My brother has a mare, Blondie, who is forty-one years old. Yes, that’s a very old horse. Her blood lines trace back to the first registered Quarter Horses, hence the name Blondie. Every time I visit I expect her to be gone but there she is grazing behind the house. Pastures are so green this year, you’d think she’d be fat, but she’s skin and bones. She’s well cared for, fed and watered, but just has that old-age skinniness that some get (alas, I get the opposite). She seems quite content, always glad for a nose rub. She must know that she is no longer beautiful and that her days of running across green pastures are over, but she clings to life.
John and his wife, Cindy, live on a road that makes a loop back onto the state highway with only a few houses on it, so there’s little traffic on the road. But Cindy told me one day Blondie was grazing in the pasture beside the house, close to the road. A car stopped and the people stared at the horse for so long Cindy was afraid they would report animal cruelty.
It strikes me that there’s an analogy there. Blondie makes no apologies for her looks or slow movements. She accepts who she is at this stage of her life. It’s an attitude I’m working on. To people who wonder why I work so hard at my writing, I want to say, “I am who I am.” Same answer to people who questions my anxiety symptoms—no, I won’t ride in an elevator alone. It’s who I am.
I told friends of forty years or more last night that my new motto was “I am who I am.” Phil said, “We’ve always known that about you.” That startled me, because I feel I’ve spent a lifetime doing and being what others wanted. It’s only with age that I’ve learned to be forthright and honest—like calling a doctor’s office to ask if someone would come walk me across the parking lot (now Phil and his guide dog are going with me). But there’s a fine line to draw there—I can easily become too reliant on others to do things I’m perfectly capable of doing. Like asking son-in-law Christian to carry out recyclables because I let the bin get too heavy. Now I just do it in two trips.
I told my brother recently that while physical therapy improved my walking a lot, the need for it made me feel fragile. He, some six years older than I, replied, “We are fragile.” I don’t like to think of myself that way, but the truth is I’m probably a wild mix of strength and fragility. I am who I am. Gosh, it took me a lot of years to get there.