Tag Archives: aging

The Old Woman Who Has Come to Live with Me


I wake up every morning and there is an old woman in my bed.

She aches and when she stands beside the mattress, she’s unsteady.

Feet that ran after small children in the grocery store,

Hips that held a toddler and rocked wildly in love-making are sore now

From standing up half-asleep

Stumbling to the bathroom

Plopping down, knees stiff, to pee.

Thank God I can still pee.

There’s an old woman in my kitchen.

She doesn’t climb on the counter anymore to reach the higher shelves

But uses a proper footstool,

Reminding herself that some Sunday afternoon she must move

the heavier bowls to the lower shelves and

put the birthday candles and party hats at the top.

The things she doesn’t use very much at the top.

Parties becoming out of reach.

Thank God I can still bake a cake.

There’s an old woman in my yard.

Who decides not to mow for another week because it’s gotten hard.

She’s out of breath so quickly, heart pounding

And the weed eater droops in her arms and slices through the dried skin on her boney ankles

and leaves cuts – brilliant red and bloody – on ankles that used to arch over sexy high heels

or tap her foot in impatience when a board meeting went too long.

Thank God I can still walk.

There’s an old woman in my mirror.

Long dark hair with luxurious curls are replaced by silver waves and white, white strands

That don’t relax. Her hair is more brittle, dry.

Her eyes have become small, surrounding by layers of loose skin and tiny moles.

Dark circles around them. The window to the soul is cracked and peeling.

Thank God I can still see.

There’s an old woman in my head, where passion used to flame,

Sarcastic comebacks crackled and intellectual barbs were sharp

And I knew I was right and insisted on my own way,

Where success once lived and achievement mattered.

There’s an old woman in my head where deep resentments have been bathed

in forgiveness and understanding.

Where coming in first doesn’t matter over putting others first.

Where praying comes like breathing and my loved ones come alive in memories but don’t come to visit.

Thank God I can still remember.

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Dorothy Canrinus has lived for 99 years.

I’ll never make it.

Her son, Mike, my husband, didn’t.  He had a rare brain disease catch up with him at age 57 and died when he was 64. We didn’t tell her at the time.

Mike loved his Mom although the relationship was awkward. He didn’t quite know what to do with her paraplegic limits when he was a child and as a teenager listening to her fractured voice and tortured speech was too much. It wasn’t until the last half of his life when humiliation has already taken your looks, your need to impress, your care what others think, that he could embrace her brokenness without thinking it reflected on him. That he might catch it. 

Then, actually, he did. The contagion slipped into his brain and he lost his eyesight and his own 10-year-old daughter turned her head in shame when he walked alongside, holding my hand, being led to the bathroom door with his blind eyes bright blue and unseeing. 

“He’s blind!” I would announce to the ladies’ room at large while I wheeled him into the disabled stall – large, but never quite large enough for an easy transfer or getting the chair turned around to face the right way on the way out. 

On the way out.

Sometimes I would be handing him toilet paper and whisper to him – “Now, if you suddenly regain your eyesight, the last thing you want to do in here is shout, ‘I can see! I can see!'” And we’d laugh as we went to the sink so I could wash his hands under disapproving eyes, lips pursed, silent judgement that there should have been SOME OTHER WAY to handle the situation. 

What way, you nasty, judgmental woman? What way? 

Dorothy and Mike busted through boundaries that would have preferred them be kept hidden, separate, apart. Angry and afraid. Instead Mike ran toward heaven with blessed strides and caught Jesus in a bro-hug with a joyous smile. Dorothy is patient. She accepts life for what it is and the days continue to fascinate her just by the fact that they keep coming. The birthday crown may be silly, but believe me, she will wear a crown covered with diadems reflecting the glory of heaven and shining like stars. 

99 years…and counting. 


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