If aging is something one can study for, I am going to totally ace it when I get to being elderly. I am already getting to practice so many aspects of becoming frail, I may not even notice a difference when I’m finally, formally, an old lady. (I promise, though, solemnly, that I will not wear a purple hat–that is some silly bullshit, friends).
It’s not uncommon, for example, to have to regularly monitor one’s blood pressure and heart rate in one’s later years, but that won’t be any kind of stumbling block for me, as I do that at least once a day already. I am acutely aware of my heart’s various flutterings and hiccups, and take a month’s history of it to my cardiologist at each visit.
Likewise, the need to document one’s medical issues is an elderly treat I have already gotten to partake of–I will soon be one of those patients with a clear Ziploc full of pill bottles and scribbled notes and a notebook full of diagnostic letters and test results. Remember the halcyon days of youth when the only medication you were on was maybe birth control or allergy meds? No more, now there are beta blockers and handfuls of supplements. I have arrived, old age, I am already amongst your people.
I remember that my Grama would often bemoan not being able to eat whatever she wanted anymore, as many things seemed to upset her system. Given that last night and two nights ago I had big meals from carry-out restaurants and each night awoke at 2:00 am with gnawing stomach that lasted until 4:30/5:30 am, it seems I will not have to face that hurdle in my seventies. It will be old hat to say, “Oh, I need to watch my portions and be careful not to overeat because it makes my stomach hurt at night, dearie–you can have the rest of my smoked rib plate/reuben sandwich for me”. And, “I need to eat dinner earlier rather than later, or I won’t be able to sleep.” I should just start working Jeopardy into my life now; I can watch it at 4:00 while I eat a small, bland dinner.
Old people often feel stiff and achy in the morning–gone are the days of springing out of bed and leaping into whatever tasks or adventures were ahead. Each morning as I stagger to the shower with my hand on my lower back, wincing as my ankles and wrists and shoulders speak up with complaints of their own, I’m grateful that I will not have to go through the disappointment of feeling this way when I am old. I will not wake up one morning to find my youthful spring-of-step mysteriously compromised, I will feel the same way I have felt since I was a 46 year old babe with dewy skin and innocent expectations.
Older people spend a lot more time at the doctor’s office, too. Yesterday, waiting to be called for x-rays of my hands, neck and right shoulder, I overheard this conversation:
Sweet old couple waiting nearby, are approached by a receptionist:
Receptionist: Mrs Smith, have you visited Africa in the last 21 days?
Sweet old lady: What? What did you say?
Receptionist (louder, but not slower): HAVE YOU VISITED AFRICA IN THE LAST 21 DAYS?
SOL: WHERE? WHAT?
SOL: Africa? (looks to husband) No…..I don’t think so. Why?
Receptionist (still not slowing down): It’s because of the EBOLA.
Receptionist: I’m just checking “no”, thank you!
SOL: What’s your name?
Receptionist: Adawnna. (leaves)
SOL (to her husband): WHAT DID SHE WANT? WHY DID SHE CHECK SOMETHING OFF?
Husband (rising painfully slowly to his feet, goes up to receptionist’s desk, the same conversation is had, and he returns): -chuckles- They thought we might have gone to AFRICA.
Husband: AFRICA. WHERE YOU CATCH THE EBOLA.
SOL: She said I have the Ebola?
Husband: No, no, she said you haven’t been to AFRICA.
SOL: Well that’s true, who would go there? They have the Ebola.
Then they laughed and laughed.
See? I haven’t been to Africa either, so I’m in the club.
Old people also have trouble getting in and out of the car. I can no longer manage to control the swing of the truck door and get in at the same time, so I go wait in the driveway while my husband backs out, and then I get in. The reverse happens when we get home, and have to sort of let the momentum of the door haul me out in a controlled slithering operation. I have similar struggles with heavy doors, and hover around them waiting for someone to open them for me whenever possible. I also stick my foot out so that if someone crashes through it maybe they won’t break my wrist and knock me down–us old folks know there’s a broken hip lurking around every corner.
On the bright side, I look really good for being 80–I mean, I look half that age, really. I’ll be able to get lots of dates at the retirement home, I’m sure.