Saturday, January 7, 2012

Time Marches On: A Brief Reflection on Aging and the Passage of Time

I was up before six this morning, into the kitchen to set up the coffee, then into the den for my morning readings: today's date in Daily Reflections, a page from the Intellectual Devotional and the next poem in "Good Poems," a collection of poems Garrison Keillor has read on Writer's Almanac. I went back to the kitchen, started the coffee, poured some cereal into a modest sized bowl and halved a banana, one half for me and the other for my wife, who would be getting up later. I then opened the Saturday lid in my seven day medicine and vitamin caddie, dumped the contents into my hand, proceeded to the dining room table and arranged everything on the placemat at the end of the table where I sit every morning. It's the medicine/vitamin caddie that got my attention. "Holy cow," I thought, "another week has gone by just like that!" It's already the 7th of January!

Now, having a medicine/vitamin caddie and marking the rapid passage of time by the frequency with which I have to refill it isn't something I anticipated, even five years ago. But it is now, and forever will be, part of my remaining adult life, unless I choose to throw caution to the wind and take my chances without my baby aspirin, blood thinner, beta-blocker...well, you get the idea. And I'm a reasonably fit, attractive enough person who looks several years younger than many others born in the year that Dewey did not defeat Truman (look it up).  So, without too much elaboration, here is an inventory, top down, of the changes that have occurred in my once invincible body that make it clear I will not live forever. Just saying, you know?

1. Hair loss: what once was lomg, thick, dark and wavy is now classic male pattern baldness. Still with some color, but with what my wife and kids call "baby chick hair" on top. I can still sprout a mean set of gray/white sideburns when I want to.

2. Blended trifocals, or progressives, as some call them. Enough said.

3. A persistent ringing in my ears that sometimes forces me to lean in, cup my ear and say "Huh?", "What?", "Pardon me?", "Can't hear you," or "Say that again," quite regularly. Unexpected benefit? The option of ignoring you altogether.

4. Brown spots on my face and the disturbing thought that my nose is getting bigger.

5. A bridge and several crowns. Seems like I use up my insurance every year. This year it was gone by August and I had to schedule a new crown for January. My dentist loves me.

6. A right shoulder that no amount of therapy will permanently heal, and recurring tennis elbow on the left side. Both painful enough to nag the hell of me, but not bad enough to have surgery. As my doctor says, "At your age, if you're going to be active, get used to living with pain." Such a joker, that doctor.

7. A couple of blocked coronary arteries, one fixed with a stent and the other being treated with lipitor. An "event" in 2010 led to the discovery of this problem and now I'm doing fine. Keep your fingers crossed, OK? By the way, I've run two marathons, numerous half marathons and I've only gained 10 pounds since 1968, which means I'm still in the low 150's most of the time. Get your attention?

8. Nothing you can see or that I can currently feel, but memories of a series of ferocious kidney stone attacks in 2007. Completely redefined the concept of pain for me. What once was a 10 became a 2. Trust me, you want to do everything in your power to avoid this experience, unless you're looking for an excuse to take morphine. And you know what else? It might lead to having a catheter inserted, the one male indignity I fervently prayed I would never have to experience. Prayers not answered. It's a whole other essay.

9. Arthritis in my right hip. This occasionally feels like someone stabbing me in the joint with an ice pick. Other than that, some achiness, but no big deal. Yet.

10. I hate to admit this, but a thick, yellowish, fungusy nail on my right little toe. What the hell! Can somebody please explain this to me!

So there you have it, the vicissitudes of late middle age. Throw in that I've lost about 20 yards off the tee and you have the makings of a modern tragedy, but no one gets out of here alive. I'll continue to hike, walk the old golf course, work on the abs and biceps, avoid the obvious vices, and climb a mountain in the Sierras every summer. Now it's time to go refill the caddie. Tomorrow's another day.

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