Isn\’t it funny how we age, not in a uniform manner, but bit by bit, haphazardly? To me, it feels as if a bird were flying around me, brushing me with its wings and occasionally pecking at me.
My personal bird-of-aging is a crow, and not unattractive, with its blue/black plumage and clever yellow eyes. I can hear its wings beating above my head and sometimes I catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye. Occasionally it flies so high that I think it\’s gone away for good. But it comes back as faithfully as a well-trained falcon.
Some days it pulls out a few of my hairs, but with such a delicate touch that my scalp doesn\’t feel a thing. It makes regular passes over my hands, thinning the skin and fattening the veins. Lately it\’s been pecking at my lower back: until a few weeks ago I could roll out of bed in the morning, bend over and touch my toes. Now I can still do this, but not until after breakfast. I used to sleep like a log, no matter what was going on in my life. Exams, job interviews, the onset of labor–nothing kept me from my date with Morpheus. But now the black bird comes into my bedroom at night and flits and preens and fluffs its feathers, and makes me toss and turn.
Yet my feelings towards this crow are not unfriendly. I\’ve gotten used to its comings and goings, to the way it peers at me with its bright yellow eyes, head tilted to one side, planning which part of me it will touch next. I have accepted this inevitable companion.
My animal escort reminds me that I am an animal too, vowed to the same end as the field mouse whose dessicated remains Bisou retrieves from under some leaves at winter\’s end, or the deer whose jawbone Wolfie fetches proudly out of the woods. The mouse, the deer and I were cared for by our mothers, loved our children and feared our enemies in ways more similar than we humans like to imagine. And like the mouse and the deer I will, mercifully, not go on forever. With my crow leading the way, I will walk the path of my last days until, like the creatures of the sky, the fields and the woods, I become one with the Mother of us all.
Hmm. Even at 30 or 40 I couldn't roll out of bed and touch my toes! Flexibility has never been my strong suit, though I'm working on it.I'm side-tracked though, because I really do love this. Beautifully written. I only wish an elderly gentleman I know (much older than you) could accept the presence of this \”inevitable companion\” with as much grace as you.
This is one of your best insights. I've quoted it to several friends as we discuss hip replacements, cataract surgery, sun spots (on the skin), and the subtle, or not so subtle, relentlessness of aging.
Thank you, John and Mali. I must admit I've had to nerve myself up to write about this topic, since I don't like to think about it any more than everybody else–and yet it has to be faced, and it's best to face it in good company.
I love this. I read it shortly after you wrote it and have referenced it to others. I'll never look at a crow the same way. And about aging — I used to dread the changes I would face. Now I look in the mirror and laugh and shrug. There's not much I can do about it so why agonize.
I suppose massive amounts of plastic surgery are an alternative, or bitterness and depression. Acceptance seems a lot less painful, though.