Aging and Earrings (and Carousels)

Sep 13, 2022

This morning I had a startling thought: even my ears are old. I guess I’d been noticing it for a while—the crease in my earlobe that wasn’t there before. But it never registered as a sign of aging. Apparently, it also might be an indicator that I’m at greater risk for heart disease. Wish I hadn’t looked it up. Although it’s kind of fascinating how seemingly innocuous details on the surface of our bodies can indicate something more serious going on inside.

I will evidentially shake off my worry about this, having had recently my yearly physical, although I can be obsessive. Usually it’s about small things—furniture, bras, and handbags, among them. I attribute it to being raised without much money and having to choose my clothes very carefully because that dress or coat or pair of shoes would be it for quite a while. For days now I have been on the hunt for a new pair of earrings to replace my favorite open hoops that catch on the elastic of masks (I still don’t think it’s safe not to wear a mask). So I was paying a bit more attention to my ears than usual.

And, looking at my ears, I thought of my high school math teacher, Mrs. Dichter. She was a stylish older woman (though clearly younger than I am now) with a preference for skirt suits and large earrings. As she went around the room checking on our work, I would notice how the heavy jewelry dragged down the pierced hole in her ear. I know that’s the reason I have always favored studs. I didn’t want that to happen to my ears as I got older. So the small hole in my lobes, which I’ve had since I was 17, remain small. But I have the crease, as she did.

Last October, our little grandson, who lives in Europe, visited us to celebrate his fourth birthday and first Halloween. He eagerly took to trick and treating once he realized candy was involved. As I looked afterwards at the photographs of the day, I was puzzled by a person who appeared walking near my grandson in several of them. “Who is that old woman in the pictures?” I asked, before I realized it was me.

I am sure I am not the only person who thinks about how old they will be when they die in terms of their parents’ ages at death. My mother died at 56, and I worried the year I turned 56 that it might be the end. Having passed that, I fantasize (despite the latest earlobe info) that I will make it to at least 92, as my father died a week shy of his 93rd birthday.

It is cliché to say I look old but don’t feel old, but true nevertheless, even though I have slowed down quite a bit. It seems incredible to me that so many years have passed, that some experiences will never come around again. I never felt the carousel metaphor in Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” quite made sense as carousels do, in fact, circle back to the same place. But it’s favorite song of my husband’s and he has sung it to our younger granddaughter so many times she has memorized the first stanza and chorus. Except she has misheard one word. Maybe, as she is only six, in some way it’s not a mistake. Instead of, “we’re captive on the carousel of time,” she sings, “we’re captain on the carousel of time.” If only.