Today I was pleased to find HinesSight listed on BlueOregon’s “Blogwire” of progressive Oregon blogs. However, I’m feeling really regressive at the moment, having discovered that I’m shrinking.
In my baby book I found a chart, prepared by yours truly, of how I progressed to a height of 6 feet 1 ½ inches by June, 1967 when I was 19 years old. Now, at the age of 56, I’ve regressed to 6 feet ½ inch. I’m back to where I was at 17 years old.
When I made this chart I never figured that I’d be adding declining entries. It’s a good thing that I’ve got a dozen blank lines left.
It’s my wife’s fault, of course. Not that I’m shrinking, but that I know I’m shrinking. Laurel came back from a doctor’s visit recently saying, “The nurse measured me and I’ve lost about half an inch.” She wasn’t happy about it. “I’ve always been 5 feet 7 inches,” Laurel said. “Now I’m not.”
I suggested that we measure her again. “Maybe the nurse made a mistake.” Tape measure in hand I backed her up against the wall that separates our kitchen and pantry. I noticed some writing on the wood.
“Look,” I said. “We measured ourselves before, in 12/98.” With a yard stick I carefully calibrated a new level measuring mark as Laurel strained to stretch out her height, just as I remember kids doing in elementary school. I penciled in a new mark on the wall. We both rushed to inspect it.
“Yes, you’ve lost a half inch,” I said, striving to convey as much husbandly compassion as I could muster. “But you’re still taller than the average woman. Don’t worry, everybody shrinks as they get older.”
Oops. What had I just said? Everybody. Could I be part of “everybody”? Nah, not me. I’m healthy; I’m fit; I’m unique. “Let’s measure you,” I heard Laurel saying, as if from a far distance. “Why? I’m sure I’m the same height.” “OK, but let’s check anyway.”
I reluctantly backed up to the wall. I visualized my legs, spine, and neck elongating, stretching to the heavens. I breathed in vital chi. I mentally chanted “Om” to attune my height vibrations with the ever-expanding cosmos. And then I nervously stepped back to look at the new mark Laurel had made.
“Goddamn it! I’ve lost a half inch! I’m f____ing shrinking!” I screamed. “Don’t be so upset,” Laurel said. “I’ve lost a half inch too.” “But…but…you’re you; this is me.”
At moments like these, when my life is falling down around me, I need reassurance from a trusted friend who never lets me down: the Internet. I ran downstairs to my office and logged on.
A WashingtonPost.com article, “Downsizing,” reassured me somewhat. Shrinking is a normal aging process, I read. “A large, long-term study in Baltimore found that between the ages of 30 and 70, men lost an average of 1 ¼ inches and women two inches. By age 80, the loss had increased to two inches for the men and three inches for the women.”
OK. I’m 56 and I’ve already lost an inch from my maximum height. That only leaves me a quarter inch to lose in the next 14 years if I want to be average. And who wants to be average? I want to be better than average. Of course, I started out quite a bit taller than average, so maybe it makes sense that I’ll lose more inches than the average.
I wasn’t feeling much better after reading the article. When my daughter, Celeste, came to visit a few days later I decided to share my feelings with her. “I’m shrinking, Celeste.” “That’s because you’re going downhill, Dad. You’re going to die one day. Face it.”
She may also have said something more positive, but these are the words that stick in my mind: “You’re going to die. Why are you so afraid of death?” “Gee. Celeste, I don’t know. Um, maybe because there’s a really good chance that I’m not going to exist any more. Why, yes. That might be the reason.”
It’s hard for me to face the prospect of my bodily non-existence. I suppose I should feel grateful that nature gradually is easing me into that inevitability by steadily shrinking my body. When I measured my 1998 height mark I found that seven years ago I was 6 feet 1 inch. I’d already lost half an inch by the age of 50. Seven years later, I’ve lost another half inch.
At this rate, if I live to be 100 I’ll be about five feet tall. And Laurel will be about four and a half feet. We’ll be two wizened midgets.
One of Laurel’s favorite sayings is “I don’t like growing old!” Me neither. But the alternative sure isn’t appealing. I guess I’ll just have to try to shrink gracefully.
See you around. Look down for me.