Thursday, May 30, 2013

Age is NOT Just a Number

I was sitting in the waiting room at my chiropractor’s office, commiserating with another geezer about how aging is a bad design.  It starts out fine. You get taller and stronger.  Then it starts going the other way.

The receptionist interrupted our conversation to say, “Age is just a number.”

I totally disagree.  So, I told her, “Age is cancer and hip replacements and broken teeth.”

She looked at me in disbelief.  “Have you had any of these things?”

I’ve discussed my hip replacement and mastectomy with her, so I thought she knew.  But, maybe she listens about as well as the neighborhood barber, who is just making conversation.  

I simply said, “Yes.”

She said she knew one other person who had a hip replacement.

My grandparents made very clear that aging was no fun. They were weaker and slower than my parents and my friends’ parents, who in turn had less energy than we children.  

Some things have happened to make aging more comfortable than it was for my grandparents.  When my grandfather broke a tooth, he had to have it pulled.  I was able to get an onlay and keep the tooth.  When my grandmother got a hip replacement, she spent the rest of her life sitting around playing cards. The new model hip replacement I got lets me climb stairs, do yoga, and ride my bike. 

But the treatment for breast cancer is still the same as it was when my aunt had it.  Mastectomy.  I had the modern option of reconstruction, but I didn’t want it.  I wanted a magic treatment that would simply make the cancer disappear. No knives involved.  (I did try lumpectomy, but that didn’t get it all, and what with the radiation required afterwards, I’m just as glad to have had the mastectomy.)

Even though I have a better hip replacement and better dental care than my grandparents, I’m still aging (read degenerating with age). Age is not just a number. Aging means changing how I live, adapting to arthritis and dealing with health problems that come with my body getting older.

And apparently, aging means having to do what my grandparents did and inform the young’uns that getting older requires care and patience, not just from us geezers, but also from friends and family.  They won’t believe it, but maybe I’ll try telling them that today’s young’un is tomorrow’s geezer. And I hope medical care improves, so their aging is more pleasant than mine. I doubt that age will ever be just a number.

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