyone reading this remember that birthday? For myriad reasons, I would guess, quite a few folks would not. Not to worry. It happened. It’s over. It launched us into adulthood. Adulthood. Shit!
            I understand that for many people turning thirty is a bit traumatic. It was not for me. Thirty-one, though, sent me reeling. I was married, had a toddler and an infant, and I realized I was growing old. Yet, nothing could be done about the situation so I embraced my predicament and move forward to that dreaded forty. 
            I actually enjoyed being in my forties. Those years, while not always happy, were fulfilling in more ways than I can articulate. I grew up the most during my forties; I grew a bit smarter, more confident, much more self-reliant, and, I like to think, wiser to the ways of the world.  
From there I felt poised for the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, and perhaps further still. Some of those years are behind me - others ahead. One can never be certain of the future, but I do know this: my grandmother was one month short of being one-hundred; my mother, two months short of ninety-six; and my dad, four days short of one-hundred and three. All lived full, healthy lives. They were fortunate.
Maybe it’s because I am a day older than I was yesterday, but younger than tomorrow, that I have taken some time this afternoon to write about age. I, and a good number of other people, it appears, from my recent contacts, have been contemplating the notion of aging lately, so fleshing out my thoughts on the matter seemed timely.
My older son, who sadly passed away from brain cancer at the age thirty-nine, had a magnet on his refrigerator that read: Young. Old. Just Words. The message struck me when I saw it in his kitchen, and when he died, I snagged the magnet for my own frig. Every day I notice those words and I wonder about the significance of a number - an age - that often labels a person. Furthermore, I can’t help but speculate about our attitudes that surely must contribute to how we feel about where we are in this chronological stream called life. What I do believe is this - we have no control over the years stacking up, but we do have a say in how we hold those years. Save for outlying conditions that may burden us a bit, the rest is up to us.
Young. Old. Just Words.                   

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Secret Molestation

            I thought I’d join the sexual harassment bandwagon by writing this piece.

            The memory was hidden deeply but from time to time it would surface if only for a moment. She would take a deep breath and then shove it back under where it would fester until the next time. And when the heinous recollection did reappear she often asked herself, “Did that really happen?”
            After all, she had been little . . . three maybe, or a month or two younger. How could she possibly remember? But she did. It wasn’t the actual incident that she recalled so well, but the feelings surrounding it. Her loving mother had put her down for a nap in Grandma’s spare room; she was alone on the musky-smelling bed, an old, round-faced, alarm clock having ticked her to sleep. She lay on her back with her arms stretched upward, tiny hands cupped, and chubby legs splayed open beneath a thin, pink blanket – the one that was adorned with happy, white lambs jumping fence after fence after fence. She had been cozy; she had been content; she had been safe . . . until the awful moment when she was not.
            After minutes of slumber, she was roused by a sensation, a sudden knowing. She was not alone. She should have opened her eyes, but she did not. Instead, squeezing them tight, she ludicrously willed her little body to sink straight down through the chenille bedspread beneath her, and farther still, into the mattress below, away, away. A sudden frantic desperation consumed her; she wanted to flail her way out of herself . . . but she could not. And at long last when she was alone again, she lay still, unmoving, feigning the sleep that had been snatched away only moments before. She was silent, her very own voice failing her. She listened though. She listened. She listened well - to quick footsteps clicking down the winding staircase, to a man’s deep and distant cough, to the lonely call of Grandpa’s barn owl, and then to her grandmother’s clock . . . tick, tick, ticking away to another time.
            And there would be another time. Other times. This one, though, was the first time - the memory tenuously locked away, the tarnished key to it tucked in her heart forever.