Bracing For Change- Part IV (book blog)

When her head is turned away, I steal glances at the older woman sitting next to me on the modeling stand. Her body is falling off her frame. Her breasts reach down to her waist. Her arm flesh gathers on the underside of her arm bone. Her thighs are bunched up above her knees and her belly collects above her pubic hair. This may not seem unusual for a seventy-five year old woman but like me, she is an avid hiker, and has been all her life.  She can still put in fifteen miles a day in the high peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the most challenging and steep trails in the country, so how can she possibly look like this? This is unbelievable, unfathomable. How can “fit” look this bad? I naively thought if I stayed active and worked out, I could stave off much of aging’s sad results.

Tamara Hirsch left Nazi Germany many years ago hidden in the bow of a ship bound for America. The Catholics had created a safe hiding place for her as this 13-year old girl was slated to become a sex kitten for Hitler’s men. The very next boatload of kids got caught. Hers was the last boat to freedom. I met Tamara many decades later here at Kutztown University, where she is also a life drawing model.

My professor and friend, Anna Kuo, thinks it is a very good thing for students to see and draw a seventy-five year old woman. She is real, she is the future. It is a very good thing for me to see her too, to prepare myself. My God, I think, I am going to look like this someday, regardless of how many mountains I climb or how swiftly I pedal my bike.

The other day, my daughter Sierra and I were doing yoga together and while in downward dog position, she glanced over and looked at my knees. Sure enough, gravity was causing the skin to become unhinged and hang independently from my knee bones.

“What is that?” she acts horrified.

“The work of gravity. It’s gross, isn’t it?” I reply.

“What do you expect?” she answers, “You’re old.”

“I am not old.”

“Ok, you’re older,” she retaliates.

“Look,” I reply in defense. “My legs can do anything yours can do at twenty years old, maybe even better. Besides, I don’t feel much different from I did at thirty years old. ”

I’ve always said that I just want to be able to move through my world. It didn’t matter what I looked like. But I don’t think that is necessarily true.

When my hair began to lose its pigment, instead of white I thought of it as platinum blonde, which I always wanted to be. But my son said I reminded him of Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit,” and when I acted crushed at this insult, he quickly told me he was merely kidding. I know he was not.

And now with Tamara leaning against my back, and my children poised to launch into the adult world, I am thinking of my own mortality or at least begin to embrace the fact that I am approaching change.

My husband does not care if my body is beginning to fall off my skeleton. He sees the coming change as a good thing. He thinks we will be going back to the way life was before children (BC). He dreams of sharing baths together in the same tub, doing naked yoga together, having spontaneous sex in every room on every surface, at all times of the day and night.

I personally think, that no matter how much a father loves their children, the husband lies in wait to get their wife back, from the first episode of breast-feeding when the cold reality hits them that those breasts are no longer “theirs” (and never were, I remind him) until the last child goes away to college and moves out. I told my husband that you can’t ever go back and I am not sure I would even want to. Up until now, I have merely written around the edges of my life, lining the margins. After all these years of taking care of everyone’s needs first, I’m thinking that it might be time for me.

(looking for feedback from my readers- please comment)

20 thoughts on “Bracing For Change- Part IV (book blog)

  1. Eat right, exercise, and enjoy what you’ve got. No one gets out alive, afterall maybe in your next reincarnation you will not be as fortunate as in this one. P.S. You look Maavoulus!!!!!

  2. I love that Nelson; “no one gets out alive”.

    When I turned 50 I never let anyone know. No birthday party. No admitting my age. When I turned 66 in December, I shouted it to everyone I knew. I’m so damned proud of being 66. It has given me the freedom to make different (irresponsible) choices and to achieve new goals. Hallelujah!!

    • great philosophy ! I always celebrated my birthdays- probs because it was a good excuse to be with friends – just keep having fun- that’s my motto, then the years pass by and you aren’t even aware of them

  3. So interesting Cindy!  As a 71 year old this year (3/9) who loves to paint people, there is an incredible variety of how, when, where the flesh begins to fall from our skeletons.  And of course you know that too.  Despite genetics, attitude, fitness or not, being nice or rotten, the variety mystery continues, and begins to hasten I’m noticing in myself.  Good reflections below.                  BTW, hope everything is still on for you to come model at the Institute on Thursday, April 18th – little before 9:30 am til 12:30 – $60..  We continue to have such a great group of people.  If it suits your schedule, join us for lunch – whoever can will gather afterwards at Russo’s or a place nearby.   Barbara          

  4. How I feel in my head sure doesn’t match the image in the mirror! Some days I am ok with that and other days, not so much. As long as I keep “moving forward” I am happy.

  5. I can so relate to this piece. (sans the modeling)
    As I age, I think of my dear late friend “Grandma Kay” Wood, who I met while we were both attempting an AT thru-hike back in ’88. She was 70 and I was 29. Perhaps there was sagging flesh, but what stands out in my memory was her twinkling eyes, positive attitude and the most powerful and muscular calves that, to this day, I still aspire to emulate.
    “After all these years of taking care of everyone’s needs first, I’m thinking that it might be time for me.” Right on, sister!!!

    • Thanks for the support, Melanie! I agree with you. I loved Kay too and had her stay with me as a thru-hiker. She never seemed like a grandmother but just an “older” seasoned hiker. I even have a great pic of her and I together. Thanks for the memory!

  6. Yes. You go, girl. You’ve given them all the start they need. You will always love them. That is enough. Roddy.

  7. What I’m finding is that as I grow older, I grow more and more into who I really am. The new inner vitality more than makes up for any falling off of the body and its abilities. Sometimes I look at a photo of myself at an earlier age, and it seems I look not as “formed” or as present as I am now. I show up more deeply at the age of 65. I LOVE growing older!

    • in your photo- you look like you are 30. i’m not seeing any age anywhere- you’re a cutie- you’re right- i like myself better now too- it’s a good thing since we can’t do anything about it!

  8. you’ve touched where i am right now in life. I so want to continue riding and caring for my horse, despite neck issues; and backpacking or hiking high country as long as possible. Like you, I work out (at least walk a couple miles) every day…both for the therapeutic value and to keep in shape. As a woman, I’ve always had mixed feelings whenever men would whistle at me- compliment or objectifying females as nice bodies only? Now I say “Yes!” to myself if I get a car horn as biking in my shorts and jog bra! a tad vain? yeah, but i also remember helping my 95 year-old grandmother get dressed to leave the hospital, being shocked at her body, and yet her eyes still shone bright, she hugged with real love and total acceptance, and lived with dignity and joy in life to the end…people like her, and you, are my positive role models…i know you’ll always be young at heart and as young in body as possible!

    • thanks for this Kim- it is amazing- clothing hides so much of reality- some of the African tribes have it right- we pretend entirely too much in our society- reality checks like these are good- keeps us focused on what is most important…the matters of the heart. It will be a blessing when we are old to have people who love our insides as much as you loved your grandmother- let’s hike sometime! Make the drive to Hawk Mtn when you have some time- I have great routes that I go on every day that I can share.

      • Thanks for the invite! I’ll keep that in mind come summer. School is over June 7, and the crew’s sea kayaking trip to CA is June 15-22; otherwise, I’m somewhat flexible. Where are you traveling this summer?

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