©Luke McGuff, 2007

©Luke McGuff, 2007

Not with me though. I am not going into summer this year. For seventy
years I went willingly, even enthusiastically, and for the most part I
enjoyed each one. But now I am seventy-five and the next few months
are going to be pretty dark. It’s not that I don’t want to see my family at
this reunion someone cooked up because of course I do. And it’s not
that I’m crippled or addled, I’m the same as I was last year at seventyfour,
just a bit dizzier when I step off a curb or pull back from a motor
vehicle shooting through the yellow light. No, the problem is that I will
have to go to Nordstrom and find a bathing suit. They have the most
and the biggest. I know that because it’s where I went ten years ago
when I was only sixty-five. And I found decent coverage. But it wore
out. The other day I got it out of the closet, from way in the back, and
put it on and there is almost nothing left of the seat of it and the bra has
disintegrated into something that feels like sand and I thought gee, this
suit used to have shape and size and substance—like me! Why couldn’t
my family have chosen a mountain or a city for this outing? Why a
lake?! The future looks bleak.

There comes a time in one’s life when you just can’t beat it anymore.
Your body is old and it doesn’t matter how lively you are in conversation
or in mind or behavior. Your body does its own thing. It sags. One
day, if you live long enough, all the skin of your whole entire body will
be down around your ankles. And then what will your grandchildren
say? Well, they have been saying it ever since they were able to talk,
even before that when they crawled up into our faces and moved their
tiny fingers along our tiny lines. And when they gained speech, they
added “Grandma, are you going to die?” “Yes, sweetie, I am.” But
before I do that, I have got to face the summer, this summer with all
those children who will gather around the bonfire on the shore of the
lake where they will roast marshmallows and look for the brightest star
in the night sky. It’s where their parents will look at me, then at each
other and offer a silent prayer: “Kill me before I look like that.”

Now, I could simply not go to that reunion. I could feign illness. I could
sprain something. I could have lots of doctors’ appointments. Or I
could go and sit on the shore in my bought-for-the-occasion cover-up
and watch the sporting life as it passes me by. But no. I’m going. I’ll
wear that damn cover-up right to the edge of the lake from where I’ll
hear, “Grandma, come on in!” And I will. I will toss my cover-up aside
and there I’ll be in my brand new bathing suit on my same old body.
And I will wade into the water right up to my ankles, my knees, my
shoulders. Floral skirt of my new bathing suit billowing out across the
waves, elasto-plast bra securely in place, I will swim into the life around
me and dive under the water and tickle the toes of the children who
came from me. “Watch out for grandma!” they’ll call. “She’s trying to
catch us!” Indeed, I am. How could I even think about passing up an
opportunity like that.

©Jane Juska, 2008

Born in 1933, Jane Juska is an old person but a new writer. Her first book, A
Round-Heeled Woman, was published in 2003, followed in 2006 by
Unaccompanied Women. Before that, she taught English for forty years in high
school, college, and prison. Her work has appeared in magazines and
anthologies. She is working on a novel. The Summer Institute of 1982 is
responsible for all this.

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