I recently had reason to ponder the issue of life, aging and the elderly. I have been aging for sixty-eight years, so I have some practice. I have joined the ranks of the so-called elderly, which came with some interesting surprises. And, I recently almost lost my life. So, here goes. Be sure to read to the end, because this article takes a strange turn that I promise will provide an interesting perspective on current events and make you laugh.
First, the aging thing. I was in the best shape of my life in my thirties. I played basketball, tennis, racket ball, bicycled, swam, boated, water skied; I was very active. Then, at age forty-five, I broke two ribs in a pickup basketball game. When I told the lady doctor how I’d broken them, she gave me a look that suggested I might be slightly daft. Six months later, I broke two different ribs when my twenty-year-old-brain insisted that my forty-five-year-old body dive for a basketball. That same lady doctor laughed so hard she had to sit down, and then she solemnly suggested that I take up golf. This was my first experience with physical limitations, part of life, aging and the elderly.
More life, aging and the elderly showed up when I hit 50. I swear that my body started generating its own calories, so I didn’t need to eat at all. (If only someone could put this to good use in curing world hunger).
When I hit 300 pounds the excessive weight pushed against my vertebrae, squishing my spinal nerves, so that when I told my legs to go right they often tried to wander off in a random direction; so-called spinal stenosis. To avoid surgery, I lost 60 pounds and started working out two hours a day with core exercises and cardio. Now my legs mostly do what I tell them. although other parts not so much.
Part of this exercise routine included pushups, to strengthen the back and build up chest and arm muscles. Being me, I overdid it, tore a rotator cuff and had shoulder surgery. So, I learned that the older I get, the more exercise is required to maintain a healthy body, and the more exercise I get, the more things fall off or break. Life, aging and the elderly is a challenge. Thank you, my wife and daughter, for helping me through that one.
Then, there’s the racquetball incident. At 55 I was playing with my best friend. My legs thought the ball was going right, my upper torso tracked it to the left, and my left knee objected, tearing the meniscus. My wife was able to get me through the knee surgery as well. By now it should be obvious that my wife gets most of her exercise helping me recuperate from various accidents, surgeries and the like. You’re welcome, Dear.
I have since reached the age bracket known as “the elderly”. At the age of 63, I got out of bed one morning, my left ankle gave out, and I landed on the floor. My wife and I concluded that I must have hurt myself while sleeping, demoralizing to say the least. I had to wear an ankle brace for a couple of weeks to be able to walk. I should probably also wear it while in bed.
One can argue as to whether the category of ‘elderly’ includes those over 60 or 65. All I know is it comes with some unusual surprises. When I go to the doctor now, I am often asked things like, “Can you still pay your own bills?” “Are you able to feed yourself?” “Can you manage your own medications?” I always carry my driver’s license and take my Garmin GPS with me so I can answer the one about “Can you find your way home?” My wife and I haven’t yet attained this level of dysfunction, but it’s nice of them to ask.
There are definitely GI and memory issues associated with this aging thing. At age 55 my body started subtly mentioning to me that there would be no more digesting of certain foods, such as fried chicken, large chunks of beef and spicy foods of all types. I keep forgetting this important fact, so I tried making a reminder note on my iPhone. But by the time I get the iPhone password entered, I have forgotten why I was going to my calendar. Oh well, at least I can still find the bathroom.
There’s the back and neck pain from various automobile and sports accidents over the years. We recently bought a special adjustable bed with sleep number mattress so that I don’t wake up in the morning with neck pain or lower back pain. The thing’s great most of the time, when I can remember my sleep number and the perfect zero gravity sleep position.
However, the other morning I woke up sleeping upside down, feet to the ceiling and head on the floor. Apparently, I had gotten up in the night to go to the bathroom (another aging thing), and when I got back to bed I went to sleep with my hand resting on the control box. Some part of me thought my brain wasn’t getting enough blood.
I recently got a brand new aging surprise. I met something called a ‘polyp’. I was sitting home, relaxed, writing and enjoying myself, when all of a sudden I felt dizzy, headed for the bathroom and passed out. My wife called ‘911’, they took me to the ICU where the GI doctor discovered a bleeding polyp in my stomach.
This was something completely new and different. Fortunately, the GI doc repaired the bleed, removed another ‘angry looking’ polyp, and cauterized and stapled the wounds. I went from good shape, working out two hours a day and doing pretty much anything I wanted within reason for my age (that’s a lot of qualifiers) to extreme anemia, lying in bed, very weak and trying to figure out what happened.
To avoid this in future, I’m guessing more frequent endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures are in line. Oh goodie. Nothing like a good bowel cleansing to make for a brighter day.
So, to recap, aging requires more time and effort to maintain the status quo of being not dead. For example, weight loss and two hours of cardio and core exercise for lumbar stenosis. Counting points and pushing oneself away from the table sooner to avoid the 300-pound mark. Remembering to limit the diet, leaving out the wonderfully indigestible foods such as steak and fried chicken. Sleeping carefully and avoiding strenuous dreams, so as to not harm oneself while sleeping. Then, there’s the glorious colonoscopy and endoscopy to keep away those lethal polyps that lurk in there where the sun don’t shine. I guess this is part of what life, aging and the elderly is all about.
I warned you that I’d take an unexpected turn at this point. I am only 68, and have already struggled with all these various aging issues. I can’t help but wonder how life, aging and the elderly affects our federal government.
The people who attempt to run our country, those congressmen/women and senators/ettes, are mostly in their late 60’s, 70’s and older, truly representative of the elderly population of the grand old US of A. I’m beginning to understand why the federal government is a complete disaster, where absolutely nothing gets done. I can just picture it in my head.
There’s Nancy Pelosi, at 79. “Hurry up with this damned meeting. I’m in the middle of a bowel cleansing for this afternoon’s colonoscopy. Can you impeach a damned polyp. What’s a polyp?”.
Mitch McConnell, at 77. “Someone help me. I fell down and I can’t get up. I hurt my ankle while sleeping last night. Must have had something to do with that damned fried chicken I had for dinner.”
Jerry Nadler, at 72. “I forgot my Garmin, and I can’t find my damned office. I’ll just wander into this room. I’m sure there’s someone in there trying to impeach the president, or more likely taking a nap. Who is president? I should have written it in my iPhone. Isn’t it Hillary Clinton? Why am I trying to impeach President Clinton?”
Bernie Sanders, at 78. “I’m for socialism…socialism…socialism. Tax the rich and give to the poor. You can call me Robin Hood. I want to go home, but I can’t remember where my three houses are located. Wait a minute. Maybe I should tax myself more? Oh, to hell with it. My back hurts. I’m just going to lay down here and take a nap.”
President Trump at 73. “These people think I won the electoral college by purposefully hitting the important battle states at the last minute in 2016. Actually, I just forgot my Garmin GPS, got lost and told the pilot to land in random places until election night. I’ll just go into this room with Jerry Nadler and take a nap. I’m sure there’s someone in there trying to impeach me. Wait a minute. I think I’m supposed to be in the White House.”
Joe Biden at 76. I’m in Indianapolis. Indianapolis. Indianapolis. “Dear people of Topeka, it’s so nice to be here in Kansas, where I’m sure you’ll all vote democrat. What’s that you say about my son and some gas company? I don’t remember any sons. I do have a lot of gas, though. I need to lay off that fried chicken.”
Hillary Clinton at 72. How the hell did I lose that election? It must have been polyps. I’ll bet if I get a colonoscopy, they’ll find polyps. That would explain it. No one has ever been elected president with polyps. That’s disgusting. No, it was the voters that were disgusting. What did I call them, deplorable? If I ran against that same man again, I’d win again, if I could just remember who that was. Who did I run against? Oh well, I’ll just sit down here, rest, and write another book. In this story I won’t marry anyone named Bill.
I leave you with these images in your head, and the thought, life, aging and the elderly, what the hell was that about?
If you thought this article was funny, you might enjoy my book PLEASURIA: Take as Directed (Koehler Books). It’s a comedy murder mystery staged in the pharmaceutical industry. You can find it in bookstores everywhere and online at http://bit.ly/pleasuria.
I’m donating all my after-tax profits to two children’s charities, Holly’s House and Darkness-to-Light.