My body is telling me to slow down, even while my mind says go, go, go.
When was the last time I climbed a tree, a favorite younger pastime? Now I simply admire them and the birds that flit from Shore Pine to Western Hemlock to Ornamental Cherry. It’s funny how I thought I missed certain activities and now I’m grateful I don’t have to do them any more.
I loved to run—to sprint. To run away when being bullied and just to run when I was confused or depressed or anxious. Can’t do that with fake knees. Instead, this Saturday I’m walking my first whopping 5K run to benefit our local chapter of N.O.W. I even get a bib! Rather than pout because I can’t join the actual runners, I’m grateful to walk nearly pain free again. I’m also grateful to N.O.W. for its emphatic inclusiveness and to our little PFLAG group. We may not have a gay pride parade in this little town, but with their support, I no longer need to run anywhere. I’m already at the edge of the continent and I’m not about turn tail.
PFLAG does join the July Fourth La Di Dah Parade a few towns away and has one of the largest presences in it. The first time I attended this event I stood next to a pot belly pig on a leash and then we watched the parade together. That’s the kind of town it is.
Usually I march in our neighborhood parade. I may not be as agile as I was, but I never got to be in a parade when I was more able. Our event includes people on patriotically festooned walkers, mobility scooters, aging pets in strollers, and this year—a batch of senior tricycles!
I do miss my bike. Once upon a time I practically lived on it. I ride an exercycle indoors, but have qualms about my balance, and am content—almost—with fond memories of my English racers. Part of me wants to join the outlaw tricycle gang on the Fourth. Part of me is still too proud to make the shift from bike to trike.
Heck, with not one, but two rotator cuff tears I can’t even hit a pink Spaldeen ball off a handball court wall. Or serve a tennis ball. Or spike a volleyball.
I can still dress like a tomboy. A butch tomboy anyway. My sweetheart was a femme tomboy. They grow up to be sporty femmes. It makes life easier when you marry a tomboy of any persuasion because she’s not afraid to tackle a garden project and can catch anything you toss her across the room. My sporty femme was the catcher on her softball team. With my weight limit of twenty pounds she also handles the heavy lifting. It’s kind of discouraging as I still have tomboy energy and worry that she’ll overdo.
Although even the energy is flagging. Travel wipes me out for a couple of months. The spirit is willing, but the flesh pays for it afterward.
Falling used to be kind of fun, knowing how, having an elastic body that could leap right up again. Now it’s a nightmare. Some of the old people in our ‘hood have to call 911 for help to get back up. Knee surgery was a good decision as I’ve managed to stay upright since that fall in Provincetown five or six years ago, before the sidewalks on Commercial Street were leveled out. A younger tomboy would have hopped, skipped and jumped right along, whistling through her front teeth, showing off her nimbleness. Pride goeth before a fall. Literally.
Thank goodness I’ve still got tomboy spirit. My sweetheart likes my tomboy walk. She may sometimes steady me climbing down rocks to the beach, but I’m still climbing. My mother didn’t stop clamboring across beach rocks until her late 80s. But then, she didn’t hurt herself as a tomboy of any sort. She never worked in the grocery business, breaking her back and loving every minute of scaling dumpsters to make more room by insanely jumping up and down, flattening the load with her feet. Housework and pushing a baby carriage were her back breakers. Meh, any good tomboy would say to that.
Life changes us. Suddenly I have a pale green thumb. We have a begonia that’s taking over our house although I’ve given away starts right and left. I even know what a “start” is. The aloe plant has propagated itself so often we’re trying to pawn the aloe-ettes off on any sucker who will take them. I can’t bear to kill a plant.
My physical therapist has not set any limits on light gardening. Instead of sprinting I’ve been digging. Instead of biking I’ve been chasing away slugs. Instead of climbing trees I’ve been planting them.
And instead of running grocery stores and doing vocational counseling I’m writing—better, I hope, or at least not rushing through this, my real work.
I don’t row or fish or swim; I don’t skate or walk to mountain peaks; I haven’t gotten under my car to do a bit of tinkering for decades or rearranged my office furniture much (only when my sweetheart’s not looking).
So my question is: I’ll be 70 this year. Can I still be a tomboy?
Lee Lynch’s collection, An American Queer: The Amazon Trail, A Quarter Century of Queer Life in the United States, was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist for nonfiction.
Her most recent novels, The Raid and Beggar of Love, are published by Bold Strokes Books. She is the namesake and first recipient of The Lee Lynch Classic Award for The Swashbuckler. She’s been honored with the Golden Crown Literary Society Trailblazer Award, the Alice B. Reader Award, induction into the Saints and Sinners Literary Hall of Fame, the James Duggins Mid-Career Award, and, for Beggar of Love, the Lesbian Fiction Readers Choice Award, the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award, and Book of the Year Award from ForeWord Reviews.