The Pains and Joys of Aging

A cartoon of bodies in coffins labeled "Frank," "Sherry," "Roberta," "Sara," and other names not visible.

I entered my eighth decade recently, turning seventy. Nothing is that different except, well, there’s the increased intensity of the aching. And, well, the dying seems to be picking up speed—Sherry, Roberta, Sara, Frank, Darren.

A cartoon of a pair of feet with bunions labeled. One toe has a speech bubble reading, "Scoot over!"

Then there’s my feet. They’ve taken a hit. Once adorably small, now they are sea creatures, root vegetables. Bunions like barnacles bulge above the instep.

A cartoon of a foot. A small toe is saying to the large toe, "Scoot over!"

My toes are a haphazard family of midgets. Like goats, they nudge each other and ride up on each other. Such rude molestations. My big toes are bullies, big bullies. But, frankly, they’re innocent.

A cartoon of a woman's scalp, labeled "scant hair." Arrows point to patches labeled "no hair."

I’m also balding like a man. If I push my bangs back, there is nothing but a vast desert of scalp. My temples are absolutely naked.

A cartoon of a hand, with heavy rings on the fingers. one finger is bent. A bump is labeled "the fucker."

Then there’s my hands. Veins like squat waterways web above the surface. And my fingers defy, resisting all direction. My pointers veer. My pinkies veer. My pointers lean into my middle fingers as if trying to talk them down from their rage.

A cartoon of a woman lifting a barbell while seated on a couch, watching television.

At least I still have good biceps, the most youthful part of my body. Yes, I still lift, but only in the living room.

A cartoon of a woman in bed, under a floral-print blanket, with a horrified expression

And the thing is, my muscles now bully me. Do you know what I mean? They cramp and jerk. At night I can feel them thinking about hard things, like fascism and cancer.

A cartoon of a hammock between two palm trees, with a label reading "slack"

But the undersides of my biceps have given up. The musculature has turned into sacks, scantily filled—like unused backyard hammocks.

A cartoon of a woman wearing a wrinkled red dress

Overall, my skin is a pure linen dress after sitting all morning without smoothing my skirt.

A cartoon showing a wall of photos, labeled "dead"

At my fiftieth high school reunion, there was a wall of the dead. It was not a bulletin board; it was a wall. There was my fifth-grade best friend, my seventh-grade boyfriend, and the only Black girl in the school.

A cartoon of a man with long hair wearing a headband, labeled "Jackson Tokata, 2-11-51 to 6-20-72"

And Jackson Tokata, my high school’s first hippie. Jackson stole Marty Balin’s capo when Jefferson Airplane played at our school in 1967. I remember the principal wouldn’t even let us stand up for—let alone dance to—“White Rabbit,” even though everyone wanted to.

A photo of Marty Balin


A cartoon of a house with a banner reading "welcome" and a label reading "skin's house"

But one joyous thing about turning seventy—and it’s big—is that my skin finally let me move into its house. This is no doubt the plus side of the skin’s loss of elasticity.

A cartoon depicting a closeup of a zippered garment. The outside is labeled "skin" and the inside is labeled "inside skin"

For most of the past sixty years at least, I’ve been trying to live in my skin’s house, but I always had a leg or an arm sticking out or caught in the door. But then in August of last year, I got in.

A swirl of scribbles and spots labeled "clutter"

I do love the color palette—all the reds and blues and purples. But there’s so much clutter in there. There are way too many dusty old habits and stale postures.

A cartoon of a woman with curly blue hair, raising a glass of champagne, and saying "yay."

But I’m toasting. I’m toasting because I’m in. In my skin. For the win. I’ll clean it up later.


Art and Music, Community, The Human Condition, Aging


1 comments have been posted.

Thank you Leanne for your clarity and honesty in revealing that I'm not alone in the astonishment of growing downhill, even though I'm finally comfortable in my old skin! Bravo!

rosiedwards | July 2023 | portland

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