Saturday, June 04, 2011

A Body of Evidence

By Al Stumph

Whenever I shower, I pass before a full-length mirror. Startled at what's reflected there, I ask, “Body, what the heck are you doing? Why do you want to look like that?"

My body has rearranged itself over the years so that I hardly recognize it as my own, except it looks a lot like my father’s did when he also was in his late 60s. Maybe that's why, more than twenty years ago, it discarded what I thought was very handsome hair. I don’t recall my father ever being anything but bald.

For some reason, my body has chosen to increase the size of its nose and ears. Perhaps its intention is to enhance the senses of smelling and hearing but if so, it has failed. These senses are rapidly going the way of the hair.

I am most annoyed at my body for greatly increasing the size of its stomach. The only purpose I can assign to this change is the body’s desire to protect the head. If the stomach protrudes forward enough, it should bump into walls and the like well in advance of the head. Concussions more seriously affect the mind than the digestion.

I'm beginning to believe that I may have pampered my body too much, perhaps even spoiled it. It’s become very demanding.

“Don’t forget my pills.”

“Be careful. I don’t want to fall.”

“Don’t feed me caffeine.“

“Forget about running.”

It’s reverting to the behaviors of a two-year-old.

I do a lot of things, including exercise and consuming pills, just to keep my body working well. You’d think it would thank me for these kindnesses but on the contrary it is stiff every morning and evening. It has acquired pains in joints and muscles. It tires early in the day.

I think my body is out to annoy me.

I have to take some responsibility for my body’s current demands. For years, I fed it pretty much whatever and how much it wanted. On the other hand, I have sometimes been demanding of it. In fact, long bike rides and hikes, some attempts at athleticism, and my youthful tendency to ignore its desire for sleep, may have been my way of disciplining it. But I confess, I also may have occasionally worked it overly hard.

Actually I’m relieved that there is no Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Bodies.

I’m glad the Roman Catholic Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body includes the notion that the resurrected human body will be a “glorified body.” I understand that to mean that all of the body’s imperfections will be put aside.

Does that mean I will look like I did at 28? That may have been my best year.

But there was also that time in my late 40s when my body developed a resemblance to that of the actor Sean Connery, aka James Bond. It was December 18, 1989 when he appeared on the cover of People magazine, having been voted "The Sexiest Man Alive." One of the highpoints of my life occurred at a hotel bar in Buffalo soon thereafter. As I took my place on a stool, the bartender looked at me and asked, "Martini, shaken, not stirred. Right, Mr. Bond?" His large tip was well deserved.

Do I get a choice about how my glorified body will look? If so, would I choose myself at 28? or 49? I was also a very cute two-year old.

At this year's annual physical with Dr. Billy my body weighed in at 194 pounds and stood short at five foot, six and three quarters inches. That's a loss in height from five foot nine inches and a gain in weight from 170 pounds. Because those last figures are from forty years ago - when I was 28 - and the full-length mirror does not lie, I mention them only to remind my body that, in this poet's words, "Things shore ain't what they used to be."

Writer Al Stumph, a former priest, had a long career in social services before retiring. He lives in Chatham, New York, with his wife Kathy.


Kellie said...

I love the idea that our bodies are changing to actually help us in some way, hence a larger stomach to protect our head! Funny! I was just pondering my neck wrinkles this morning -- when I sit at my laptop to turn it on, they are always reflected in it! Fine neck wrinkles they are, wonder what their purpose is.

Judy Staber said...

Dear Al,

To quote Charlie Brown, "Why Al, you look just fine to me. " You have great character. Thanks for the article, we all can't look like Sean Connery - or Jane Fonda, but it's nice to remember when we did.

Judy S.