Monday, May 17, 2010

What Makes Me Feel Beautiful

My dear "bosom friend" Kylah (as Anne of Green Gables would say), who knows me perhaps as well as I know the patterns on my wallpaper in the bedroom I lived in for 18 years (I did a lot of staring at the walls while lying in bed), sent me this story called "What Makes Me Feel Beautiful."  When I read it, I literally felt myself melting, my breathing slowing, and chills racing up my arms and legs, all at once.  Its both light and heavy and if you've ever felt before what the author describes, you'll remember the exact moment it happened, how it took you by such surprise that you stopped in your tracks, the world standing still, words ringing in your ears, your insides beaming as bright as the north star.  You'll bottle those words up and keep them in your treasure chest, smiling each time you reflect on their meaning.

From Real Simple:
By Anne Roiphe: 

My Late Husband’s Words

It was mid-December of 2005. I don’t know why he said it. I don’t know if a shadow had fallen across him, something appalling he saw out of the corner of his eye. I don’t know if it was just coincidence or intuition that prompted him, but about a week before my seemingly healthy 82-year-old husband suddenly died, he emerged from the kitchen ready to go to his office, his face clean-shaven, his eyes shining, smiling shyly, holding the copy of the Anthony Trollope book he was rereading, and said to me, "You have made me very happy. You know that you have made me a happy man." There I stood in my work outfit, blue jeans and a T-shirt. There I stood with my white hair and my wrinkles and the face I was born with, although now much creased by time, and I felt beautiful. 

"What?" I said. I wanted him to repeat the words. "You heard me," he said and put on his coat and drew his earmuffs out of his pocket. "Say it again," I said. He said it again. "You’ve made me happy." We had been married 39 years. We had held hands waiting in hospital corridors while a desperately ill child struggled to breathe and thankfully recovered. We had made financial mistakes together. We had spent hours out in fishing boats. We had raised the children and then second-guessed our choices. We had stood shoulder to shoulder at graduations and weddings and we were well-worn, but still I had made him happy, and I was proud and flushed with the warmth of his words. 

I know I looked beautiful that morning. Perhaps not to the young man holding his toddler in his arms who rode the elevator with me; perhaps not to the friend I met for lunch, a true believer in Botox; perhaps not to passersby on the street; but I knew it for a certainty. I was beautiful. 

I don’t believe that inner beauty is sufficient in this cruel world. That’s the pap one tells a child. I don’t believe that positive thinking improves your skin tone or that loving or being loved changes the shape of your nose or restores the thickness and color of hair, but I do know that there is a way of being beautiful, even as age takes its toll, that has something to do with the spirit filling with joy, something to do with the union with another human being, with the sense of having done well at something enormously important, like making happy a man who has made you happy often enough. 

Ten days after that morning conversation, my husband and I returned from a concert and dinner with friends and walked down our windy block toward our apartment house when suddenly he stumbled and fell and died within minutes. As I waited for the ambulance, I remembered his words, a beauty potion I would take with me into the rest of my life. 

Anne Roiphe is the author of numerous books. Her latest, Epilogue: A Memoir, will be released in paperback next month.

Thank you Kylah.  

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible blessing for me to read this as one of your many blog-followers, and so appropriate in so many ways. This post is proof that the words that you share, whether you write them or not, can be incredibly moving in ways that surpass the imagination. Thank you Lauren, and by extension, Kylah and Anne.