I’ll be 60 in two months and Thanksgiving has given me pause to consider what I’m thankful for, so here goes.
Getting old sucks. Plain and simple. Especially for those of us fortunate enough to have enjoyed excellent health for most of our lives. I’ve never contracted a serious or chronic disease. Never been in the hospital overnight. Never had an organ removed. The worst broken bones I’ve had are collarbone (once), ribs (twice), and nose (three times).
Yet here I am, pushing 60 and complaining about all my stupid aches, pains, and “old age maladies” for lack of a clinical term.
Since turning 50, I’ve suffered from Shingles (a pain I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy), back pain flare-ups, tendonitis in both sides of both elbows (think golf elbow and tennis elbow simultaneously in both arms), recurring plantar’s warts on my foot, arthritis in various joints that seems to move from one digit to the next, a knee that acts up now and then for no apparent reason, an enlarged prostate, pudendal neuropathy (thankfully not severe because the pain associated with this problem can get so severe as to drive men to suicide–seriously).
I’ve also recently developed tinnitus, vitreous detachment, chronic dry eye, a corneal abrasion, cracked skin on my fingertips (almost as painful as Shingles under the right circumstances), a sinus condition in one nostril that, under the right conditions, produces enough moisture to water the plants in our garden, and now it seems, Reynaud’s Syndrome (a chronic condition whereby circulation slows so much in my fingers and toes that they go numb and turn white as if I have severe frostbite. And it feels like frostbite too.)
This is what my body tells me I look like:
To look at my laundry list of ailments one might think I’m either dead or so wracked with pain and suffering that I wished I were dead.
I’m rather happy to be alive. Because what I have managed to do in almost 60 years of life is avoid the biggies. Things like cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, paralysis, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, blindness, polio, dementia (well, who can be sure?) and hopefully Alzheimer’s Disease, but it’s still early.
And I’m reminded how lucky I am every day when I see people in wheelchairs, hooked up to oxygen tanks, limping along in walkers or on crutches, or homebound or in nursing homes or other skilled care facilities because they weren’t as fortunate as I have been.
All in all, I’d rather have a long laundry list of piddly-sh*t ailments than one of the Big Ones. Dad had cancer… twice. Lost a prostate gland, plus his bladder and a kidney, and almost died after his last surgery, which cost him his colon. So now he’s got two ostomy bags hooked to his body. Mom had breast cancer years ago and is doing great as of today. My brother and sister have both been in relatively serious car accidents. My sister recently had a knee replacement. Grandpa A. was a smoker and contracted Emphysema. Grandma N. was also a smoker and died of lung cancer. A sister-in-law died from breast cancer aggravated by alcoholism at age 47. My father-in-law died from alcoholism. My mother-in-law had serious heart disease in her later years, culminating in a double(?) bypass. She recently died from dementia and suffered from severe memory loss for the last two-plus years of her life. Relatives in both our families have had depression, and at least three have committed suicide.
Yet here I sit, relatively unscathed in the grand scheme of family history. I ache every morning before I even get out of bed. I’m reminded constantly throughout the day of my ringing ears, blurry vision, cold extremities (in winter at least), and weak urine stream thanks to my big ol’ prostate gland.
But I’m grateful every day to be able to rise out of bed, do some good work or good deeds, love my wife, be kind to everyone I meet during the day (since maybe they’re ten times worse off than me and have a right to be pissed, so why should I get bent out of shape if they aren’t nice to me in return?), and appreciate whatever I can on this wondrously beautiful planet populated with mostly kind gentle souls who just want to get through today the best they know-how, too.
This is what my brain tells me I should feel like when I’m not noticing all the aches and pains and wanting and trying to do physical activities I did with relative ease 30 years ago:
The conflict between body and mind will go on until I die since I don’t think I can live life to the fullest if I’m not optimistic in some way every day. Maybe I’ll get cancer. Maybe I won’t. Maybe my back pain will disappear. Probably it won’t. Eventually, something will kill me, but I don’t know what it will be. Until then, I’ll keep believing I can hit that 350-yard drive, run the 100 meters in eleven flat, throw a 95 mph fastball, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Oops, wait a sec, wrong superhero. Well, then, I believe I might still be able to do whatever the heck Captain America can do. But I’ll always be thankful for whatever I am actually able to do.