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Human Parts
A publication about humanity from Medium: yours, mine, and ours.

Aging

In Human Parts. More on Medium.

This Is Us

What it’s like to mourn the living

Watercolor-like illustration of a person standing on a snowy field with their back to the viewer, watching the sun set over a cluster of trees on the horizon.
Watercolor-like illustration of a person standing on a snowy field with their back to the viewer, watching the sun set over a cluster of trees on the horizon.

Over the winter, I got the urge to travel to my hometown, Pittsburgh. If you’re familiar with my writing, you know I have a love-hate relationship with that place. Two things bring me back home: holidays and funerals. But this time, neither was the reason for my trip. Before shutdown began, I was battling what I thought was depression.

I was preoccupied with the passing of my parents, who I could still pick up a phone and call. I began to obsess over the pain of their passing, almost to the extent that I could already feel it. I would…


This Is Us

I used to be known for personal writing. Now I can’t bear it.

I’ve recently had a revelation that should have been obvious but for some reason wasn’t; the older you get, the less charming it is to tell stories about yourself.

As someone who spent at least the first half of her career mining her life for interesting/funny/embarrassing/emblematic-of-larger-cultural-phenomena anecdotes that I could write up for magazines or whip out at dinner parties, this sparked a bit of a crisis. Who am I if can’t take my daily micro-dramas and recast them as zany antics for fun and profit? What happened to the girl who could turn a bad date into a 1,500-word…


This Is Us

Aging is more joyful than we think

When I think about the way perimenopause shook me, broke me, and made me new, it seems unreal. Like a dream, or a nightmare, it crept up and consumed me. Now, here I stand on the other side, awake and wondering what the hell happened.

The short story goes something like this: I was “fine,” busy and distracted with life. A good and hearty marriage, four wonderful and willful kids, a great mess of a house, animals, projects, work and joy and sadness — a big, “normal” life. Then, I fell down. …


This Is Us

Or, a meditation on accelerated aging

Do you feel like you’ve aged exponentially this year? Or, better question: Do you look like you’ve aged exponentially this year? I do. And not just because of the pandemic, the recession, or the numerous existential crises facing our country.

I’ll start by rewinding to March.

The last thing I did in pre-Covid times was get my usual monthly root touch-up. Five days later, New York City went into lockdown and we decided to rent a house in NJ to be closer to my parents. Hospitals started filling up with sick patients. My lovely hairdresser texted all her clients, offering…


One day I’ll be identifiable only by my neck skin, flapping freely in the wind

When I look into a mirror, I see my grandmothers staring back at me. Let me be clear: I see their faces. I see their wrinkles. I see their turkey necks.

This has nothing to do with their inner strength. They were both strong, capable women who worked their asses off their entire lives, doing things I can’t even imagine, like canning vegetables in non-air-conditioned kitchens from hell, tending chickens, and taking care of babies without the luxury of disposable diapers. They were miles stronger than me, but their faces paid in the end. …


The irresistible fallacy of life-as-narrative

Recently I visited some old friends who moved, a few years ago, from New York City to Portland, Oregon. In New York, Brian and Lara had been the staying-at-homest people I knew, which made sense since they also had the nicest home of anyone I knew — a large apartment on the 45th floor in midtown, with a view of the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. Our usual routine was: I’d go over to their place, we’d order takeout, have some wine, and watch something like Battlestar Galactica. But since moving to Portland, they have unexpectedly, at age 50, become…


Sometimes, autonomy is the greatest gift

My friend is fighting for his life. He had an emergency surgery that led to an infection that led to a second emergency surgery, then a third, followed by setback after setback. He is now malnourished and his malnourishment is wreaking havoc on his newly frail form. It could kill him.

He lays in his bed, muscle mass melting, his spirit ebbing like the tide. Some days he brings the fight: We walk, he sits in the chair, he accepts visitors, and his eyes sparkle. On other days, he surrenders to the weakness. …


I’m afraid my family history of cancer will catch up with me — and that dementia will come for my husband

My husband’s parents both have dementia and that terrifies me. Every time Kevin can’t think of a word, or I say something and he stares at me blankly like I’ve suddenly started speaking pig latin, or he can’t remember something I think he should, I get this sick feeling of panic.

We just moved to the small Pennsylvania town where he grew up. At least once a week, he points to the grounds of his old elementary school and says, “Did I tell you I helped plant that tree?”


Perhaps I should slow down. Then again, these scars tell my stories.

When I was fifteen, we stole a pair of shopping carts from a grocery store parking lot. My brother climbed inside my cart and my friends likewise readied up. The tree-lined street was still and dark, save for the little pools of yellow light.

We raced. The metal carts rattled like they were coming apart. My brother hunched inside our cart and I pushed our inverted dogsled as fast as I could run.

I could run pretty fast. I was tall and lean, and had been on the track team. We were winning.

And then we were flying.

The cart…

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