Sunday, October 14, 2007

Last Sunday at 39

I woke at six o'clock this morning and dragged myself to the shower. When I entered the bathroom, I took a moment to examine my face. It was that early morning face, with odd creases from the pillowcase pressed into my forehead. Otherwise, it was the same: eyes where they belong, nose in place, mouth there with a little dawn crust around the edges.

I don’t expect any big surprises when I peek at myself in the morning. Each day I grow accustomed to the way I look.

Back in college, I remember once looking in the mirror and taking a vow that I would never let my skin acquire an old age roughness. I would not allow small creases to find their way into the areas around my eyes or to appear on my forehead.

Looking at my face this morning, I can see I broke my promise. Some small bumps exist along with a couple of bumps on my nose I can’t seem to eradicate. Although my forehead doesn’t sport deep cracks, it has a few small lines, the same lines that have found their way to my eyes.

It’s not bad. It’s not the worst thing to look older when you are older. I confess I apply some anti-wrinkly prune face moisturizer to ‘decrease the presence of fine lines’ but I don’t want to look like I’m in my 20s. I actually still am asked for my ID sometimes, but I think that’s probably because I’m short.

I got my early start today because I had to catch a flight to Phoenix. I’m typing from 39,000 feet right now. I’ll change planes there and be off to Houston.

At the San Francisco airport, I surveyed the waiting area and saw an available chair next to an old woman talking on her cell phone, so I claimed the seat. I started sending a text message and realized I was inadvertently eavesdropping on her conversation. I was attracted to her voice, a voice of an old woman who sounded professorial. I thought a little about how our voices change as we age, perhaps a bit envious that I would never sound quite so erudite as she did when I’m an oldster. She talked about spending the day at Stanford. She mentioned her daughter and talked about having a law scholarship named after her, with an initial endowment of 1.5 million dollars.

When I overheard that, I decided I’d better take a peek at her again. So, I stood up and knelt by my suitcase to unzip a pocket. I didn’t need to get anything but I thought it would be the most discrete way to take a good look at the person sitting next to me: Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

She looked old. Spots and wrinkles. White hair pulled back in her signature hairdo. But she spoke kindly and comfortably to her agents who approached and guided her on to my flight, securing seat 2A, a window, in First Class.

I’m sitting 14 rows behind her right now, typing from US Airways Economy Class seat 16 A. I’m thinking I don’t really mind that this is my last Sunday at age 39. In the 15 minutes that I listened to her and observed her, O’Connor epitomized refinement and intelligence. I may not be as polished, nor as learned or powerful, but I can age with grace and dignity. And some anti-wrinkle cream (might as well try something).

They say aging is about doing what makes you happy, fighting for what’s important to you, and staying active. I know I have some work cut out for me, but I will do my best. And I’m having a big party next weekend, being thrown for me by Brad, Mark, my mother and others, which both thrills and embarrasses me.

Enough of this talk. Now I’ll look more closely at the cracks and crevices. Deeper and bigger. Dry. Pretty amazing.

I’m sure the Grand Canyon is even more impressive from the ground than from my window. From 39 (thousand feet, that is).

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