White Hairs and Man Hands

2015-09-27 Sun (last modified 2016-10-10 Mon)

I'm getting older.

Everything has taken on a different significance in recent years.  The cool video game I might have worked on ten years ago appears frivolous now; the worst-day-evar is merely an isolated rough day.

Months fly past unnoticed, and sometimes, the nights seem endless.

I'm no longer surprised by white hairs.  Anywhere.  I'm surprised when I still find one of the old outliers--rich gold, startling red, deep brown--surviving amidst the dwindling majority of "plain ol' brown".  Hey guys, nice to see you're still with me.

I don't "find" white hairs anymore.  They find me.  No salt-n-pepper, no pleasingly even distribution.  Somebody's emptied the cellar on my face.

I'm getting older.

When I injured my lower back in 2012, the doctor with the MRI results provided a bit of editorializing.  "You have the lower back of a much, much older man", he said.  "The bone degradation...well, it's unusual.  We may be seeing you again.  You be careful, take care of yourself."  He sounded sad.

This wasn't easy to hear.  I didn't know what I had done to cause this, and I had only recently discovered the will and desire to take responsibility for my body.  I'd been running!  Lifting weights!  I felt better about my body in the previous year than I ever had before.  I felt more alive--younger--than ever.

But the doctor was right.  The cause of my injury?  I'd rolled over in bed too vigorously.  I injured myself while reaching for the snooze button.

I was already in the midst of a have-I-ruined-my-life crisis.  Hearing that I might be handicapped, that my recent weakness and suffering might only be the beginning...it was hard.  Were my dreams of finally becoming a strong, healthy man over, so early in the night?

I fought to recover quickly from my surgery.  I missed a day or so of work.  I tried to hide my fear and discomfort, and willed myself to be strong.  It worked, I returned to my life as it was, few seemed aware. But the shadow lingered.  "I'm weak, I'm broken, and I must always treat myself delicately.  I mustn't push myself too hard, I mustn't strive.  Outdoor adventure, competitive games, physical passion, even just casually lifting my daughter to hug her...I'll just have to find new ways."  Fear ruled my life--fear of the fragility and weakness within me.

I saw myself as an old, old man.

It's true, I'm getting older.  And sometimes, I'm surprised by that.

I look down at the words I've just written on the paper, and I see my father's handwriting.  The handwriting I'd admired as a child, and wished I could imitate.

I look at the hand holding the pen, and it's a man's hand.  Not an old man's hand.  A strong, healthy man's hand.  A hand that can hold things, and make things, and break things, and do things.  A hand that can make mistakes, and amends.  And fresh starts.

Sometimes I look in the mirror, and I catch my own eye, and I pause.  Who was that, just now?  Sometimes, it's not a boy anymore.  Or a stubbornly indeterminate "guy".  Sometimes it's a man that looks back at me.

Is this what others see?

Maybe I've managed to mature a bit as I've been aging.  Maybe I'm not doomed to be a man-child, trapped in an invalid's body.

These thoughts give hope, but they're not the man's thoughts.

The man says: I have matured, and I will mature.  I am not doomed.  I can be strong and healthy--and I will.

And I am.