I got my first gray hair a little while ago (I would post a picture as proof, but I accidentally pulled it out while I was trying to get a closer look – to prove that it was, in fact, a gray hair and not just a trick of the light.)
I got my first gray hair, and I cried.
I’m not mourning the loss of my youth or feeling down about moving over the
hill. I cried not because I was upset, but because I honestly didn't ever think
I'd make it this far.
For more than half of my life, I’ve wondered if I’d ever get to the gray
hair stage. Even before they found my brain tumor, I wondered.
When I was in school, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew
up, I always told them I wanted to be a stay at home mom and a famous author of
children’s books. What I didn’t ever say out loud was that I hoped, beyond
anything else, that I could grow up. And sometimes, when I got dizzy and passed
out while reaching for something on a high shelf, or when I couldn’t eat for a
week at a time because everything I swallowed came right back up … Sometimes, I
secretly felt like my body might just stop working one day, with no warning,
and I’d be gone.
Then, in my second year of college, I slept past my alarm one morning. Which
wouldn’t usually be terribly alarming. After all, college is all about late
nights and sleeping in. But then I just kept sleeping. For three weeks. And
even when I woke up, I often couldn’t move or speak. My husband managed to
rouse me for a few minutes each day, to feed me a few bites of soup or
something easy to swallow, but then I’d slip away again. Once or twice, I woke
up enough to get out of bed. I spent almost all of those waking moments at the
doctor’s office, where they verified that something
was wrong, but the tests were so contradictory that they couldn’t pinpoint a
cause. So they wrote notes to my professors, excusing me from the classes and
tests I’d missed, and ordered more tests. It was a terrifying three weeks, and
I wondered if this was the moment I’d secretly feared for so long. Every time I
slipped back into unconsciousness, I wondered if it might be the last time. If
I’d ever wake up again. … Until, as suddenly as it came, my mysterious illness
But I continued to have random, mystery illnesses that popped up from time
to time. Never the same thing twice, but always just as baffling to me and my
doctors. Until finally, nearly fifteen years ago, they discovered my brain tumor. Which explained a lot, but still causes a lot of confusion and
consternation among my doctors, who never know what to do with me. (Seriously, what do you do with a patient who demonstrates the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction whenever she eats anything, but tests negatively for all allergies?)
But here I am, just past forty, and even though I wouldn't exactly call life
a cake walk, I'm still here. I’m getting gray hair. And that's beautiful.
(Maybe one day, I’ll even get to have wrinkles!)