Posted by: Maryann McCullough | March 1, 2011

Story for March 2011

 

 

THE TALLY

Maryann McCullough

 

A recent milestone has moved me into an entirely new category of citizenry. The milestone was my sixty-fifth birthday and the new category is Medicare beneficiary. I am now officially one of them – the old people.

And so I am pausing to make an accounting of my life. Where do I stand in relation to the person I used to be?  I am certainly not the same. The question is – am I an enhanced or diminished version?  Like the color of my hair, this is a gray time, woven of losses and benefits. The losses are obvious, to me and to those in my life. The benefits, while equally real, require of me a more careful scrutiny.

My eyes come first to mind. Those baby blues have been the best thing about my face. But they now merit about a C- for seeing. Retinal damage plus cataracts have made a world with curbs and stairs, with bright sunlight and darkness a challenge for me. But at the same time, my husband or a good friend will take my arm in a meaningful way when we walk and I enjoy the hugged feeling created by that closeness.

I had always felt that my brain was a very fine gift and it has served me well for a long time. But the cells are dying now and no new ones are being born to replace them. Some of the synapses are a little slow too. Retrieving a name from my memory bank can feel like navigating a maze in a cornfield. Real things disappear too. Keys get lost inside my purse. Glasses disappear on my nightstand. Entering data into my brain is a challenge as well. It’s tough to find storage space in that clutter of gray matter. But at the same time, though I don’t feel as smart, I recognize wisdom not present in the days when calculus or French were my challenges. Sometimes my mind can see right to the inside of a problem, a kind of x-ray, or Superman vision. I have lived a long time without understanding quantum physics. No need to tackle that now.

Just as things get lost inside my head, real things are disappearing and reappearing in my life as if by magic. Misplaced glasses turn up on top of my head. Keys that I couldn’t find in my purse miraculously reappear there. Halloween candy tucked away so it won’t be a temptation is discovered in time for Easter.

My skin, that stuff that holds me all together, isn’t very stretchy any more. If it hangs somewhere it doesn’t bounce back like it used to. But at the same time, the inside of my head seems to be able to stretch out and welcome ideas that once were not comfortable there. I like the fact that my mind is questioning old convictions and willing to consider new ones. I’ve learned to recognize God has many different names and is able to hear prayers addressed to each one of them. Saggy skin but a mind that can stretch, that seems a fair exchange to me.

And then there is time. I was one of the fortunate ones in that my personal and professional lives were extremely satisfying. Monday’s alarm clock was never a dreaded sound. But at the same time, alarm clock or no alarm clock?  It’s now my choice. Each day is filled with discretionary time. Will I write the great American novel?  Will I read movie magazines and eat bon-bons?  The choice is mine to make.

And so it goes. And so it goes. I could go on, noting the losses and recognizing the gains with this body and this life of mine. It seems, that with one of his hands, God takes back one of his gifts. Then with his other, he gives a brand new gift, likely one more suited for the current age of his child.

So, once I could stand on my hands. Now I can stand toe-to-toe if challenged with faulty logic. Once I could turn somersaults. Now I am turning words into stories. I’m okay with the person I’ve become. Not perfect these days, but the tally of gains and of losses does seem to be coming out in my favor.

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Responses

  1. I agree with Windy… The tally is still in your favor, girlfriend! You have a grace and spirit that have nothing to do age 🙂

  2. Would love to introduce myself and connect with you regarding McCullough family history –

    • Happy to mmet you. You can contact me at msm100@cox.net. I am on the verge (this July) of having a daughter-in-law named Megan McCullough!

  3. I’m glad you can see the tally IS in your favor! Thank you for sharing another thoughtful piece of your writing 🙂

  4. This is a wonderful piece.among your best. Thank you! Margie


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