Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Poison Apples?

Perhaps all mothers of daughters possess a secret talking mirror that announces when their young womanhood begins to fade and their daughters’ begin to blossom. As in the fairy tale, the experience can unleash a lacerating jealousy in some mothers, which turns up like poison apples on the daughter’s doorstep. It can also usher in fears that I would’ve sworn I’d never have. Of invisibility, anonymity, irrelevance. And deeper down, fears of decline and death.
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story 
by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

My four sisters and I gather four times a year – winter, spring, summer, fall – to celebrate our birthdays. Sometimes we meet in a restaurant, other times in one of our homes. I am hosting a late summer celebration of two landmark birthdays this year. My eldest sister will be turning seventy. My youngest is hitting sixty. Six years younger than the eldest and four years older than the youngest, I am close to the middle marker, slowly edging toward Medicare.

When I read Sue Monk Kidd’s thoughts and fears on aging written on the cusp of her fifties, I realized how unaware I had been of those feelings a decade ago. Late in coming though they have been, I am very aware of them now, over a decade later. Still a late bloomer perhaps?

I don’t believe I have left any poison apples on my daughter’s doorstep, but I certainly have felt the tentacles of ageism Sue Monk Kidd names: invisibility, anonymity and irrelevance. And while I can say, at least now, at least at this moment, that I do not fear death, decline terrifies me. I face decline on a daily basis. I face it in my need to stretch each morning in order to abate the deep muscle ache that will otherwise pester throughout the day. I face it in my inability to hike or cycle or garden with the energy and enthusiasm of only a few years ago. I face it in the mirror’s reflection.

Facing age – the havoc wreaked on body and mind – with grace and dignity is a challenge. Still, it is a challenge I’m eager to take on with all the energy I can muster. Better that than the alternative, right?

In my mind, birthdays are a time to embrace life. Each passing year and each coming year merits celebration. I often quip that I believe in week-long, no month-long birthdays. A single day simply isn’t enough. As I plan the celebration for my eldest and youngest sisters, I wish for something more than a simple afternoon of delicious food, cold wine, and warm conversation in the garden, but it must suffice. We will brush away invisibility, anonymity and irrelevance, we will share an afternoon together, and it will be enough.   


Jan said...

Well put Arlene. Aging is better than the alternative so might as well celebrate it. Have a great birthday celebration!

arleen said...

Thanks, Jan. It's odd how I didn't think much about it until lately! Monk Kidd's book opened my eyes.