Another Perspective

Surrendering, Inch by Inch

The waistband as a measure of life.

By 8.17.07

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A long time ago, in an AA meeting far away, a friend of mine took a peek at the leather label on the waistband of my 501 Levis.

"Thirty-one!" he exclaimed. "I can't remember when I had a thirty-one-inch waistline."

Obviously, I can. But I assure you, it's waisting away. I give up ground grudgingly, inch by inch.

FOR YEARS AND YEARS, I wore thirty-ones and thirty-twos. That measurement survived a bilateral nephrectomy (both my diseased kidneys removed) that resulted in a part of my stomach pooching out, a kidney transplant, years of hard action and rough exercise ("Larry, you're looking positively brawny," said another friend at one point, a year after I had taken up tennis), and parenthood.

Granted, in one dimension, height, I have been shrinking steadily for years. Take prednisone every day for 30 years, as I have, and the bones soften up. I am now a smidge shorter than my younger son's godmother, who came over for a visit last week and compared herself to my sprouting older son, proclaiming her stature as five feet six.

Gravity works its wonders, year by year. A picture stuck to our refrigerator shows me at our younger son's christening in 2002. I am wearing a luxurious pair of wide wale corduroy trousers bought from the late J. Peterman catalog, a skimpy size 32. My hair is brown, too.

Within three years, I was being congratulated by a new friend of ours at the kids' taekwondo school, who complimented me on my luck at having such a young wife at my age.

I always did say Sally would look as good at 50 as she did at 30, and I was right.

FAST FORWARD TO MY DISCHARGE from my last emergency hospitalization. I pulled off the hospital gown and got out my clothes, not seen or worn for a week, and failed by six inches to be able to fasten the waist button of the trousers. The hospital had bollixed up my dialysis, given me peritonitis, and run a succession of IV infusions. I had packed on nearly 40 pounds of fluid weight.

I went home in sweat pants.

Over the next week, under my own care on home dialysis, I peeled off the excess fluid at the rate of about five pounds a day. I had had Sally buy me a pair of Dockers in waist size 40, which I expected to wear for no more than that week, and indeed I didn't.

But I never have gotten back to my former stable size, which, in later years, I had surrendered to a 34 -- and I had hated doing that.

Now, I find, Dockers does not make pants in 35-inch waist sizes -- only even increments of two. So I have two pair of size 36 stay-press Dockers, which I intend wearing only so long as I wait for a kidney transplant -- and a closet full of 34s, many of them very nice, which have been relegated to the "someday" category.

Darn.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.