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First Person I keep losing stuff, but I haven’t lost my sense of humour (yet)

Ashley Wong/The Globe and Mail

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Every morning when I look in the mirror I am reminded that I am losing my hair. It’s depressing. I’m losing my hair because nature doesn’t care about me any more. My reproductive years are over and my hair isn’t needed to attract a mate. I am acutely aware of this loss and of what it represents.

There are things we lose as we move through our lives.

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Hair is just one among many, lost – or misplaced.

There are tangible things such as hats, earrings, bracelets, umbrellas and glasses. My tombstone will read, “Did you see my glasses?” Some of these things are found but some are lost forever. We mourn them but carry on.

If I were Catholic I could pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, but I’m Jewish, so I’m on my own.

When I find lost or misplaced things, I rejoice and my emotional equilibrium is restored. Perhaps you know what I mean. Perhaps you go through the same roller coaster of feelings – anxiety, despair, self-recrimination and then relief.

I had that feeling recently, when I lost our son’s little beagle. We were grand-dog sitting and she slipped under our backyard fence into the abutting garage. I pictured her torn apart by angry raccoons. I pictured her dead, her ashes in an urn. But she came back and my heart returned to its normal place.

I’ve lost my husband a couple of times­ – once in Petra, Jordan, and another time in St. Petersburg, Russia. But forgive me, I’d rather not talk about it. It’s too painful, especially since on both occasions he was quite unaware that he had been lost.

Our children now admonish, whenever Eric and I go on vacation, “Try not to lose Dad.” And remembering these events, I try to obey.

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The loss of things is upsetting enough. But there are the losses of things that aren’t things: intangibles, such as courage, resolve and patience.

I have lost, and continue to lose, my patience daily, often with my dear husband. “What do you mean you didn’t know we were going to the movies with friends tonight? I told you this morning!” Don’t fill a used glass to the brim with water; let the dishwasher do it!” “Why can’t you remember to go to Shopper’s on seniors’ day?” And so on.

And I have lost my resolve so many times I can’t count them any more: The resolve to eat less; the resolve to be a nicer person; the resolve to learn Spanish.

And where, along the way, did I lose my courage? Who was that 20-year-old who had the courage to go to France for a year after graduating from university? That young woman who, upon seeing a notice seeking actors for a theatre troupe at the Sorbonne, joined said troupe in spite of her less-than-perfect French? Would the 79-year-old woman I am today do that? Could she? I think not – in fact, I know not. The sting of this realization is sharp and dispiriting.

There are the memories that have disappeared. And I do mean memories, not my memory. One day a friend said, “Do you remember when we used to jog through our neighbourhood together?” And I said, “We did?” I had nary a memory of ever jogging – anywhere – let alone, through our neighbourhood with her. Snatches of old memories surface from time to time but I have lost years of my life, misplaced somewhere in my brain. I now keep a diary, daily, to help me remember my life.

And then there are the losses one suffers to one’s person as one ages. I’ve already mentioned my hair, and the reason. But why do I have to lose so much of it? And why do I seem to be the only one among my friends with this problem? I blame my mother.

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And my youth and my figure. I lost them a long time ago and there will be no going back. In my heart, I am still 40, but the woman I see in the mirror belies that. The figure of course can be camouflaged to a degree. It gets harder but it’s still doable. Having skinny legs helps. It distracts people from noticing my middle. I’m getting smaller, too. I’ve lost an inch and a half in height and the longer I live, the more I will lose. I accept that because the alternative is unappealing.

For anyone near my age, some of this may resonate. For the young, let this be a warning of what the future may bring!

I watched Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show Wishful Drinking on television the other night. The theme was finding humour in tragedy and loss. She was brilliant at it, acknowledging that the passage of time helps put the losses and tragedies in their place. That’s what I try to do. Yes, there are losses, and I am a loser, not in the Trumpian sense of the word, just an everyday loser of things.

After watching Fisher’s poignant ramble through her life, I discussed with my wise husband my fear that, on top of everything else, I will lose my sense of humour. My husband said, “Don’t be so morbid! You won’t lose your sense of humour, and if you do, I know you Ruthie, you’ll just laugh it off.”

Ruth Miller lives in Toronto.

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