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For My Father

55.

The age of post-midlife crises and doctor visits.

Backs cracking, heels tapping, salsa lessons with two left feet.

Getting out of bed is a little harder, you slumber a little deeper.

So many pills you can’t even count them.

The age of watching children go into the world with your blessing.

Raising little ones from tiny tots to full-fledged lawyers in grey suits.

Favorite Chanel lipstick discontinued.

Your baseball team finally wins a World Series.

Losing weight, gaining weight, losing it and then gaining it all back

because a belly is fine when you’re 55.

Eating what you want, when you want

Reminiscing about the “Good Old Days”

Starting stories with “Remember when?” and

ending with “Ah, to be young again.”

The return of “This generation!” and “By Jove!”

Your kids tell you “hip” isn’t a thing anymore.

The age of sorrow, of realizing innocence was an illusion.

The age of memory, of history, of regrets and lost loves

but also the age of pride, and strength, and courage.

Wrinkles, anti-aging cream, companies prey on your fear of death

Its reflection in your face scares you and then

it doesn’t.

Because your history only reflects the battles you’ve fought

because you are proud of your lines

because your scars are not scars

because you are a goddamn tiger who earned their stripes.

The age of confusion, of repeating yourself,

of “where did my car keys go?” and “why is everything changing?”
A bustling, hustling, tussling wave that sweeps you up and drags you along

You might have surfed that wave thirty years ago.

The age of modern technology you don’t quite get

Children who are a little more reluctant to explain it to you

A world that doesn’t make sense and yet makes more sense than ever

The age of contradictions, of Lipitor, and diabetes warnings

Of Susie-from-grade-school friending you on Facebook

Of diseases and fear and Ebola and news and conservative leanings

Less rally marches, less “Save the Penguins!” and more 401ks.

The only age that 55 is not

is Death.

At 55, you are only opening the gate to Death’s mansion

Black, obsidian, and looming in the distance

Closer, yes, but not here yet.

At 55, you are alive with the sound of music

With love in your veins and power in your heart

At 55, you are free.

So this is to you, my father

For whom 55 was not the age of salsa lessons or Lipitor

It was not the age of baseball, lipstick, and carbohydrates

Nor the age of backyard Frisbee, running your first 5K

For you, 55 was the age of hospitals and white gowns open in the back

The age of needles, Needle Hotel, fresh-out-of-med-school nurses with pity in their eyes

Anger, fury, questioning, and then

acceptance. Mild-mannered. I'm not sure which saddened me more.

The age of family, of old friends paying their respects.

Of birds that soared in the blue sky outside your hospital window.

"I wonder what it's like to be free," you told me.

The age of love. Of friendship. Of storytelling. Of a life told in pictures and diary entries

bad fashion choices you relived (remember those bell-bottoms?)

of pained smiles when it got really bad

of dark rooms, closed windows, no speaking.

Days where you needed space, needed time, but nobody could loan you any.

For you 55 brought with it only pain and misery and radiation therapy

You didn’t gain weight, but withered away to bones.

For you, it was the age of dreaded doctors in hushed tones

Of love underneath the lindens that gleamed before the watchful eyes of a full moon

Of graveyards and dirt and the pain of saying goodbye.

This is for you.

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