Marika Holmgren’s 26-Minute Memoir

I am 5. I am having ice cream in one of those cones that are not much more than air and I remember the cool feel of linoleum under my feet.

I am 12. I am in Iceland. I worry my grandmother, who has taken me on the trip of a lifetime, by staying out with a friend on our stop (we are on a cruise) and not telling her where I am.

I am 13. I am terrified by everyone at school.

I am 15. My first kiss. It’s not very good.

I am 16. I break my first heart. It feels too easy.

I am 18. My parents drop me off in Vermont for college. I barely look back as they drive away. I’m ready for freedom.

I’m 21. I’m madly in love.

I’m 23. I’m no longer in love.

I’m 25. I begin to notice that I have panic attacks. I no longer feel like a child, but instead realize that my mother has passed on a gene to me that will make me flush with fear at nothing.

I’m 26. I know true fear when I learn my brother has a brain tumor.

I’m 27. Everyone is getting married. I feel old and young at the same time.

I’m 28. The unthinkable happens. I lose my father. This event sets off a series of changes that will alter the course of my life. It will bring my brother and I closer. It will be the first of many early deaths in my life, and it makes me leave everything I know in California as I head to Colorado to find something else.

People say that 28 is your Saturn return, when everything is turned on its head. That sounds right.

I’m 30. I feel young and old at the same time.

I’m 31. Old friends are dropping off, and new ones are taking their places in my life.

I’m 31. I start a business.

I’m 32. I feel I have all the time in the world.

I’m 33. I’m in the best shape of my life. I am strong, lean, and powerful.

I’m 34. I crash on my mountain bike. My shoulder will never be the same.

I’m 35. I buy my first house. I do this with my brother. We don’t fight, argue, or disagree, and I remember again that I’m lucky to have this.

I’m 36. I am the last person to be with my grandmother before she dies. I’m broken, again.

I’m 37. I hear the words that you never want to hear, and that you never think you’ll hear. You have cancer.

I’m 38. I have no hair. I have no eyebrows. I have no eyelashes. I have no breasts. And yet I feel wealthy beyond my measure. I’m alive and loved.

I’m 38. I hold my mother’s hand as she passes away. Once again, the loss washes over me like a fog.

I’m 39. I weep with joy on November 4. Two weeks later I’m “reconstructed” over 15 hours of surgery. At midnight on December 31, I tell 2008 to go fuck itself and welcome 2009 in with open arms.

I’m 40. I celebrate the birthday with friends and family. The police show up to tell us to turn the music down and I thank them profusely. 40 no longer feels like something to dread, but rather a well earned gift.

I’m 40 and 3 months. I’m alive and whole.

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