Gracefully Aging

Look, that title makes it seem like I’m going to write thoughtfully about mid-life and we’ll all nod sagely and think kindly about our own mortality and tell each other we love each other.

This is not that post.

Last week a mole that was new, or at least incognito, arrived on my neck, started to bleed, and subsided into a small scabby thing that wasn’t that much different than the spot that turned out to be melanoma. That spot relieved me of a couple of lymph nodes and a good part of my upper right arm. In exchange, I got a startling scar that looks more like the aftermath of a shark bite and less like surgical precision. At my last appointment, I received a scolding about ignoring another similar spot that faded into nothing so I went in for reassurance that it was some post-ingrown hair irritation.

There were all sorts of people in the waiting room and more than a couple with white bandages on their faces or ears. The kind that I associate with my mother and grandmother. I imagine you know where this is going. At least I walked out with a beige, smallish, bandage, a hole in my neck where the spot used to be, and a promise that they’d get back to me on Monday.

I grew up in the sunbelt. My heritage is so very fair. Skin cancer was a thing we had in my family. My mom would show up with a giant bandage on her nose. The next month my grandmother would have one spanning across her shoulder and up her neck. We mostly pretended not to notice. The bandages came as gradually but as certainly as the wrinkles and age spots did and I came to associate them with getting older. And now that’s me. I’m the person that my child will look at and see as unimaginably old, bandaged, and sacrificed to the sun.

I want to handle this with laugh lines (check) and good humor (eh). It’s not so easy. I can’t ignore the fact that the skin of my hands and the capillaries on my face look like my father’s. That I have a belly like my grandmother’s who I knew, intellectually, wasn’t pregnant but who was surely shaped like someone who was. That nothing on my body is smooth or silky and that my eyes are fading to a lighter blue every year. I want to handle this gracefully. Perhaps with sheer determination I’ll succeed.



2 Responses

  1. Even though it’s not that kind of post, I still heart you.
    I am NOT aging gracefully or gratefully as I know I should be. I’m railing against it and in deep denial. ha

    My mom had a melanoma a few years ago and I, too, am supposed to be careful. Ask me if I am. 😛

    There’s a beauty in what you wrote, even if the subject isn’t so glamorous. It’s history and genetics and…you.

  2. I had a melanoma removed in high school – that was when my mother pretended to learn of sunscreen. I’m the “walk into the sun and immediately turn into a lobster” blonde of my family, while the rest of them are all “walk into the sun and immediately become bronzed greek gods” blondes. It just isn’t fair. Turns out my child got those genes too.

    As for aging gracefully, I’m speeding downhill into 50 fast and realizing I’m built just like my grandmother. I’m mostly okay with it, but I feel really badly about my arms. I got her silver hair though, so it could be worse.

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