The Aging Body
Grandma's Pills and the Memories I Keep
My Grandma Downing used to take pills regularly. She had one of those plastic containers with the daily dose, and I have this vivid memory of sitting in the kitchen with her as she opened up her rationing.
I marveled at the color of the capsules, varying in size. One particular pill, a glossy, yellow-ish one that seemed too huge to swallow is what I now know to be fish oil, a pill that I also take, that same yellow color, that same huge size. Some of the pills have this earthy smell to them that I will never forget, that will always remind me of her.
I am not sure I ever made any distinct connections in my mind between why she was taking medicine and her failing health. My Grandma was an old woman who had lived through so much and kept a farmhouse life in the middle of rural Oklahoma.
That land and that house have remained sacred to me, and as an adult, I can still smell her morning fried bacon and eggs, I can still taste the biscuits and feel the Oklahoma breeze slip across my body.
In my 30s, new health challenges arise, as they so often do in a woman’s body. I’m tackling hormone imbalances and strange symptoms I didn’t know I could have; I’m trying to eat healthier and exercise more, because while everyone tells you to be healthy when you are young, perhaps the advice really sets in when we realize we aren’t getting any younger, and that maybe our 30s can be our best years. Or, maybe our best years are ahead of us.
maybe our best years are ahead of us
So, there I am, standing at the co-op buying a giant bottle of fish oil and thinking of my Grandma Downing. I think about all the things we are told when we are young, and all the things we are told when we are old—that there are cures out there for anything that ails us or makes us unhappy, that we get to write our own story, that the possibilities are endless as long as we look pretty while doing whatever it is that we do.
Some of it is true. But some of it is based off the toxic status quo of a society that doesn’t value bodies in every way, that doesn’t value what it means to age and become.
So, my grandma and I take these fish oil capsules, generations apart.
She pulled her dentures out of the bowl they sat in overnight and put them in her mouth in the mornings.
I pour a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise over the river.
She woke up early to make those biscuits we loved to devour.
I tell my kids to get their cereal.
She read her Bible religiously.
I avoid mine at all costs because I don’t know how to read it anymore.
She didn’t talk about being Potawatomi.
I refuse to forget.
What moments will the next generations remember of me? What will become of all my days when I am the ancestor passed on, when my own grandchildren remember something about my daily life, about my body?
Will they remember pill boxes and television shows, the biscuits I rarely baked or the walks along the river?
I take my morning pills and thank my body for remembering me, for remembering everything and choosing to heal anyway.
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