So the truth is: I’m not tall; and I certainly never will be tall – not in this life. And now I’ve gone below a bar I set for myself – not that anyone can really control that.
I was five feet and one inch tall at my best. And when I first registered a one-quarter inch loss of height at a routine doctor check-up I thought, “Okay, people shrink when they get older. I’ve always known that. I’ve seen it with my own eyes on my parents and grandparents. As long as I never go below five feet I’ll be fine.”
Honestly, you can make yourself believe anything. No matter how unlikely. And I couldn’t fathom being shorter than five feet, zero inches, so I guess I believed I never would be. Now, a few years after that first shocking loss of a quarter of an inch, it has happened.
At a recent appointment for a check-up the nurse told me to step on the scale. “I’ll take my shoes off,” I said. “Don’t need any extra weight.”
“And keep them off,” she said. “So I can get an accurate read on your height.”
My blood ran cold. I just knew what was coming.
“Fifty-nine inches,” she said.
Math was never my strong suit, but this one was easy. I know how many inches make five feet, and it’s not fifty-nine.
“No way,” I said. “That would make me four-eleven. I can’t be four-eleven. That isn’t even five feet.”
“It’s okay, honey,” she said, “we’re all shrinking.”
“Not below five feet!” I almost yelled. Maybe I did yell. I’m not even sure anymore.
Since then I’ve told several people this story. And they all have the same answer: don’t worry, we’re all shrinking. And, of course that’s true. But not below five feet! You are not all shrinking below five feet. I’m used to being the shortest one in any group. I’m used to being told – all the way back to my school days – to stand in the front row for a group picture because I’m the shortest. But I wasn’t shorter than five feet.
I don’t know why I’ve set this impossible bench mark for myself. Maybe it’s just that with all the changes that come with aging, I’d just like to have control of one thing. Just one. But I’ll have to keep looking for something I can control. Because this most certainly isn’t it. Sleep? Weight? Strength? Memory? Vision? Hearing? Go with the flow, baby. Everything’s changing.
Norma Libman is a journalist and lecturer who has been collecting women’s stories for more than twenty years. You can read the first chapter of her award-winning book, Lonely River Village, at NormaLibman.com.