My Old Woman

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There is an old woman in my mind. And she is me in thirty years or maybe forty. The numbers don't matter, except that she is old, and I am not. But I want to be. Someday I want to reach the pinnacle of my life, look back and salute my journey.

I think of her as a soft hand on my shoulder. She is a woman of words and wisdom and warmth. She is a constant presence, a guide; a force that will not be ignored. I'm not always aware of her but like a shadow, she is always there.

If I close my eyes, I can see her. She has silver hair, curly and cropped short to her head. She is lean, but surprisingly strong from years of digging in the garden and dancing on the lawn. Her gently wrinkled face carries more smile lines than frown lines. Each wrinkle is a triumph. The scars that mark her body are faded and silvered and she bears them like a badge, as proof of battles won and enemies conquered.

She has so many stories to tell and will trap anyone willing to listen. She thinks it is a great privilege to bore people with stories of the old days. I remember when, she will say, and if their eyes glaze over, she won't notice. She'll be in another place, another time, surrounded by the loved ones, animals and friends that fill her days. She talks about the good old days, but thinks that any day she is alive is a good day.

She is an idea I carry with me, an image to call on when I am scared and feeling the need of a powerful positive force. She was with me while I sat through chemotherapy, veins tired and grey, as I watched first the black then the red liquid flow into me. She accompanied me to the radiation room where I lay, alone and still, willing the machines to do their utmost. She lifted me up when my thin aching body could not take another step.

She helps me believe that I will master that peak and wear those wrinkles. She comforts me, by revealing just a peek at the future. A future with me in it.

Laura Fee is a breast cancer survivor and third year creative writing student at Malaspina University-College. She lives in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, where she grows grapes, raises children and wrestles with words. She can be reached at olga57@home.com.