in the last year of my sweet momma’s life, at not quite 94, she would say astonished things like, “i looked in the mirror and i look like an old woman!” we would laugh together when we mentioned her age and that she had earned every last wrinkle, every age spot, every grey hair. never have i seen a more beautiful old woman. in a life that spanned from 1921 to 2015 her hazel eyes saw vast changes, world hurdles, family loss and strife, wild technological advances. and love.
barney was born around the same time as my momma. i wonder about the life he had before he arrived in the basement boiler room. was he a honkytonk piano, a barroom upright, a sunday school accompaniment, the instrument in someone’s drawing room? he was headed to the scrap guy when we met him and we intervened. i suppose as he has lingered in our backyard these last five years he would wonder about the reflection in the mirror, his outer shell, those wrinkles, that peeling laminate, the keys that no longer play. does he realize that chipmunks perch on his brow and snack on acorns? does he realize that birds land, patiently in wait for their respective and restrained turns at the birdfeeder? does he realize that his soul remains rich, his exterior beautiful in its aging?
i laid awake for hours in the middle of the night last night. i looked in the virtual mirror in my mind and saw wooden stages and boom mics, big pianos and blue jeans. i realized, suddenly, that i am older. despite everything that would suggest to me, try to convince me of, the contrary, i have gotten older.
scrolling through social media during this time of distancing it is stunning to see all the ways people are incorporating posting with streaming, youtube, visiting with google hangout, facetime, videoconferencing with zoom, webex, as they try to be there without being there. it’s exhausting.
my 1970s-lingering-self puts on readers and starts to read the directions. the chipmunks are perched on my brow and i resource apps to stay in the loop and do my part to help keep people connected in a time where connection could easily fall away.
i take a deep breath and remember the day that my sweet momma’s iphone facebook status read (from her assisted living facility in tampa) that she was checked in at a miami dolphins game in miami. i quickly and quietly fixed it for her.
and then i giggle and think, ‘heck. if she can do it, i can do it.’
it is the symbiosis of peeling back the layers, honoring the wrinkles, relying on each other’s strengths in the mirror and working together, the virtual birdfeeder our community.