I was approaching the Bug Station on I-80 when I glanced in my rearview mirror and got a sinking feeling in my stomach. The apparition came out of nowhere and even though I knew it would be coming at some time, I wasn’t prepared. There, standing at full attention, front and center like the horn of a unicorn, was a single strand of gray hair.
“What??? Noooooo!!!” I shouted as my daughter laughed at me and plucked it from my head. I’d like to say I’m kidding about how sad I was to find the gray, but I can’t. Seeing it there sticking straight up in all its colorless glory only confirmed what I’ve been struggling with as of late: My youth has left the building.
There are many phases throughout our lives. Whether for ourselves or our loved ones, we celebrate them all: learning to drive, graduating from high school and college, starting a career, getting engaged and married, having a family. After the confetti from all the bridal showers, weddings, and baby showers settle, there’s a period of calm when we just live the day-to-day. But then the next phase slowly gains steam, and we start losing those we love.
I lost my grandparents many years ago, and while that was difficult, they were older, and I understood it was the natural progression of life. None of us are here forever. In the past two years, I lost my mother and two dear old friends, who weren’t old at all and were stolen by cancer. My beautiful friend Amanda Ragno was but 46 years old, and another dear friend who was more like family, Scott Berger, was only 45. Losing my mother has been difficult. She passed when it was time for her body to finally rest after fighting multiple sclerosis for decades. While the sting of her loss has faded, I go through each day feeling like something is missing.
When it comes to Amanda and Scott, however, it is harder to accept their loss, to answer that nagging question … why? At least my mother got to live a full life, to watch her children grow up and have families of their own. Amanda and Scott will never get to experience that full circle of life.
With each of these losses, a piece of myself has vanished as the sadness and stress drain a little more from my being. I look in the mirror and see the stubborn bags under my eyes, the creases in my forehead a little deeper, pronounced lines around my eyes, the color fading from the roots of my hair.
My best friend, Lisa Pfeufer, turned 50 in June. I’ve known her for literally my entire life — 47 out of her 50 years. Together we’ve shared so many of life’s milestones. We were commiserating about how fast the time goes: How in the world have we been friends for this long? How did we get this old? Well, not old, but old-er.
After losing friends at a young age, I will no longer complain about getting old because the ones I lost were robbed of that chance. I decided to look at Lisa’s Big 5-0 not as life flying by, but as a time to celebrate decades of a friendship that enriched both our lives.
We’ve laughed until we cried, cried until we laughed. We’ve earned each and every one of our creases and lines. I wouldn’t trade them for the world because, like the wisdom that comes only with age, they are signs of a life lived — but pardon me while I go color my roots!