I long ago accepted my senior-citizen status, but seeing myself daily, I didn’t notice the gradual changes in my appearance: wrinkles becoming crevices and gray hairs multiplying faster than dead grass in an autumn lawn. Then, last summer while brushing my teeth on a sparkling morning, I unexpectedly glimpsed myself in the mirror.
Until that startling moment, made worse by the toothpaste dripping from my agog mouth, I considered myself unchanged and wondered at the rapid aging I noticed in others.
I remember watching with dismay at my last class reunion as my once young and beautiful classmates socialized: favoring their bad knees and their good ears, wearing their nametags upside-down in case they forgot their own names.
“Why does no one recognize me?” I thought, “I haven’t changed a bit.”
Inside, I still feel forty-four and vigorous with unlimited possibilities; but, increasingly, I acknowledge the truth in my mirror; and, if I should forget, my grandchildren remind me.
When Sophia was four, I introduced her to a game I used to play with young students: “Let’s play the antonym game, Soph. It works like this. If I say up you say the opposite, down. So, if I say hot you would say…”
“Cold,” she responded, and the game began. We paired big and little, inside and outside, happy and sad.
Eventually, I stumped her with pretty. She frowned in concentration. Then, “Oh, I know” she chirped, studying my face, “The opposite of pretty is old.”
My laugh was tinged with rue.
A few years after that her brother, a teenager, threw his arm around me after telling me a funny anecdote and said, “Hey, you should laugh all the time. It makes you look younger because the lines in your lips go away.”
With grandchildren around, who needs a mirror?
Still, even with the honesty of my young ones to remind me, I sometimes do a double take when I’m given the senior discount at the movies without asking or when a librarian glances at me and says I’ve reached the age where I can check out the new books for a month, rather than a week.
The rule-makers of the library system must think I’ve lost the ability to read quickly as I’ve aged.
Well, maybe I have; it does take me longer to finish a book — I tend to doze off.
As we all must, I am coming to grips with the realities of aging: its physical changes and mental rewards, its upsetting challenges and quite pleasures. And, increasingly, I no longer see myself in the mirror with eyes tricked by memory, but with a spirit learning acceptance.