I remember when I couldn’t wait to be five years old so I could start kindergarten. I was busting at the seems to be thirteen so I could be a teenager and not a child any more. Turning eighteen was not an exciting milestone because I was required to register for the draft. Fortunately I was never called to fight in Viet Nam, the Iraq War of the Sixties.
Then I was twenty one. I could now vote in federal and state elections and more importantly, I was finally a man. Huh!
I blindly stumbled through my early adult life having no owner’s manual to guide my steps. I learned from my own experiences and from the wisdom and experiences of others. Upon reaching thirty I was part of the very establishment that I protested against in my twenties. I was living the American Dream or whatever I had been brainwashed to believe was the “dream.”
At forty I was living a completely different life. I was leading vacation bicycle trips to beautiful and exotic locations around the world. When I had given enough time to that or any endeavor, I moved on. I learned to trust my instincts, to follow my heart, and to believe in myself during my forties. My hair started to be loved off. I was becoming “Real.”
During my fifties the physical changes to my body grew exponentially. I remember reading somewhere that up until our early twenties the body produces more cells than it destroys and then suddenly starts loosing more cells than it produces. This trend lasts until our death. Literally the body spends twenty years building itself and sixty years breaking itself down. Although the process occurs over some eighty odd years it is remembered in milestones. The first grey hair, the use of reading glasses when your arms cannot hold the book far enough away to be read, and the first time someone mentions the bald spot on the back of your head or your receding hairline.
“Hey, didn’t you use to have a widow’s peak?”
A few weeks ago I pulled a muscle in my back which greatly affected my mobility and range of motion. One morning I slowly made it out of my bed and used the full distance between the bed and the bathroom to reach an erect walking position. I turned on the light. I was shocked by the image in the mirror looking back at me. I had been looking at myself in the mirror for 58 years but I did not recognize this reflection. The skin hung from his face the way a wet rag hangs on a doorknob. The bags under his eye could have saved the levees in New Orleans from breaking. His body was limp, seemingly without any muscle mass at all. He looked strange, ugly.
Then I searched his eyes for some points of similarity, familiarity. He had a very compassionate heart, an inquiring mind, and a loving spirit. He struggled with man’s inhumanity to man but had found a place of peace within this shabby reflected image. He was a loner but well loved by those who had shared time in his presence. He strived to be understanding before seeking to be understood. He was the five year old starting school, the rebellious young adult fighting for human rights, and the corporate man living the good life. He was the antithesis, the confirmation, the mirrored reflection of all I had become gathered into that single reflection.
My face looked old, my hair was either gray or missing, my joints were not as lose as I would have liked for them to be but my reflection was real and “once you are ‘Real,’ you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”