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    BWS Stories - "You're So Vain"...Celebrating Physical Changes

    "You're So Vain"...Celebrating Physical Changes - Taking Care of Ourselves
    By Patti Perry-Armes

    Taking Care of Ourselves
    By Patti Perry-Armes

    My grocery shopping was interrupted by the hum of an approaching motorized shopping cart. Focused on selecting some pasta, I didn't turn around until I realized it had stopped beside me. Its passenger appeared to also be pasta shopping. Looking at me, she asked.

    "Aren't you Patti Perry?"

    I began racking my brain. Was this a friend of my mother's? Maybe an old neighbor from my childhood? But no name came forth to claim the face. "Yes I am." I hoped for a hint, but she wasn’t quick to save me.

    "You look great. It has been a long time, hasn't it?"

    I played along hoping my memory lapse wasn’t evident. "Yes, it has.”Thankfully, she finally solved the mystery.

    "I bet you never expected to see Karen Gaines riding around in one of these," she said, patting the cart's basket for effect. "I was always so involved in everything, when we were in school."

    I hoped my shock wasn't too evident. Could this really be Karen? "What happened? I blurted out. Were you in an accident?"

    "No, it's arthritis. The doctor warned me if I didn't lose some weight, walking would become difficult. Guess I should have listened."

    "You mean you don’t need a wheelchair?”

    "No, I don't use it all the time. Just shopping and when I have to walk a lot. I usually just rely on my cane. Dieting is just so hard."

    I couldn't grasp her acceptance of being an invalid. After a few minutes, I politely made my escape. In the parking lot, I sat in my car looking over my hands for age spots. I felt very old. I couldn't shake Karen from my mind. Several days later I pulled an old yearbook from its storage and scanned the faces. I had recently returned to my hometown and hadn't seen any of my old classmates. How would they have changed in the 30 years since graduation? I decided to call Sherry, my best friend in high school. She had married the week after graduation and moved away. Neither of us had been good at staying in touch.  

    I was happy to find her father's name listed in the phone book at their old address. Her mother answered, giving me her number and saying she lived nearby. Sherry was surprised to hear from me and suggested that we meet the next day for lunch. I was optimistic about the meeting. Surely Karen had been the exception of the class of 74's fate.  

    Her voice was the only thing I recognized when she arrived. She was dressed all in black, strange for a hot July day. Her hair was short, gray, and simple.

    "Angie, you haven't changed a bit."

    I couldn't reciprocate her compliment. Again, I was shocked. She had been a cosmetology student, always perfect makeup and hair. But today her face lacked any makeup or color. The paleness of her skin against her black attire reminded me of Morticia from the Addams Family TV show. She gushed on about how good it was to see me, as I followed her into the restaurant. She requested a table, joking that a booth was just too confining for someone her size. Silently, I would have to agree. She spent the time after ordering to apprise me of her many medical ailments.  

    "I take so many medicines," she said. Then began digging through her large purse and lining up prescription bottles on the table. She rattled off their purposes to me. There were pills for hypertension, cholesterol, anxiety, acid reflux, and even some type of herbal capsules.

    “My doctor told me that a lot of my medical problems could be corrected with weight loss. But what’s the point if you can't enjoy life and the foods you love?”

    I couldn't keep quiet. "But you can't be happy keeping up with all these medicines." I hoped I hadn't hurt her feelings. But she laughed.

    "I've got used to it. I'm on disability, so I don't have to worry about whether I can do my job. And I have the free time for my china plate painting.”

    I didn't feel better with her explanation. As she took a pill for her sensitive stomach, her eyes fell upon the dessert menu.

    I thought about both these women for weeks. What had happened? We all had the same plans to conquer the world and not become tired and boring. We would never be like our parents. I admit I haven’t taken very good care of myself, but I do try to walk regularly, limit sweets, and freely use wrinkle cream. I still had places to go, things to do, and battles to win. None of which I could do with a wheelchair and an overnight bag of medications.

    I was so relieved last month when I recognized a high school acquaintance. Approaching her, I declared, "You look great." And I meant it. 

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