My cell phone rings and it's my doctor's office and I know this because long ago and what now seems far away I was smart enough to program their number so if I ever needed to call them, I'd already have it stored in contacts, and should they have need to call me, I would pre-emptively know it's them.
You know and I know they don't call unless they have News.
Last week was my annual check-up and among the humiliation of feet in stirrups and knees apart - and honestly, I could care less if that makes you uncomfortable or you think I'm oversharing - I casually mentioned my increasing forgetfulness and how sleep is interrupted by the way my body insists on heating up while I'm dreaming. This, from the woman whose blood is cold and reptilian, who sidles up to fire like it's second skin, the one who warms hands over a cracked-open stove when I pull cookies from the oven in the middle of summer.
They scraped cells from my cervix and punctured my vein to draw blood, and while my phone shrills I watch their name and digits flash across the tiny screen and I bargain with the gods and wager the lesser of two evils.
I'm a winner; it was the lesser.
"I guess you know you're in menopause...." and she's nervous to say it out loud in case this comes as big shock.
But here's the thing: suspecting it...joking about it...is not the same thing as k.n.o.w.i.n.g. I still have monthly cycles, so how...? I thought I still had time.
Time for what I really don't know, it's not like I want to get pregnant. When I hear a 40-something friend is expecting my first thought is always you'd have to shoot me.
Forgetfulness. Thinning hair. Restless sleep (which I've had forever so nothing new there). Weight gain--well, not so much gain as change. My body is just...different.
I can't think of questions to ask and when I try I'm ignorant and tangle-tongued. All I get out of the conversation is my estrogen is at 11 and she's mailing me the lab report, so I imagine my questions will come then.
So I hang up the phone and start plumbing the internet to mine what I'm condemning myself for not automatically knowing. And every site I pull up is little more than ads and click throughs and crap to make me increase page views and in seconds I'm disgusted and don't want to learn anything that way. I'll show them.
I slip down the stairs to my kitchen and snarf the last brownie. It tastes like cliché but, mercifully, the calories bring more comfort than regret.
I wander into my daughter's room and study her full length mirror, looking for something and nothing. Months ago, before she left home, she scribbled a verse across it in green dry erase marker and I wondered why it was the one she chose; what did she want to press into her heart? What did she need to hear and believe and know from her Creator?
I pray that God, who gives peace, will make you completely holy. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept healthy and faultless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. The one who chose you can be trusted, and he will do this.
My God, I think, it's for me. It's for me, now.
And the sun streams in strong and shadows cast across the half of me and I can't help but think that's right. Shadows and sun, darkness and light, lies and truth. My head is a swirl and my reflection is all wrong.
There's movement pulling my gaze away from my face - only then do I notice my somber expression - three squirrels in a game of tag, a twitchy skitter across my back yard. A fat robin materializes out of no where (a damned irony? twisted metaphor?) and lands on a scraggly branch of our dogwood that never seems to grow. She makes me smile and think Spring...
So why do I feel like Autumn.
I'll turn 50 next month.