First, I am very aware that you don’t know me and even worse, you won’t care!
I AM the heroine of this story, or at least I try to be. And my arch nemesis is a very real, constant and present enemy.
The enemy will win! There, I've gone and given away the ending but if you are smart, and I’m sure you are, you will read on to understand the lessons and inherent wisdom contained in these words!
You can pick up this story in 1970 or 1980 or 2000 or 2020. The date is unimportant as the enemy is constant and it is all inclusive in its attempts to destroy. No one is immune to the attacks, which translates to, be very aware, the enemy may want you too.
I remember my first awareness of the danger was at a gathering of friends, neighbors and loved ones. Sitting on the fringes never wanting to lower myself to appear to enjoy myself outside of my own peer group, I scanned to see what changes had transpired since last we met. Some had become complacent and slid under its spell, others laughed a bit too loud and that was a dead give away that they were aware of the danger, the threat, but they still felt it was someone else’s problem. I can clearly recall thinking …”Not me, never in a month of Sundays, I am too smart to give into the weakness!”
It is an insidious thing, it creeps and hides, it threatens you from without and from within and there is no proven method to defeat it.
As you become wiser and do more research you think there can be a plan, a way to neutralize it or at least control it. You laugh when you think of the evening news, your face and the headline….Best Selling Author Claims ..I Have Met The Enemy and It Is Mine!
Yes bravado is fine but the reality is that I don’t have any answers, YET, it is all a facade but it keeps everyone in the mix. It keeps us aware that the enemy exists and is relentless.
I seem to be referring to the enemy as a national or global thing but in fact it is a very personal thing and the devastation it can rain upon each of us varies from case to case. In my case, I WILL beat it. I know I will! I know I can!
A favorite spring ritual of mine is to climb the trail to the top of Ferry Bluff. Once the eagle nesting season is over, you are permitted to access the trail and bluff. It is a daunting task but so worth the rewards. Vistas, beautiful, but more, I feel an understanding of the great river that flows below me as the elevation allows one to see how it has carved its way through miles and miles of the fertile fields and valley below. In the distance the water towers of small towns, railroad tracks that are just tiny lines, it makes me feel small and yet larger than life because I just climbed here for no reason other than these moments, this understanding. I have sat here before when a light plane flying low up the valley was below me, I was looking down on the top of its wings and so you see, the feat was the climb and then the celebration of the whole life that can be witnessed from this vantage point.
To lay back on the great slabs of sandstone and enjoy the sky or recall previous climbs and things witnessed this is the reason you feel the word celebration is appropriate, it is a special thing beyond words, so personal, so elating!
Today as I made my way up, it is as it always is, the winding trail loose and forgiving in a general winding sort of way at the bottom but as you gain more and more of the bluff, the turns become tighter, the trail steeper. You smile to yourself remembering past climbs. It is the way it always is, pure pleasure!
But wait, here is the stretch just before a hairpin turn to begin the last leg up to the top of the bluff, where the retaining wall that keeps the trail clear and the erosion in check always finds lesser souls sitting and resting, chests heaving and nervously laughing as they wonder how much more is ahead, here today, I pause. For the first time ever on this trail, I consider sitting, for just a moment to do what? Recover my breath? Allow my leg muscles to relax? No, no stopping, I go on! I don’t need to stop! But I did consider it! I find this more than disturbing. Hurrying now I make my way to the top.
Now I lay back on the slab of sandstone in the warmth of the sun and I realize that in fact, I should have rested, my breathing is still labored, my heart is pounding, my legs cry out for relief. I am not thinking of other visits, I am not reliving old feelings and delights, the plane or birds soaring above me, I am listening to my body complain. I am feeling the sweat on my upper lip and along my hairline. I am realizing the physical manifestations of a body overworked or over stressed, and the body is mine.
Recovery is immediate, I am in no danger, but this is new, something in my yardstick of life to consider. I lay there then and bring to mind the mental slideshow of previous visits and all is good again. I hear the sound of female laughter on the wind as a young couple approach the top, talking and laughing as newcomers to this place always do, exuberant and in awe to come out of the darkish tunnel of foliage, where you have no views to enjoy, out into this bare elevation and the whole world there to see.
I remain there on my back, eyes closed, I am enjoying the past and also thinking of the future. I feel the sun and life is good. I have no desire to break the spell of the moment by speaking or acknowledging the new comers, this is my time, my moments!
That snapshot in time is like a mental post it note, it is always there as a reminder, the time I first realized that things were in fact different. It was the first of many occasions and realizations, but I wasn’t ready yet to understand the significance . The second thing to understand, when looking back, is to realize the moments now come closer together. The intervals, shorter, a pattern developing. Everything becomes smaller, less intense and less enjoyable. The anticipated discomfort colors the excitement with a dull gray haze almost killing the sparkle of the moment of triumph, small or large as it may be, it has changed!
I’m trying to say here that the enemy has invaded me, I cannot say on which date or at what time but the insidious bastard has gained a foothold in me somewhere. I know it will grow stronger and I will grow weaker. It will gain and I will lose. I swore it would not happen to me...and yet there it is….the realization of the arrival has a devastating impact on my life.
The ugly hill to be over, the shitty slippery slope to be dealt with, it came with cunning and oozed through me! It is in charge now! Was I telling lies to myself? Was I trying to fool the world when I said I would beat it? How could I have believed it? I told you it would win in the end, and it has!
My question is ...Is the denial of foods and drink, the long hours of exercise to keep your body strong, the artificial ways to cover and fool your outward appearance, this fake facade, really worth it? Are you better for it? You now know! You know with an undeniable certainty that your arch nemesis, old age, cannot be denied! If it must have a name to be real, call it Father Time or in the worse and final chapter, the Grim Reaper!
I have fought against it since that moment on Ferry Bluff when I considered for a moment whether to sit and rest short of the top! That was my moment of crystal clear realization that it was already inside me! When will your moment be?
(I smile now as I wonder if the reader will assume this is written by a young person with a great imagination or an old person with a true depth of understanding)