When I was a child I thought old people were kind of different, but lovable. I wondered what it would feel like to be old, with leathery skin and scant hair. I am no longer a child; I am the old person, and I do hope I’m lovable. But I do find myself grumpy, not feeling lovable, and having leathery skin. However, I do not have scant hair…I have plenty of hair, except my eyebrows. They are almost invisible until I put a little brow pencil to them. It’s amazing how much better a face looks with eyebrows!
As a child, waking up in the middle of the night usually meant a sad or monster dream, and mother would be there to comfort me. Now waking up means my joints and muscles hurt, or I dreamt about forgetting an important event or job or responsibility. There is no one to comfort me as I arise from bed and head to the medicine cabinet to take some Tylenol and rub cannabis salve on my aching arthritic joints. Then back to bed to feel the pain slowly ebb as the medicine begins it’s work. And sleep comes.
As a child I believed I would always be capable of performing any act I chose. I could run; I could jump; I could sleep under the stars and watch the moon’s face change throughout the night. I cannot run or jump any longer, but by God, I can still watch the moon’s face change as I look skyward in the night from my patio chair.
I rode my horses freely and without fear as a child. I galloped them, and swam with them, and felt joy in their dancing antics. I no longer ride freely, as fear enters this old mind and falling is no longer a small matter. Where once a torn face and scarred leg did not matter, now a slight bump brings bruising that lasts for weeks rather than days. And yet, the joy of sharing life with a living creature overcomes the fear and I find myself, if only for a few moments, being the child that gleefully embraces the freedom of living life upon a horse and being part of another world.
Being old is not what I thought it would be when I was a child looking at old people. It is much more complicated than I anticipated, and the lines on my face register the years of loss and happiness, of deep love, and of experiences that tested my mettle. I am not sad at being old; but I am sad at losing the child I once was.