When my mother celebrated her 70th birthday (I was a mere lad of 40), I asked her if she felt any different from when she was in her thirties. She pondered the question for a moment and replied, “No not really. I look in the mirror and it’s obvious I’m not who I was – and the parts don’t always work they way they used to; causing me to slow down. I’ve got some annoying aches and pains. But, big picture? Inside, I feel like I always have.”
I’ve since queried other seniors about whether they feel “elderly.” Whether the respondent was 70, 80 – I even got to ask someone who was 99 – the answer was almost always identical, “I pretty much feel like I always have.'”
This begs a question: At what point do we accept that we’re “old” – or at least “older?”
This somewhat gloomy line of thought has been prompted by the realization that if we come with a warranty, I fear mine lapsed recently. Since I hit “double nickels,” seemingly all at once, my parts are sore, not working well, acting quirky, or just plain out of sorts. I have pains in places where I did not even know I had places. I am continuously complaining about some dang cramp or soreness, which I do not like doing, and I assure you that is definitely NOT me. My foremost fear is that I shall soon devolve into a cranky, wrinkly, grey-haired, curmudgeonly man-creature, who brandishes his cane at the clouds and rants at the heavens about the unfairness of life.
This is even more troublesome because I’m doing my bit to forestall that unhappy outcome. I walk regularly, eat well, take vitamins, don’t stress (except about this), attend Yoga classes, ride a bike; and – I might point out – I’m a heck of a nice guy! One would therefore assume with such a powerful curriculum vitae of healthy habits and proper outlook, I should easily surpass 125 years before I even go so far as to pull a muscle.
My loving wife has (gently) pointed out that I’m “not as young as I was,” and these symptoms could be interrelated. However I refuse to accept it’s the aging process. I’ll age gracefully (whatever the heck that means) but will not go gently, so off to the doctor I go where I inventory everything that’s sore, bruised, inconsistent, nasty, gnarly, gross, inflated, swollen, hot, cold, flat, red, or black and blue. He types and listens; studies the computer; clarifies a few details; and then says, “I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“What’s the good news?”
“There’s nothing serious; no need to worry.”
Sigh of relief… “What’s the bad news?”
“Your wife is right.”
“But Doc,” I proclaim, “I take good care of myself,” as if that argument will cause him to reverse the prognosis.
“Yes, you do. But at your age, things don’t recover as quickly. It would be worse if you weren’t doing what you’re doing.”
So, that’s it? Sounds like an attitude adjustment might be in order.
They say this is a “normal process” and I’m obviously I’m in it. In all honesty, I do enjoy the peace, self-confidence, and serenity at this stage of life. My marriage is wonderful. My friendships are close. And, overall, I am happy with where I am. That’s what really matters.
Placed in that perspective, I can handle a few bumps, bruises and a periodic cramp, as long as it’s “nothing serious.” I really do think I’m fine with that.