The years have gone by far too quickly and according to the calendar I have grown old. I don’t feel old, but I know it must be so. My boobs are starting to get pretty friendly with my stomach. The skin on my underarms is looking like a bag of prunes and I am forced to acknowledge the growing number of aches and pains throughout my body. But what is most noticeable is the reflection of a face that peers back at me when I look into the mirror – unbelievably it’s me. When did my pink, smooth, delicate skin disappear only to be replaced by a pasty white face, filled with so many lines, creases and wrinkles? Where did they come from? I want them to go away. I want my old face young again.
But wait a minute, do I really?
If I still had my youthful, clear face, it would mean that I have not laughed.
There are several creases on each corner of my mouth. One or two a result of happy smiles on the day of my wedding; naive and unafraid, I climbed aboard the roller coaster called marriage, and 50 years later, what a wild ride it has been!
At least three formed from expressions of pure joy on the days each of my children were born. I remember all the laughter and fun experienced on many of our camping trips and vacations. Surely a couple must be there signifying the love and tenderness I felt holding and playing with all my grandchildren. There are a few caused from chuckling and the gaiety during family gatherings and weddings.
So, no, I think I’d like those creases to stay.
What about those lines caused from worry? They may not be as wonderful but are nonetheless a part of me.
Those on my forehead and around my eyes; maybe a few express the anxiety felt during my initial job interview. Did they like me? Were all the questions asked answered to their satisfaction? The nervousness upon being hired – could I actually do the job?
There’s at least another three resulting from anxious feelings as I waited for each of my children to finish their first day of school. “Did mommy make it through the day?” The bus driver asked. I think those first days were much more difficult for me than for them. Some could have originated from many sleepless nights when they became teenagers. I would mark time impatiently late into the night, pacing the floor, imaging all the horrible things that could have happened, at the same time attempting to convince myself that they were fine. What relief I felt when the key finally turned in the lock, ensuring their safe arrival.
The loss of weight and stress before and after my heart operation surely had an impact and a few could have been caused from listening to heartbreaking stories of loves and marriages lost.
Somehow despite the worry, those lines don’t bother me as much anymore.
It would mean that I have not cried. If all my wrinkles were to fade away, would I want to lose the memories of all those tears?
There were moments of great sadness as tears formed rivulets down my cheeks leaving marks not only on my face but in my heart as well. The first could have appeared during a brief breakup with my first, and, only love, and from many displays of anger during the course of our marriage.
More grew from sorrow while attending funerals for my endearing grandparents, loving parents, close relatives and friends. One of the most heartbreaking moments occurred while I was consoling my daughter during the loss of her premature baby girl. Surely a few originated from the devastation felt after a fire nearly destroyed our home.
Each one is a visible reminder of grief-stricken but precious moments, ones that should never be forgotten.
As I gently touch and retrace all of those now familiar etchings, I realize there is a meaning hidden behind each and every one of them.
So I will rethink my original thoughts about that lined, creased and wrinkled mirror image.
As I take another peek, I feel somewhat comforted by the reflection of the woman looking back at me. True she has aged, but now appears happier, stronger, and wiser. My face tells me that I have laughed and cried, experienced joy and sorrow, rejoiced in moments of great pleasure and survived those of despair.
My old face tells me that I have lived.