Mid-life has brought with it the usual changes in my physical and mental state, but the most surprising has been in the way my brain works. Last summer, I decided to make my daughter an iconic garment worn by a certain British science fiction hero from my own youth. Authenticity required the garment to be knit, so I found a copy of Knitting for Dummies and taught myself. Sounds simple enough, but it verges on the miraculous.
Behold the miracle!
I’ve been crocheting since the age of eight, when my grandmother showed me how to both crochet and knit. I readily took to the former but completely failed to grasp the latter. In the intervening decades, four other people have tried to teach me to knit — two of them more than once — without success. Something about my brain simply did not get knitting.
But this time I have had no trouble figuring out on my own — from diagrams, no less! — something that years of wonderful personal tutoring couldn’t get my brain to comprehend. The process wasn’t without setbacks; I unraveled and redid portions of the first foot several times, but the remaining thirteen (it’s a very long scarf) went along rather nicely.
With several hundred rows under my belt, I feel so confident that I’ve since undertaken two additional knitting projects and figured out how to purl. And I still get a ridiculous thrill every time I think about the fact that I’m knitting. So what if my middle-aged brain can’t recall where I left the car keys or the name of my first-born child? It finally gets how to knit!
This was a 30/30 poetry prompt from last week. Responses or suggestions welcome!
Wisdom of Age
I have passed the threshold of possiblity
crossed the event horizon from expanding
universe into collapsing singularity
where time folds in on itself and matter
condenses with crushing persistence far beyond
the point where life and hope
cease to exist
It’s kind of strange the way we count years. A birthday or anniversary marks the completion of the year we identify, yet we tend to think of it as marking the beginning of that year. The fifth anniversary marks the completion of five years and the beginning of the sixth, for example, yet if someone asks how long you’ve been married during that sixth year, the standard answer would be, “Five years.”
Children have a sense of this inaccuracy. Introduce a child as being nine, and you’re likely to be corrected: “Nine and a half, actually.” No kid wants to be thought of as nine when she’s really not.
(If you’re having trouble understanding this, think about the way we number centuries vs. the way we number years. The 1900s were the 20th century; we are now in the 21st century, even though the current year begins with 20.)
Today is the last day of my mother’s 7th decade on this planet. Tomorrow she will turn 70 — complete her 70th year and begin her 71st. It’s cool to think that she’s reached the milestone identified in the last major birthday party I threw for myself, my “Halfway to 70” party. (A lot of people were very confused by the theme, but thankfully they came anyway.) This gives me hope that I might actually make it that far.
(That isn’t just foolish posturing, by the way; I’ve now surpassed my father’s age by more than a year. Realizing this has helped me understand the incredibly weird dynamic my midlife crisis assumed over the last couple years – it was a sort of endlife crisis at the same time. Talk about heavy!)
In honor of my mother’s birthday, I offer a poem I wrote 20 years ago:
Mother, you look
so beautiful and
I look like you!
I saw you
in the mirror this morning
“she’s beautiful” before
I realized she’s me.
A few years ago, I began to notice a popping in my left ankle when I walked, a kind of noise that I felt more than heard. This alarmed me; surely it was a sign that something wasn’t working properly. I saw a podiatrist for something else and asked her about the noise. She examined me carefully, looked at my x-rays, watched me walk, and told me that everything seemed to be working just fine. There was no evidence of arthritis or deterioration in the tissues that support the joint. It was just something quirky my body had started doing.
Sometime over this past summer, I began to hear a click, almost like a tiny slap, whenever I went down the stairs in my house. I didn’t notice it until I turned at the landing to go down the second flight, so I thought it must be a board or something structural. It’s structural, all right, but not architectural: I recently figured out it’s my right hip.
A veritable symphony of pops, clicks, and other noises accompanies me on my daily walk these days, but I’m no longer alarmed. It’s reassuring, like the grinding and whirring of gears I sometimes hear from the antique pendulum clock that hangs above my mantel. Ah, it’s working, I think when I hear the clock. Listen to those joints move, I think when I hear my own gears turning.