A couple of decades ago, I remember having lunch with my grandmother and her friends while they exchanged news about their circle: Shirley Bernstein lost an eye to cancer. Helen and Leo lost their house when the bank foreclosed. Bernice Allen lost her driver’s license after “failure to merge” during a driver’s test. Eeny Rubin, Stella Simon, Bebe Walsh—and several other septuagenarians—lost their husbands. “Tch,” they said into their single, cherished, daily martinis. “Tch, tch, tch.”
Inside, I was making a sound a lot closer to “AAAUUUGGHHH!” How could this be the stuff of pleasant lunchtime conversation? Was this all aging had in store for me? Loss upon loss upon loss?
I am still far from the age my grandmother was then, but I am old enough to have started racking up my own losses. Trivial things, like my natural hair color and my ability to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl without barfing. And hugely significant things, like a pregnancy, my dad and my dear friend Harry, both of whom died far too young at age 52, and my health when I contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
There was one horrible year when I lost my job, my financial security, my marriage, my ability to stand or even sit upright after a bad health relapse and, with all of that gone, my very identity. I came close, I think, to losing my mind.