Sunday, November 23, 2014

Disappearing act

I'm disappearing.

Really. Literally. Physically. Vanishing.

This realization came to me several months ago during my annual physical examination. I stepped on the scale (we won't talk weight here) and when I got measured — without my Crocs — the nurse said I logged in at 5-foot-5.


I didn't say anything, of course. I knew she was wrong. That sliding, head-topping measuring thingy on the doctor's scale was also wrong. I've never been a tall guy, but I'd always been 5-7 in my adult years.

Five-foot-seven is considered to be short by most modern standards, although I would have been of average height during the Civil War. The current average male height in the United States is approaching — but not quite — 5-10, and I've never been that. Or even close to it. The short gene runs rampant in our family.

I let this new information stew in my noggin for several months, certain that my medical professional had gotten this all screwed up. That is, until a couple of weeks ago in the coffee shop. Somewhere in the conversation at our round table, I mentioned that I was shrinking. Ha ha ha.

"I'm 5-6," chimed the barista, a girl who I guess to be is in her early 20s, if not actually a teenager.

"Come over here and stand next to me," I said, rising from the table. She looked ridiculously short to me.

We stood back-to-back, without our shoes. "Who's taller?" she asked the table.

There was a slight murmur. A slight hesitation. "You are," the consensus told her, "although not by much."

Well, I'm glad they added that disclaimer because I could feel my male ego deflating faster than a bald tire over a spike strip. There it was. It was official. Irrefutable. I'm 5-5.

There is some precedent in the family for this intersecting of gravity, spinal compression and fading bone mass. The last time I visited my grandmother Wehrle in Pennsylvania, I was shocked by how short she was. I imagine she was a woman who stood 5-4 or 5-5 in her prime. But now, in her late 90s, she barely reached my chin. And I'm a short guy.

At 63 years old, I have no way of measuring how fast I'm fading. I suspect one day I'll simply shrink to nothing like something in a plot out of an Edgar Allen Poe (ahem) short story.

I can see my epitaph now:

Bruce was a short guy
and from dusk to dawn
he kept getting shorter
until he was gone.

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