This is forty-four

Last summer, I wrote an essay entitled “This is Forty-Three,” on the eve of my forty-fourth birthday. Since it’s August 1st, and since my birthday is in a few days, I thought I’d try my hand at it again, now that I’m close on the heels of forty-five.

The prompt comes from the writer Lindsay Mead, who wrote on her blog – A Design So Vast – that she wanted to write about the middle of her life, to acknowledge who she is, what she’s become, and what she needs to accept that she will no longer be.

Seems like a worthwhile exercise. So, a recap then, of forty-four.

Forty-four is doctor’s appointments with physicians who are younger than me. Shockingly younger. Like, ten years younger. Checking-the-medical-school-diploma-hanging-on-the-office-wall-with-mouth-agape-while-my-socked-feet-dangle-from-the-examination-table-because-I-can’t-believe-they’re-not-still-in-school kind of younger.

Forty-four means no longer reprimanding my teenage daughter when she occasionally curses.

Forty-four is knowing that eighty-eight isn’t bloody likely. Or is, if I have inherited my grandmother’s genes. Either way — the days seem shorter, the seasons arrive sooner, yet the passion of my being and the urgency of my expression remains. The now of my life is so very pressing and elusive and wanted. Time whispers into my ear — or more accurately, screams — I am not yours forever. Look up ephemeral in a dictionary, kid, and Sharpie that word backwards on your forehead so you see it in the mirror every day.

Forty-four is sensing the shift in my relationship with my parents. I’ve spent more time outside of their home, rather than in it. Forty-four gazes upon my own children and wonders when and how and if such shifts will surface.

Forty-four is a gentle suggestion from my hair stylist that I “go a shade lighter” and “think about highlights” because it “adds depth” and “looks more natural.” Forty-four is roots touch-up every three weeks, four if I can stretch it.

Forty-four is my husband’s fingertips tracing the soft line of flesh behind the bend of my knee, telling me that he still desires the exploration of such places, and that he is still so heartened and amazed that they are his alone.

Forty-four means embracing my bad-ass. Forty-four means finally tucking away that good little girl in the pigtails and saddle shoes, with a tender kiss on her forehead and a toddle off to bed. Forty-four is still sweet and kind, but grew cojones.

Forty-four is being told that I’ve got nice gams.

Forty-four appreciates the things that I know and the movies I’ve seen and the cultural references I keep, ones which are slowly disappearing in the ether of life. Forty-four knows that generational viewpoints and experiences and touchstones are all mortal and transient, and that we cannot hold the space forever. Forty-four is old enough to know what’s disappearing from the vernacular.

Forty-four is swimming naked and jumping off the diving board. Finally.

Forty-four still misses my grandparents, the nasal twang of New York accents and phrases that are heard more infrequently on city streets, cheap coffee in ceramic cups and diner rice pudding without fanfare or presentation, dimes presented to little children by old men in fedoras and suits on street corners, and the familiar aroma of Sunday dinners from relatives’ kitchens.

Forty-four no longer expects people to stay. People come, people go. Forty-four no longer clutches so tightly to life.

Forty-four means that my children are nearly as tall as I am. Forty-four is finding my daughter in the walk-in closet with a pair of my strappy heels dangling from her index finger.

Forty-four doesn’t want to start watching a movie at 10 pm anymore.

Forty-four is all too real. Diagnoses and divorces and stints in rehab circle all of us like sharks. Still, morning comes. We soldier on. We know no other way.

Forty-four means calling for the drum lessons anyway, even though I won’t be the hottest girl drummer in the world. Forty-four takes a stick in each hand and splashes the cymbals.

Forty-four is more walks with the dog, and fewer runs on the track.

Forty-four is empowering myself with selfishness. Tough for an ex-Catholic. But do-able.

Forty-four eats ice cream on summer nights, but only if I call it dinner.

Forty-four thinks I’m more beautiful now than I was at thirty-five. Forty-four thinks my life experience and my passion and my vulnerabilty shines through my skin and sparks my eyes and glistens on my lips and beckons life to come closer and sit beside me and make out for a little while.

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