Wednesday, April 4, 2007



My mirror just reminded me how old I am. Again.

Sure, intellectually I know I’m 52. But most of the time it’s an useless number to me that doesn’t carry any emotional weight. That’s when I try not to pay attention. However, when I forget, I become uncomfortably aware that I’ve already spent half a century here, and I’m one more day closer to the last day before I vanish into the Big Black Empty. I don’t want to think about that too much, so I look for something to do.

Thankfully, even for a lazy bastard like me, it’s easy to stay busy. If you turn off the TV and leave the cave, things will happen to you.

“Life,” John Lennon’s ghost whispered to me, “is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”. I’m 52, and I’ve been married, divorced, got married again at a science-fiction convention , lost a father and sister, gone bankrupt, totaled a car, betrayed a friend, and seen Ghana. And that’s not even trying hard. Do I want to do more? Of course I do. To get through the day, I pretend I’ve got another fifty years to play with. It’s just a number.

So most of the time I forget how old I am. The persistent aching in my knee I shut up with Tylenol.

But then I looked in my mirror the other day. Usually, I’m clean shaven, but I experimented with the doomed idea of trying to grow a beard. I knew, just like the last futile attempt, that it was time to give up. Grabbing a razor to repair the damage, I studied myself in the glass. And, for some unknown reason, I saw somebody different staring back at me. Where did this clarity and inner illumination come from? I dunno. Maybe it was the lightbulb floating over my head.

My face was an unfolded road map, creased with a few new wrinkles. There were more treacherous grey hairs than I remembered. The scar near the corner my left eye, a childhood tattoo from falling off the monkey bars at the playground decades ago, was a dull smudge. And then, just for a brief moment, I saw my dead father in my reflection. “Damn,” I whispered to myself, “I’m 52. How did this happen?”

I think that’s why some people don’t like mirrors. Whatever lies you tell yourself, it will show you exactly who you are with a cold objectivity. And if you don’t like who you’re seeing, it’s a cruel epiphany. Abraham Lincoln said, “At forty, you have the face you deserve.” Well, at 52, all I want from my life is to be able to smile at that guy in my mirror and have no regrets.

And mean it.


Catreona said...

very nice post.