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Waltzing through time: A body inventory

After The Ball — a popular waltz written in 1891 by Charles K. Harris — tells the story of a gentleman who sees his beloved kissing another man at a festive party, whereupon he vows never to love again. I remember my grandmother singing it to me when I was a kid in Atlanta, and it brought tears to my young, easily enchanted eyes. But then she’d make me laugh by singing the parody of it, which was almost as popular as the original, and it goes something like this:

After the ball was over,

Lizzie took out her glass eye,

Put her false teeth in some water,

Corked up her bottle of dye,

Stood her false leg in the corner,

Hung her wig up on the wall,

The rest of her lay down to slumber,

After the ball!

These days? Call me Lizzie.

First there was the hysterectomy thing seven years ago, then the right knee replacement thing last summer, and now, soon upon us is the first of my two cataract operations, which will I hope clear away the cloud through which I have been attempting to view the world for the past several months. Cataracts! What am I? An old woman or something? Only older people develop cataracts, right? Oh. But wait a minute … yep … that would be me. I’m that older woman I keep hazily seeing in the mirror. No! Well … actually, yes. Yes, indeed.

Like most of us, I imagine, I still feel like the 22-year-old that first hit New York City, well, maybe make that a 32-year-old (let’s not push it). I mean, as I read through my many journal volumes from those years past, I remember so much of it, feel the details, smell the experiences, remember the tastes, I am indeed lured into feeling like time has not passed at all since the first rehearsal for that first Broadway show, Fearless Frank (it lasted but a week or so, so don’t feel bad you’ve never heard of it). But, then, I finish whatever journal volume I’m reviewing, and feel the creaking of my legs or the ache in the small of my back because I’ve been hunched over reading for so long at my desk. I could not make it through those dance routines now. And I’d look not nearly as fetching in the green satin corset they made me wear for that show. There was also a bullwhip! Don’t ask.

So the wonderful fact is: I’ve reached this certain age, and am having all the usual medical procedures to go with it. After the cataracts are removed, I will find a good ear-nose-and-throat doc and check my hearing. And then I imagine, I’ll look into having the left knee done as well. And before I know it, a lot of me will have been replaced, removed, or strengthened with various devices.

I can only meditate and pray enough of me will be left over to keep rereading all my journals because, oddly, I am finding them highly entertaining! I often find myself asking, “Who wrote that?” and realizing I’ve been something of a writer all these years. Hundreds of pages. In my handwriting.

But back to this body thing and what time does to it. Time and life.

After all, as cloudy as they are right now, my eyes have clearly seen a lot in my multiple decades; my exhausted knees (one, very shiny new, now), have walked, run, and danced many miles. As for my ears?

There’s a lot going on in the world right now I’d rather not hear anyway, but I shall have them well looked after because that is what we do: We take care of what needs taking care of. We endure, and thank heavens for modern medicine.

And let’s not forget, it’s the well-worn shoes that usually have the most comfort and character, as long as we keep resoling them. I sense the beginning of a “sole”/”soul” conversation coming, so let me move on to what I really wanted to say this month.

We live as fully as we are able, given a solid foundation by, with hope, loving and smart parents who teach us to embrace the world with all senses. But then, from moment one, we edit those senses and begin to experience the world through our own unique lenses, eardrums, and noses. Our sensitive skins record our lives.

And then the years take over and do the editing for us.

Even so, I’ve discovered lately, there’s a lot to see, even when you can’t see as well as you’d like, and there is much to love about our sensory world even when the body hesitates and feels lost. For me, this has been a large and comforting realization. Quite a revelation, in fact. It’s as though the cocoon created by my cataract has taken me to a new world, an inner one, a quiet and appreciative one.

So next month, I should be able to see this keyboard more clearly and type more intelligently, but meanwhile, I wish you all a July of discovery and exploration, by hook or by crook! Whatever it takes.

Also, a month of appreciation for what surrounds us.

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