It’s not a laugh or a frown line – I’ve been grinning, laughing uproariously and frowning deeply into mirrors, to see if the line, that very fine crease, would come and go. I’ve taken to wandering the house with a handheld mirror examining it in all kinds of light. The pale morning kitchen one. The brilliant sunny dining room. Out in the yard, birds glancing off my reflection. In all my car mirrors. Both side ones. Rearview.
“I have my first wrinkle.”
My 93-year-old mother chuckled. “Your first?”
I could tell she was resting on her bed, head propped on her pillows, where she liked to rest most afternoons. Looking out the window at her yard where I’d staked her a new bird feeder.
I was upset. “This is my first real wrinkle. It’s there all the time.”
“Try hemorrhoid cream, like Carol does.” Carol is the woman who comes in a few times a week for meals and to clean.
“On your face?”
“She has flawless skin and is just about your age.”
This wasn’t what I was looking for. “I’m not putting something on my face that goes on your butt.”
“Well, then you have to start using serum and a good brand wrinkle cream.”
“I use moisturizer.”
“That’s not wrinkle cream.”
True. I’ve avoided anything labelled for wrinkles. Yes, I have some laugh lines and a few crows feet, but not wrinkles.
My mother couldn’t stop chuckling. “Wait until you get a turkey neck. Then you have to start worrying. Or just wear neck scarves.”
She owns a lot of neck scarves.
I wasn’t prepared for this wrinkle, let alone a turkey neck, nor my new tummy: “Your metabolism has slowed, that’s all,” my doctor told me at my last visit after I weighed in a good ten pounds heavier even though I’m not necessarily gorging on chips.
My mother had already suggested I buy a girdle, so I wasn’t going to add the tummy topic into the mix. . . .
Still, I wasn’t getting what I needed from her. Probably because usually our conversations are about her own crises, ones that are relatively small but at 93 are big. Like misplaced canes and glasses. A bottle of pills that has rolled under her bureau. Towels that are missing.
Every so often though, as much as I may try to suppress it for her sake, I need my mother in my own little crises, even what might just be a little twist of my mind –sometimes, I just need my mom.
I wasn’t ready for this wrinkle. “Why is it suddenly just there?”
I’d moved outside to sit in a deck chair. Usually when we’re on the phone, I’m be up and about, multitasking, doing dishes, even checking email. But now it was me who needed her undivided attention – at 49 complaining about wrinkles, I was feeling twenty-something after some relationship with some guy hadn’t worked out. When I’d turned to my mother then too, knowing she could put what seemed a tragedy into perspective.
The reality is, long after I thought I needed it, she remains the warm hand brushing my hair back off my forehead as she would when I was a little girl. But as she has weakened and become more dependent on me, I find it unbearable to need her in this way.
Then the comfort words did come: “Dear, you will age beautifully. I have no doubts about that.”
I was able to breathe a little easier then, enough to relax back in the plastic adirondack chair, to look up at the sky. “I’m old,” I sighed, which sent us both laughing at both the truth and the absurdity of that, in light of both our ages.
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