I’ve always liked mirrors. I think they are clear and shiny and beautiful. They seem to add a lot to their surroundings, reflecting light and what they see. I see this beautiful mirror, ornate and silver-trimmed and admire its beauty. When I peer into it, an older woman looks back at me. She wears glasses, has short mussed hair with grown out roots and she looks tired. There are tiny frown lines on the forehead but not many wrinkles. There are drooping cheeks and jowls, partly from age and partly from weight losses over the years. She has never been beautiful, but pleasant to look at. Smiling always helps. The complexion is pale but still clear. She never could spend much time in the sun.
Nothing much has changed over the years, except life changes. marriage, children, work, successes, failures, new challenges, small forays into uncharted adventures for the timid at heart and time passages. The biggest change has been the graying hair. The glasses have changed. When she got married, they were black cats eye frames. That was 46 years ago. Now, they are a plain squarish oval in shape. Eyebrows have gotten crazy with spurts of temperamental lengths and direction. There are no bags under the eyes. Perhaps they just fell into the drooping cheeks and jowls and you can’t tell.
Close up is better. Backing off, you tend to see more. She never liked looking in the mirror. Mirrors show too much. Those things we learn to live with and become comfortable with jump out at us if we look in the mirror. Some are gradual but eventually they become part of the norm. Looking into the mirror would just point out things we might not want to see. Best to just take cursory glances to make sure everything is presentable.
There are great collar bones. She always thought she looked good with necklines that showed off the collar bones. But she was never comfortable with sleeveless. Somehow that made her feel naked and exposed. And if anyone came up next to her and wanted to grab her arm, she’d cringe. Too much sag and bagging hidden by the longer sleeves. A constant reminder of weight struggles and fluctuations and seeking to be normal. She never liked wearing form fitted clothing. Better to wear loose and draping, the kind that camouflaged. Never had great legs or pretty ankles. Long skirts are better and pants are preferred.
Now she sees years. Good for the most part. But all of a sudden, she couldn’t walk. Well, all of a sudden is not really true. First she began using a cane. Then she needed a walker. And then the day came when she could no longer walk very far and a wheelchair became part of the furniture. Gradual changes that crept into her life and nestled there until one day she thought “doesn’t everyone live this way?”
There was a cervical tumor. It was a surprise, but not a surprise. Tiny indications put the C word in her subconscious and rolled around in there until it seemed normal. Still, a tumor she couldn’t see or feel began chemo and extensive radiation treatments. She felt distanced, not quite part of the whole thing. It was surreal. As if she were hiding in the background and watching someone else. It began and ended quickly and abruptly, like being caught in a whirlwind, leaving confusion and bewilderment behind.
The chemo was mild. She didn’t lose her hair. She was almost disappointed. It would have been nice to have new hair come in curly or something. The radiation was interesting but painless. Pain came later. When the body complained about being “internally sunburned”. Changes in bodily functions and pelvic pains became constants. They just joined with the arthritis pain and became daily companions.
Mood swings visited once again. In younger days, they were constants but had been absent long enough to be unwanted and surprise guests. Now days were measured in pain and in mood. Sometimes the pain would rule the mood, sometimes the mood would rule the pain. It was never easy to figure out. Uncertainty would creep into the mix. Was the C really gone? There is more pain today. Has it come back? No, it’s just pain.
Her body was different now. Sagging and drooping skin were the most concerning. The knees that needed to be replaced had been put on the ‘to do later’ list. Things taken for granted in her youth no longer were true. She marveled at people crossing their legs, or walking up stairs or just walking. It would be nice to be able to get into a bathtub for a relaxing soak once again. She missed that the most.
The mind was still young and active though and couldn’t understand why now, when there was more time, it wasn’t able to accomplish what it wanted to do. The body was just not cooperative.
She decided it was time to dye her hair. Cover up the roots and make the hair look exciting again. Her grandmother had the most beautiful white hair in her later years. She always admired that. Maybe platinum blonde to cover all of the gray.
She took a deep breath. The ‘all right. let’s get this day started’ kind of breath. Undergirding the emotions with positive reinforcement. Changes have begun. Weight loss has begun. There are new goals to strive for. The journey is still ahead.
She turned away from the mirror. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
This was prompted by the sandbox writing challenge.