Sometimes I feel like my face is a science experiment. It seems like in the last couple of years my cumulative years of living have really started to display themselves – on my face. There are new creases and wrinkles, evidence of the passage of time and, most especially, of living.
I have mixed feelings about this. Sometimes, I nod my head and acknowledge the aging process as the gift that it is. We all know the alternative, right? I try to embrace the changes thinking of each tiny line as a beautiful souvenir. Often it works.
Yesterday, though, I was at hot yoga, working hard for a standing balance pose and I noticed a difference in the appearance of the skin on my knees. It looked a little…crepe-y. Not saggy, really, just not taut. It bothered me.
Personally, I am not interested in availing myself of surgery or other medical interventions as an attempt to fight off time. I’m certainly not above spending more than I ever could have predicted on eye cream and moisturizer (with sunscreen, of course), but that’s all I’m really comfortable with. At this time.
I’ll continue to exercise, drink lots of water and slather that tender skin under my eyes using my ring finger, which is reputed to be the most delicate. I’ll keep working on my standing split and accepting that it’s what’s under the skin that counts the most.
Where do you draw the line?
Today is my brother’s 50th birthday. I know I’ve said it before, but my brother has been the one constant in my life. This doesn’t mean that we didn’t have our times of conflict. I recall darts being thrown at my feet to encourage me to vacate his room and spats over typical sibling bullshit, but, ultimately, if I ever needed anything, I’m talking protection, advice, $, he gave it to me.
Having only one sibling, and about a half a parent, made for an independent life. There are times when weeks, maybe even months, have passed without my brother and I speaking. Like some sort of German standoff, I may have even consciously not called him just to see how long it would be until he called me. He always wins. It doesn’t really matter, though, because when I do finally break down and dial his number, he almost always answers.
The thought that there is only a single person in the entire universe who shared your childhood is sobering. Without my brother, I’m the sole keeper of legends and memories – a pretty weighty responsibility for the child with a reputation for being a bit wild. Even though our recollections aren’t always (ever?) identical, the comfort of knowing that he was there, we were in it together, is reassuringly grounding. The world feels like a safer place with him it.
Our mother complained that the boys in her family (and there were a lot of them) were treated better than the girls, they were considered “princes,” while the girls were more scullery maids. As a parent, she continued that tradition and, if you’ve ever met the Lilly boys, you know I’m guilty of the same thing.
On a Veteran’s Day a half century ago my brother was born. His uniform is more lab coat than camo, his throne the same stool he’s been sitting on for at least 35 years, but these details do nothing to diminish the fact that, to me, he is a hero and a prince. Happy birthday, TJM!
When I think back to my teen years two things stand out distinctly – and I’m not talking about sex and cheap beer. No, in the small town where I grew up, a place with limited transportation options and even fewer entertainment opportunities, cruising (or walking) around listening to the radio (or cassettes) was our recreational past time. During my recent visit home, I discovered the familiarity I once had with the roads, be it on my two feet or four wheels, remains.
Decades have passed since I last resided in Greenwood Lake, yet the curves of the road continue to be as familiar to me as my own hand. I consciously approached the village from the east. I wanted to go over the mountain, the same mountain I had walked, hitchhiked and driven for years. While there have been some changes along the side of the road, particularly in Sterling Forest, the twisting and curving path of that black ribbon snaking through the woods and between rocks, hasn’t changed.
Driving over the mountain flooded me with memories. There was a fogged in night when my mother managed to negotiate the road with an open driver’s side door and the assistance of the double yellow line. I remember a late night return from work in a blinding snowstorm which caused my coworker (who was driving) to slide off the road and into a ditch. We were eventually rescued by a passerby whom we rewarded with bags of candy pilfered from the gift shop on the thruway rest stop where we worked.
At the top of the mountain there used to be a pull off spot to take in the view – and hang out partying. We used to claim that on a clear night the lights from NYC’s skyline were visible from that vantage point. I still like to think that they were. One of my most vivid recollections is from a wild night of drinking with a large group of people from town. When it was time to head back down the mountain, one of the guys decided he didn’t want to be in the car, he wanted to be on top of the car. I watched in horror, from the car immediately behind, as he climbed out of the moving vehicle and stretched his body long, arms extended, gripping the lip of the roof while traveling 50+ mph down the narrow and winding road. While he survived that escapade, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot a few short years later. In retrospect, maybe he was trying to kill himself even then.
I turned off the mountain prior to approaching the village. I wanted to drive down a different road, one I had frequently taken when I was in the mood to walk instead of hitchhike. It was a good decision. I was pleased to see that the area had remained essentially free of development and that the trees which stood vigil beside the road remained the most prevalent residents. I wondered who else might remember the year those same trees were devastated by gypsy moth caterpillars, the sound of the leaves being munched impossible to drown out even with my Walkman blasting Van Halen’s Eruption.
In my head, I can still hear both.
Despite my attempts at processing the hundreds of distinct thoughts and images in my head following my trip to the past last weekend, my mind is still in a whirl. During my drive north, while I tried to assert a sense of order to all that had been stimulated in my head, I realized that the 30th reunion I had attended had prompted more questions than it had answered and I wondered if other alumni felt the same way. I wished that I were better in those sorts of situations, more open to approaching others and initiating conversations. I had wanted to feel a connection with those around me, a connection which ultimately I could only find in fits and starts.
I’ve attended each reunion planned by the class Dynamo, Robin. There have been four. If I take the time to consider what compels me to insert myself in an environment which doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable, my only conclusion is that I’m seeking something, some sort of resolution or denouement.
Kind of silly, right? What can be learned from surrounding myself by people with whom I shared a building, along with some experiences 30 years ago? I just don’t know.
High school was not four years of social activities and academic achievements for me. I was not present for much of it, figuratively and literally. I felt lost in the hugeness of the high school after the intimate experience of my Greenwood Lake education, going from a class of 65 to one of more than 400 in the blink of an eye. Cliques and expectations were well established and I flitted between groups (heads, brains, jocks) committing to none.
Each reunion has invoked a similar lack of ability to engage. I simply don’t know what to say to anyone. There are familiar faces, some from high school so long ago, others from social media, and flashes of memories race through my mind. But where does one start when it comes to covering the last three decades? And – to what purpose? My high school experience will never change and my future probably doesn’t include any of the people I struggle with to make meaningful conversation. If an opportunity presented itself – say a classmate was going to be in the Albany area and wanted to grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, I’d be interested. I’m just more comfortable interacting in a smaller, lower-volume setting. Perhaps that’s my take away, my conclusion?
I think this was my last reunion.
Another year around the sun complete. Some words which moved me – to smile, to laugh, to think, to cry.
Life is full. Times passes quickly. Each day is a gift.
Filed under aging, birthdays
What he said
It must have been the unfortunate choice of Pandora station – U2’s Running to Stand Still, that prompted my run to be filled with thoughts of love. Many of the songs were familiar, but I forged a new understanding of them as the lyrics relentlessly pounded me for 5 miles.
As my mind sought an escape from the music, which was a combination of cloying and consolatory, some thoughts I recently had, began to knit themselves together. There must be water. If there’s a lack of oxygen, one can’t breathe. Light encourages development. A little dirt and fire are required. Love is earth.
Love is organic. It makes me believe in science in a way that my high school biology class failed to do. In fact, nothing has convinced me that human beings consist of atoms and electricity so much as love. From the moment those individual particles attach themselves to those of another, there’s no denying the force. There is an almost pungent scent from pheromones, palpable and intensely intimate. I’ve smelled it.
I’ve come to believe that we each possess an internal well which needs to be continually replenished. What fills the well for each of us is marvelously unique and ever evolving. Sometimes it’s a shower of loving words or shared thoughts which soothe our soul. At other times salty tears. There also needs to be a balance of air and light to enable growth. Without oxygen, there is suffocation. In the dark, love withers and fails to reach its true potential. Fresh air and sunshine truly are the antidote to sorrow. I know this to be true.
Dirt and fire can bring excitement and exhilaration to a union. Getting a little messy together, in whatever fashion you mutually appreciate, can be joyful. The heat of passion can meld two into one. I’ve felt this.
If these individual elements are absent, or present yet unbalanced, instead of desirable rich and earthy soil, mud or dust may result. We become bogged down or inclined to be blown away. Equilibrium, damn it, it’s about creating a positive balance between these individual essential fundamentals. It’s true about the earth, it’s true about love.
It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose. The longer you live, the smaller the world becomes and the more likely it is that the individual spheres of one’s personal world will begin to overlap. Last night I helped train our new server at the Wine Bar. She is a former student. Sigh.
I obviously share a lot of my personal life and thoughts here, but it mostly feels anonymous. I don’t really know who reads this stuff and thus am often surprised when I meet someone in real life who knows about me or my adventures and antics. I do think, though, that I’ve done a decent job of keeping my day time school life separate from my night-time restaurant life. Until yesterday, that is.
I kind of pride myself about being ‘Me” wherever I am. That doesn’t mean, though, that I necessarily am comfortable being my blunt and sometimes bawdy self behind the bar with a young woman who used to attend the school where I teach. Must I now censor myself?
As I consider what I can and can not say while in the presence of a former student, why don’t you take a moment to ponder the First Amendment and the right to free speech on a literary level? Next weeks marks the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week. While I figure out the best way to say what I want, you can maybe read a book by authors who have used their words to freely express themselves.