cross-posted from Blogabillies
December 1999. Late-night trip to Walgreen's to pick up a few things. I'm exhausted, putting in long hours on an editing assignment code-named "Project A."
The book is on a need-to-know basis at the publishing house because it's the kind of manuscript that reporters - mainstream and tabloid alike - love to get a sneak peek at. Sounds like some crazy spy story, but I've actually been packing up my garbage and sending it home with a friend, to make sure that if any busybodies are skulking about the driveway and poking through my trash cans, they won't find any evidence of my top-secret efforts to insert transitional sentences while hacking away at overgrown verbiage.
I'm not just exhausted, I'm mentally and emotionally drained. On top of the absurdity of work - who would have thought copy editing could be such a cloak-and-dagger adventure? - my father's life is fading away, one painfully slow day at a time. Rare. Incurable. Untreatable. An unspoken question incessantly flutters like a moth against the screen door of my mind: What will Daddy's Girl do without her daddy?
As if that isn't enough, I'm approaching a milestone birthday in less than a month: the Big 5-0. It weighs on me, this prospect of facing another decade. I can't seem to focus on the potential it offers. Instead, I think only of dreams unrealized, hopes unfulfilled, opportunities missed. TILT. Full-blown overload of synapses. Sliding into hormone hell with nothing to hold on to . . .
Perhaps that's why I'm pushing the shopping cart with a white-knuckled grip, mentally reciting the list of items I need as I walk through the drugstore. When I hit the end of the list, I turn the cart around and head toward the checkout.
And that's when I look down at the contents in the rolling metal basket and have an epiphany: every single item in the cart is age-related. Hair color, calcium supplements, reading glasses. Dr. Scholl's inserts for my shoes. Not ordinary moisturizer, but "age-defying super-hydrating wrinkle-reducing eye cream."
One by one, I unload my necessities and set them in front of the cash register. The clerk scans each item while I bite down on my lip - hard - in a desperate attempt not to cave in and cry. Please, Lord, I pray silently. Let me get outside before I break down.
I must be living right because my prayer is answered. I make it out to the car and fasten my seat belt before giving in to the tears. Except they don't really course down my cheeks as I expect. Instead, a sudden, choking giggle bursts out of my mouth. I am the Madwoman of Chaillot!
Where ya goin'?
Crazy. Wanna come with me?
It's an old family joke, but I figure the very fact that I can remember it probably means I'm not nearly as close to insanity as I feel. I crank the engine, pull out of the parking lot, and let my big ol' premium-gas-guzzling Cadillac roll me toward home.
By the time I hit the Capital of Texas Highway, a rhyme is bumping around in my head. So when I get to the house, I drop my plastic bag of Baby Boomer age-busting goodies on the kitchen counter and sit down at the typewriter to finish the silly ditty that has helped me avoid a crying jag.
Where did they come from, these lines ’round my eyes?
They weren’t there last year; a recent surprise.
“Laugh lines,” they’re called; I don’t find them funny.
I’d have them removed, if I had the money.
Time and gravity, taking their toll;
Maintaining youth — impossible goal.
“Growing old gracefully” — gee, what a crock.
Whoever said that has not had the shock
Of shifting and sagging, of parts moving south,
Or creases that run from your nose to your mouth.
Me? Age gracefully? No! You can wage,
I’ll go kicking and screaming into old age.
My body may tire and my face may be lined,
But I still feel eighteen — at least in my mind.
So hand me the eye cream, the Oil of Olay;
Miss Clairol and I have a meeting today.