On Turning 60 Part V (The Body Snatchers)

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Drive by my house on any sunny day, and this is what you will see. The picture above is me looking over my garden, taken secretly (see, without permission) by my little brother. He didn’t bother to honk or give me a heads up so I could smooth my gray frizz or duck behind the compost bin like someone yelled “incoming!” I wasn’t aware he had taken it until it showed up in a family group text.

It hasn’t been too long ago since this situation would have sent me (1) into a rage or (2) begging him to remove it and delete it, or (3) hiding in the closet. But, at 60 I know being the cutest little trick in shoe leather is out of my reach, forever. That train has left the station, run off a cliff, and burst into flames.

I spent way too much time studying this photograph though. Had I not recognized the clothes, and had the text not come from my very own brother, I would not have known it was me. Mercifully, it isn’t often I get a view of my backside. I had no idea that is what people standing behind me see. But, here it is. I have good legs, strong and “shapely” thanks to years of yoga practice. But, what is happening to the rest of me? Once upon a time I had a fabulous bottom, perfectly suited for a skin tight pair of Rockies, but now it seems to have given up its autonomy and joined my lower back in evicting my waist. I used to have an hourglass figure, but time has run out apparently. According to the reading on my bathroom scales, I am not overweight, so how does that muffin top justify its presence there? My upper back, the victim of some fractured cervical bones, tends to lean forward a bit. Given the number of chaturanga pushups I do every week, the situation above my elbows doesn’t seem fair at all. The hair, well, the frizz has always been there and humidity alone decides the volume. But the gray was my decision during COVID, and I don’t regret it.

Fortunately, there is no front view showing everything migrating south faster than the monarchs in the fall. The skin is melting, running downhill, and getting dammed up at the knee caps.

Speaking of skin, I have noticed, and it didn’t take a photograph to get me there, the changes in my skin over the past couple of years. I’ve never liked my skin. Even as a young child, my skin was as thick and rough as an old cattle rancher. I remember the shock on the faces of people who shook my hand. After our breakup, a boy I dated in high school remarked about it to my best friend. I think the word “eeeewwwww,” was used in his description. I learned to keep my hands behind my back or in my pockets to discourage hand shaking, but constantly carrying something was also a good deterrent. During my 40s, while my skin was still dry, I noted that it wasn’t as thick anymore. It was an improvement.

But, at 60, the skin has become too thin. I’ve always been easy to bruise, but now a good wind gust will turn me black and blue. Charles occasionally points to a bruise I didn’t know I had and ask, “What happened there?” I never have any idea. It isn’t painful. Perhaps someone walked too close to me, maybe the water pressure in the shower was too high. Also what is the deal with the random bleeding? Just little spots of blood will appear out of nowhere for no reason. A random bug bite will sending me running for a tourniquet. If I pick up a hairbrush from the wrong end I am liable to bleed out. Picking blackberries results in arms that look like they’ve been through a wheat thrasher. Add insult to injury, it takes no fewer than three hematology technicians to get a blood sample from me. The last time I was at the doctor’s office I told the frustrated young woman, “Grab a bucket while I bump into the chair. It’ll be like collecting maple syrup.”

I know drastic weight loss can cause loose skin, but aside from my pregnancies, I’ve been the weight I am within 20 pounds throughout my adult life. Yet, it looks like I’m wearing skin my mother bought too large, expecting me to grow into over two seasons. And what is the deal with all the spider veins? They have congregated right above the shorts line on my otherwise lovely legs and it seems they are inviting others to join them. My mother had them. She told me it was from her years as a waitress (bumping into tables) before marrying Dad. It made sense because the veins are at table height, but I have never waited tables in my life.

I am plagued with minor aches and pains. Yesterday, it hurt to put my left foot down. The pain was midway between my fourth toe and the outer ankle. There was no bruise or red mark and I did not recall having stumbled or dropped anything on it. But it hurt. Today, no pain there, but now just above my right shoulder blade feels like I’ve been punched. I haven’t been.

The leg cramps are destroying my sleep. I have taken every remedy recommended for them, but nothing seems to help. My Dad suffered from them the last few years of his life, and now I can fully appreciate his frustration. Imagine being asleep and waking up to what feels like having your calf bitten off by a shark, but you aren’t fully awake to comprehend to the problem. All you can do is scream. It’s the worst.

In one way, I am comfortable in this body. I’ve known it for 60 years. It has carried me through everything. It carried two babies. It jumped from a plane. It dove 90 feet below the ocean’s surface and chased a sea turtle. It ziplined. It fought cancer and now heart failure. It surprises me sometimes in what it is able to do. It gets up in the morning to make 5:30 a.m. yoga, it drags garden hose hundreds of feet, and it digs and pulls and pats in the garden. But in other ways, it is a stranger. It refuses to do something that used to be easy; pull on a sports bra after a shower, for example. Nothing could have prepared me for the weird creaks, strange twinges, and odd color changes that seem to have happened overnight at 60.

I know it isn’t personal. I know I am not the only one at my age going through these changes. The body snatchers are after all of us. In fact, Charles is taking ibuprofen today for pain because he has whiplash. He got it yesterday by taking off his shirt.

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