Aging Gracefully


I’m telling you, old age sucks.  I’m not old yet, I guess, in the strictest sense of the word.  I still get around okay.  My wife tells me I should dye my hair, maybe get rid of some of the gray.  I say, who do I have to impress?  I earned this gray hair.  Three exes, three teenage daughters, 24 years with the Postal Service–I tell the wife, if I’m having a nightmare, don’t wake me up.  I could be fighting off punk boyfriends with nose rings, grumpy supervisors, crabby lawyers, unsympathetic judges.  It could be anything.  I could start flailing around, who knows.  Maybe I should see somebody.

I may not be old, per se.  But things are happening.  Little pains crop up.  I got an ache in my knee last year.  After a 300 dollar MRI adventure, the doctor says, hey, you have a spot of arthritis in your knees–take some ibuprofen when it acts up.  Huh?  300 bucks for take two and call me in the morning?  So I have to resign myself to some aches and pains.  I have to do some self triage.  Can whatever stabbing pain I’m experiencing at the moment wait?  If I don’t break out, bleed out, or pass out, then chances are I will live and I don’t have to cough up a 400 dollar co-pay so I can get some Advil.

I have this inner dialogue going.  I started telling myself things.  Like when I do some heavy lifting at work that lasts maybe 20 seconds and I start breathing like I just ran 10 miles carrying a backpack full of rocks. Or when I swat at a fly and it feels like my shoulder popped out.  Or when I raise my arms over my head and things start creaking. I’m not old, I say to myself.  I’m just a little out of shape.  I need to walk more.

I saw a friend of mine at work the other day.  He’s about 70, 80 something.  He said when you get old, things just start breaking down.  One thing after another, every day it’s something else.  Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, but lately I’ve been feeling some of that.  My knees, my back, even my ears are falling apart.  I know there are 90 year old guys who would read this and laugh out loud, if they had the wind.  Some of them are on walkers; they can’t tie their shoes without falling down.  Here I’m 47 and complaining about a little arthritis on my knee.  It gets below 60 degrees outside and I’m grabbing my leg at the bottom of the stairs crying to my wife about my arthritis kicking in.  It must be the drop in barometric pressure or something, I whine, and she says hurry up and get the garbage out before the rain starts.  No sympathy.

There’s an upside to all this.  Things are slower.  Real drama is reserved for things like death and…well, just death.  Everything else is negotiable and temporary.  I appreciate things, like the sun on my face, a freshly mowed lawn, even a clean pair of  socks warm from the dryer.  As I age, life becomes simpler.  And much more satisfying.

I’m getting older, but not old.  Not yet, anyway.  Besides, I hear the alternative  really  sucks.