When I think of the many decades she’s endured I marvel at the momentum that sustains and impels her through time. She walks slowly and deliberately, with a grace that only arthritic joints and battle worn cerebellums can command – at once imperial as a queen, and familiar as a grandmother. When she calls the women at the front desk “my girls,” no one blinks, and despite her agonies she is rarely caught without a smile.
How old is she?
The average age of all the cells in the adult human body is only about 10 years at any given time.
A number of cells, like those that line the gastrointestinal tract, only survive about 5 days before being shed. Other cells, like those that comprise skeletal muscle, are turned over in about 15 years.
But the ones that constitute who we really are, the true keepers of our stories, are the neurons of the cerebral cortex, which live as long as our bodies live. They are the fire, the pulsing electric substance that assembles meaning itself. They are the keepers of purpose, the ninety year-old torches that enlighten an old woman’s path through an otherwise dark night and day.
She is patient as I burst through the door looking frazzled from the impossible pace. She brings no material gifts, but instead shares her wit, optimism, and memories. Her skin is ancient, her heart spills more with each beat, but her mind is fortunately sharp. I wish I had more time to listen to her stories, to all the stories, born up by countless regenerations and reinforcements.
We are just passing thunder clouds, lifted by shifting substance, full of lightning for a while.