I will grow old for you, Mom

I looked a little closer.  The lighting in my bathroom has never been great, so it was difficult to tell for sure…a gray hair?!  This was uncharted territory, and I was not sure how to process it.

The wrinkles and bags under my eyes.  I am supposed to be ashamed, I should be investing in night creams and concealers.  Lasers and fillers and stuff I can’t pronounce.

Things are sagging.  There is a general droopiness in my…everything.  I don’t look like the 30 year-old moms.  I am told this should bother me, I need to up my game and turn back the clock.

Get trim.  Stay blonde.  Get toned.

I recently had a birthday.  THE birthday.  The one that is supposed to propel me from youth to middle-age.  The one I was supposed to be fearing for the last decade.

But I do not fear the birthdays and the gray hair and the wrinkles and the sagging.  They surprised me, but only because I have not known when to expect them, or exactly how they would look for me.  I don’t think my mom ever got a gray hair.  She never used anti-wrinkle cream, never went through menopause.  I am fast approaching a time where no one can say “You look so much like your mother at your age.”

For nearly 17 years I have connected with memories of my mom at whatever stage of life I was in…remembering what she was like in her late 20’s with elementary school kids, curling my bangs and packing my brown bag lunch.  I remember her in her early 30’s, moving her family across the country and learning how to give herself a home perm.  I remember her late 30’s, soaking up the last of her babies and sharing late-night Chinese food with my teenage self.  I left home shortly after she turned 40, and her body spent the next few years in a fierce battle with cancer. I will soon be out of memories of my mom “at my age”…

I have long been acquainted with the jumbled complexities of grief.  It manifests at the most surprising times, in ways I never prepared for.  As the daughter of a mother who never got to grow old, I find myself celebrating the milestones every other woman mourns.  Other women bemoan the aging process, cursing the body they feel is failing them.  I rejoice to see my body doing exactly what it was made to do, never forgetting that my mother’s eternally youthful body failed her.

In a few short years, I will “outlive” my mom.  I plan to celebrate that every.single.day.  I will love the gift of growing old, because my mom never got to.  Every gray hair, every wrinkle, every sag of the skin, every shuffle of step…I will grow old for you, mom.

Me and Mom, circa 1997