Between the lines

Without fail, every time I see my mom, she apologizes to me.

“I’m so sorry that I didn’t know to put tanning lotion on you kids when you were little,” she says. “I just didn’t know the sun could cause wrinkles and cancer back then. I was so dumb!”

Now, I haven’t had skin cancer yet, although she has faced down a couple of bouts. So I assume she’s talking about the wrinkles she sees sprouting effortlessly on my face.

I like to think I’m aging pretty well and that the wrinkles she apparently can’t avoid seeing aren’t that big of a deal. And to be honest, I doubt my many days in the sun as a kid caused the problem.

I have a feeling they’re of my own doing.

A co-worker has been telling me for years that my constant frowning risked turning my forehead into something akin to a striped crosswalk. I listened, politely of course, but it’s not as if I can control my facial expressions all that much after years of practice perfecting them just so.

But sure enough, she has been proven correct: I have a bit of a creek bed growing deeper and wider up there, and I catch myself in the mirror looking for the bottom from time to time.

I don’t think sun damage and facial expressions alone have caused my mom to be disconsolate, though. I have slackened and tightened my face enough times over the years relatively unprompted, if you consider stress and worries to be unprompted.

It seems easy to say: “Don’t worry about things. They take care of themselves.” And, of course, that is probably the truest statement of them all.

But the “getting there” part of the process claims most of my attention and energy, and somehow my face becomes the focus for all of that needless angst.

I’ve wondered how things would be different if I simply dropped everything and everyone (except my lovely wife, of course) and headed to a Greek island, where the natives and tourists alike are as brown as coconuts and seemingly as healthy as can be.

The sun doesn’t seem to be causing alarm there, and their lives seem simple and quiet. There may not be a whole lot to do on a remote island in the middle of the ocean, but maybe that is a good problem to have, as opposed to being too involved in too much with too many?

Of course, the skin is always tanner and less wrinkled on the other side of the fence, so I’m probably just envying something not meant to be for me.

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this: Mom, I earned this face, and unless something drastic happens, I’m not done with it. And no matter how it turns out, don’t blame yourself.

I will take care of that on my own.