I think I’ve aged 11 years since we lost him. I may be an older mom—I didn’t even become a mother until my 40s—but I always told myself that I didn’t look my age. That’s not really as vain as it sounds, because it really doesn’t have much to do with me; it’s genetic. Both of my parents looked younger than they were and so do my siblings. So, thank good genes; adequate sunscreen has pretty much taken care of the rest.
When I got pregnant for the first time, many people thought I was in my mid-20s rather than celebrating my 40th birthday. By the time Charlie was born, I looked more like 10 years younger than my actual age—mid-30s rather than mid-40s. Even doctors and dermatologists remarked how young I looked. (And yeah, even if you don’t really have anything to do with it, it makes you feel good.)
But now? I look my age and more.
I recently had to take down my mirror while some work was done in the bathroom. Three weeks with just a tiny hand mirror didn’t really bother me. The older I get, the lower maintenance I become. And since we lost my son, I have approached zero maintenance, only bothering to blow dry my hair or put makeup on if I have a client meeting at work. Anyway, the point is, I went a while without looking in the mirror.
So it was kind of a shock when the mirror went back up and I got a good look at myself, under the new lights. Who was this old woman staring back at me? When had my hair gone so white? Why do I suddenly have loose jowls and a crepey neck? What are these grooves running from my nose to my mouth? Still not many wrinkles, but why are my eye sockets so hollow and sunken? And why was the skin on my chest and arms suddenly so loose, rough and covered with a web of tiny pre-wrinkles?
But I looked closer, into my own eyes. Eyes that are haunted with grief and guilt and loss. Eyes that are windows on to a soul with a a hole torn in it, hemhorrhaging love that has no where to go. The eyes of someone old, and tired, and worn.
I guess that is one of the side effects of grief. It ages your spirit and your soul. The last six years, I’ve experienced grief on grief on grief—losing my sister, watching my mother die of cancer, and losing my son. Oh, my darling son.
That much grief and loss doesn’t make you wiser, but it certainly makes you older, body and soul. I feel fragile, like an old tree that’s starting to go hollow. It requires effort to summon the energy required to put out green leaves, to provide shade and rest and comfort to those I love. I feel like one more storm might send me crashing down.
Eleven months to miss him.