Sunday, February 05, 2006

Feeling old

I'm at the point in my life where when I look in the mirror I feel surprised. I have wrinkles around my eyes and beginning to form around my mouth. I have quite a lot of grey hair if I'm not diligent about applying the red dye I've used since I was in my late teens. My neck has the beginnings of old lady-like crepey-ness. A little further down, I look...well, I guess lumpy is the right word. I have spider veins in my legs. My hands look corded and the skin on them resembles an alligator purse in texture if you look closely. They already have a few of those age spots that are so common on those of us honkies with the least drop of Scotch-Irish blood flowing through our veins. I'll be 35 years old this year--and holy crap when did THAT happen?!--but I still feel like I always have. When do you start feeling mentally old, I wonder?

The death of Husband's father has got me thinking a lot lately about my legacy when I die. Husband is busy going through all his father's poetry, his paintings and sketches, the letters he received, his email. I think he's discovering quite a lot about the kind of person his father was, his parents' relationship and how much they loved each other, their real interests, their real life apart from parenthood. I've been keeping a journal since I was 10 years old and have a large trunk full of them at this point. My fantasy is that my girls will find them when I die and read every word. They'll realize that I was a real woman like they'll be by the time they read them. I lived a rich and vivid life that I loved, and I was a complicated person apart from being their mother. I imagine that they'll suddenly understand me. Isn't that all any of us want in life? To have people we love who truly understand us?

But who knows if they'll bother. Realistically, those old paper and ink journals may not even be legible by then. The ink may have become indecipherably muddy and the paper dry-rotted. Or some future fire may consume them. A flood may turn them to pulp. Someone may just chuck them out with the trash even, not really caring what the hell they are but just trying to get the house cleaned up for sale, all the garbage thrown out where it goes.

I used to want to be a writer back in my 20's--a real one who published stories that were read and admired. I don't want that anymore, but I do very much want my girls to find those journals when I die. I want to write words in them that are so crystalline sharp and right that they'll just get me and my life. Because you know what? I love this life. It's so hard to think that it would just be over and my girls might not ever know that.

12 comments:

Nancy said...

I bet your girls already know that you love life just from the way you LIVE each day. Even though you talk about looking old, you certainly don't sound like you feel old.

I haven't decided if I'd want my girls to read my old journals or not. Some of them are embarrassing to me now in that they focused on mundane stuff -- guys, friendships, and my insecurities. I think through my blog I've found a voice I'd like them to see -- my true voice, but a lot less shallow sounding. It was there all along but it didn't used to come out in my writing.

Thanks for a thought provoking post. Hope you are taking care of yourself -- I've been thinking of you and your family.

pie maker said...

Speak it sister-woman. I too am feeling the age creaking in my bones. Everytime i look in the mirror, I just can't believe that I'm the same person i was just 4 years ago. When i was getting ready to turn 35, I had just met the man who is now my husband and papa to our son . . . alot has happened in those 4 years. Which brings me to the idea of leaving a legacy - our children are a huge part of that legacy (along with land, but that's a topic for another time). I think your journals will be savored by Bean and Sister, even more than you think. Along with all the beautiful quilts, blankets, and other crafty items you have and will create throughout your life. What a house full of treasures! (and don't forget to leave them a recipe or two. . . )
Yes, even though the wrinkles are appearing and the grey hair is sprouting, I agree with you - I wouldn't change a thing.

Thanks for the post - it was a great reminder. Life IS good!

Queen Beth said...

YOu know, I've always told my kids that you can tell how much you were loved by the number of people who come to your funeral. We live by a graveyard and we frequently see funerals in progress. My kids comment on how much they think the person must have been loved. Then I think to myself, how many people will come to my funeral? Have I shown enough people how much I care for them? Will anyone come?

It's sobering thought for me.

Moonface said...

i have so many greys in my hair too - but i cannot be bothered with all the malarky of dyeing and covering them up. I'm just not that kind of girl.

My journals form my teenage years and before all got destroyed some years ago - thank god, i now think! they were mostly embarrassing stuff about guys and friendships etc. But I started a journal for each of my children during my pregnancies and keep writing in them regularly. I hope when they are old enough they will learn more about not only me and their father though those journals, but about what they life was like during these initial years.

Sugarmama said...

I know, I'm totally vain to be dyeing my hair. But somehow I can't bring myself to give it up yet. Maybe someday when I go ahead and get it compeltely chopped off I'll stop worrying about it and call it silver.

But about the embarrassing teenage journals--I guess I feel like that's a part of who I was, though I have to admit I'd be more comfortable if maybe they were read by others AFTER I was already gone. I did quite a lot of illegal substances as a teenager, something I'm not terribly proud of and certainly not something I'd want to explain away to my kids if confronted about it! But stupid, angst-filled relationships are par for the course for us all, aren't they? I'm so far removed from them I just don't care anymore, I guess.

Pie maker, I never thought about that stuff being "treasures" to my kids. You're right! I know I'd certainly love to have things hand-made by parents or loved relatives. Thanks for the cheerful thought.

Laura said...

I have a box of journals too, for the same reasons. Dye my hair, for the same reasons. And I don't think people feel old in their minds--at least, my mom says you never stop feeling like yourself, and she is constantly surprised when she looks in the mirror. I imagine it's always that way--at least, for introspective people who bother to wonder.

cubmommy said...

What a great gift for your daughters to have later in life.

I have been noticing the wrinkles around my eyes and not having as much energy as I used to. I am trying age gracefully but it hard with all the things around telling me I have to use this to look young.

Mommygoth said...

Your girls know and will know. I promise you that if I am left on this earth after you die I will tell them stories every day. And even if I'm not, their memories of you will show what was - you have always been a liver, sister, and you always will be.

Piece of Work said...

Just like everybody else said: of course your girls know that about you. Finding your journals would be such a treasure for them.

But, it is true: HOW THE HELL DID WE GET SO OLD?

Lauren said...

I'm just now catching up with your blog. So sorry to hear about your father in law.

I liked this post a lot. A lot of things that are very hard to think about.

I couldn't bear to have gray hair until last winter, when I suddenly decided to liberate myself from what was seeming like an expensive addiction. So now I'm silver and proud. Also 47, so a little more ready to be gray!

Jess Riley said...

That was a very touching post. My dad has DOZENS of journals. And I know that when he's gone, we'll read them (although we may not like everything we read!)

Amber said...

My dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer 4 years ago this month. Several months ago my mom agreed to let me transcribe the many journals that he kept. It's a wonderful, eye opening, heart rending experience. Because of the tumor he's changed so much and isn't the same person that I'm typing the words of- it's healing to me to remember what he was like when I was a child. That he was a whole, vibrant person.

I'm sure that once you die not only will your children treasure your words- but your grandchildren and their children will to.

Thanks for the blog- I needed that this morning.