33…Is that right?

Age is a bitter sweet component of womanhood. It is like weight and dress size; an “evolved” woman intellectually knows that neither number holds much significance in the scope of a life, but her “evolvement” does not preclude her from being acutely aware of those numbers regardless.  So aware of them that she could rattle off either number quicker than she could cite the number that appeared on her most recent checking account statement.

I am becoming more aware of my age. I do not lie about it or anticipate “counting backward” once I hit 35 or 40 or 50 as I’ve heard friends joke. I am proud of my age most of the time.  I am awed by it all the time.

33.

Really?

When did that happen? No, seriously.

When did I transform from a happily delusional 22 year old with a futon, a second hand car and semi-regular encounters with men who only guaranteed a few hours of fun memories into a 33 year old almost-grown woman with a mortgage, a JOB with a capital J and complex relationship problems that get resolved and re-hatched with no true resolution in sight? Did it really happen over a period of 10 to 15 years or did it happen in about 25 minutes. It feels like the latter.

I know women who have these moments of incredulity on birthdays or when they have to check off their appropriate age demographic on any number of forms.  Me, however…my awareness of the number 33 has some rather unlikely triggers.

I punch in my time limit on the treadmill.  I punch in my weight.  The machine asks: Age?  And as I punch in 33, I pause, thinking…already?  Didn’t I just press 27 on a similar treadmill in another gym in another city just yesterday?

I jokingly explain to a student why I am incapable of engaging in a discussion about whether or not Bow Wow is sexier than Chris Brown.  “I’m 33, Sweetie.”  When I say it, I get the same feeling of disbelief I experienced while setting up my treadmill at the gym.  When did 19 year old boys cease to hold my intense fascination?  When did I cease to know every tiny detail about whatever heart throb was fueling the young adult commerce machine?

I watch a movie whose premise revolves around adult children dealing with an aging father.  The father, who is at the beginning stages of dymentia, is cursing out his nurse in the most creative and hysterical manner.  His daughter walks in.  Without skipping a beat, he croaks, “Who the hell are you?”

The daughter appears to be about 43.

I am 33.

My father had surgery for prostate cancer the summer of my 33rd year.  My father was hospitalized for  minor dehydration the winter of my 33rd year.

Although I began watching this movie because it starred one of the most brilliant actors of our time, I become less aware that Phillip Seymour Hoffman is playing the aging father’s son.  I am very aware that I am 33, which makes my father approximately 70.

Again, I can not explain how this happened.  I can not explain how in between my visits home, odd things happen to my father.  His hair greys or thins.  His stroll slows; it  becomes laborious.  His once extensive household activities lessen.  The dogs go unwalked; the gutters go uncleaned.  The grass gets cut by my 35 year old brother every other Sunday when he can spare time away from his 38 year old wife, their 15 year old daughter, 10 year old son and one month old baby.

I watch Philip Seymour Hoffman crudely scream the truth at his 43 year old sister.  “Dad is going to die!  Soon.  Death does not come with the same pretty scenery that these nursing homes put in their brochures.”  I watch his sister crumble.  It is an exquisite unraveling.  She does not shed a tear.  She does not shake uncontrollably.  But, she unravels right in front of her brother.  Silently.  Assuredly.   For 10 full seconds she crumbles into a terrified, helpless mass of flesh, begging to be delivered from what she, intellectually, understands to be an inevitable reality.

I wonder if she saw this moment coming when she was 33.  I want to poke her and ask her what, in this brief moment, has become a question I desperately need answered.  What did you do when you were 33 to prepare for this muted meltdown?

4 Responses

  1. As a woman who has, ahem, turned 33 far more often than you have, I gotta tell ya, nothing prepares you for the relentless march of mortality amongst your loved ones. Sorry. The only thing I can tell you is this: Life is like a play with a bad third act.

  2. This one made me cry. Thanks, I needed that.

  3. A good cry ain’t never hurt nobody…

  4. A REALLY bad third act.
    When you start to lose your friends and peers, you quickly move from the balcony to the orchestra and everything is seen UP CLOSE. All the time, everyday.

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