by Yvonne DiVita
That would be me. The incredible shrinking woman. I fear going to the doctor. No doubt I'll be weighed and measured, like a side of beef or something. They'll smile and say, "Come with me," and lead me down a long, shadowy hall, to a little corner area where the keep the 'equipment'. You know what I mean.
The scale and measuring thingy. I don't like the scale much at all. It's never correct. I weigh myself at home, at least weekly. And I weigh a full ten pounds less at home. Well, maybe five. Maybe three. Whatever it is, it's less than their scale. They should get their scale calibrated.
I'm not concerned with that, at the moment. I'm more concerned with that other piece of equipment. "Step over here," the nurse says, "now put your back against the wall," and boom, she slaps something down on my head and smiles and says, "Five foot four."
And I glare at her and say, "Five foot six."
I was, once upon a time, five foot six. Then, a few years ago, when I went to the doctor, I came out with a note saying I was five foot five. I'd lost an inch. No one could tell me where this inch went or how I might have lost it. They were kind and gentle with me about it, clearly unwilling to accuse me of losing it on my own. In words, anyway. I could read their glances. Looking at each other over my head, when I was sitting in the blood pressure chair. I didn't move my head to look up, or else they would have noticed me looking. I just looked up with my eyes, which work very well, still, thank you very much.
I could see the glance they exchanged, back and forth. "She's a dear," their look said. "So funny. Acting like losing an inch is like loosing a tooth."
That time, leaving with information that said I weighed more than I did, and I was shorter than I was, I stomped off to the car in a huff. Honestly! No one ever told me getting old - I mean, older - was going to cause all these emotions.
Yes, yes, I can see you rolling your eyes. You think I'm being persnickety. Or, for those who abhor long words, picky. I'm being a picky old lady who refuses to acknowledge her shortcomings.
But let me tell you, you young whippersnapper, when I was your age...
Never mind. I can hear myself when I do that. Act like my mother. Using words no longer in the lexicon. I know it's useless to get young people, and I use that term loosely - but you know who you are - it's useless to get young people to listen and appreciate an oldie but goodie like me. Young people look at us and don't believe for a minute that we were once like them.
Oh but we were!
Once we were so young and vital. We were full of vigor and dreams and laughter. We, too, thought we would never get old. Not like those old people at the other table at the restaurant. Why, we would think, look at them with their hunched over backs and slack jaws. Look at them with their wrinkled fingers and orthopedic shoes! The horror!
When we were tall and sharp of wit and loud of voice.
When we felt empowered to do anything. Out in the sunlight, without a care in the world.
Not true, of course. We were young, yes, just like you. We danced and laughed and loved and went about our business, but we had cares. Just not the cares one has now, now that one has become officially old.
I wonder, sometimes, what that means, becoming officially old. As if one morning I arose from my bed, maybe a bit earlier than usual, let the dog out, made the coffee, and felt a few more creaks than the day before, felt a little colder or hotter, depending on the season. And realized, "I must be old. This is what old feels like. This is what my mother felt like when she got old." Of course, she did not get old until much later in life - much, much later. But, at some point when life was passing her by, as if she had shrunk up to being invisible, she might have felt this way - like an observer, not a player.
The Mirror Lies To Me
The mirror often whispers that I'm not old. I have a full length mirror in my bedroom. The one I share with Tom, from Old Dog Digital. My husband. Who prefers not to get old and is going to live to be 120, he says.
I don't often observe myself in the mirror. I feel self-conscious. I look at that person and wonder, "Who is she? She looks so familiar!"
Familiar, yes. But shorter than I remember her being. Heavier. She sighs a lot more. She shakes her head when she tries on clothes because they don't look the same. They look...like an old person's clothes.
"You got old," I tell her. "You were never going to get old."
There is recrimination there. Judgement. There she is, that woman in the mirror, heading for 70 years young, still able to stand tall, or bend over and touch the floor with her palms, but not able to dance, or run, or tolerate the unbearable heat of the summer, the way she used to.
"You're short!" I whispered loudly at her. "You grow smaller every year. In time, you will shrink to nothing and who will know the difference?"
It's for sure the mirror won't know the difference.
It's All in How You Look at It
There are days I generally enjoy my incredible shrinking status. As an 'old' person. I am not questioned when I say I need a nap. I walk slower and others pause to wait for me to catch up. Life has become simpler. And yet more complicated.
I wonder how much shorter I will shrink, over time. My mother was five foot eight in her heyday. When she passed, I believe she was shorter than my normal five foot fix.
There is much to do yet, over the next 20 or so years to come. Marvels to watch unfolding. Children to watch grow. Grandchildren to grow up and make a life for themselves, while their parents begin to dread that yearly doctor visit, because, at some point, that contraption used to weigh and measure them will give them the bad news that they, too, are shrinking.
And then, no matter how much I weigh or how incredibly small I have become, I will laugh. Out loud.