In a few weeks I will hit the magic number: 80 years old. I reckon I can no longer deny that the so-called ”Golden Years” are just a breath away. “What will be will be” says the great philosopher Doris Day. And so it is. Or, as another modern-day philosopher, Harlem-born Charlie Rangel once said about his age, “I don’t buy green bananas anymore”. Well, I haven’t reached that stage yet, and I hope I don’t, but I will share a few personal considerations with you.
First, I never ever expected to clock 80 years for two reasons: Most of my life has been in the fast lane. Of course, maybe that’s the reason I down 15 pills daily, seven of which target high blood pressure. And then there’s heredity. My father passed at age 69. A benchmark for me? Wrong? You bet! Hallelujah, brother!
Second, oh, my! 75 now sounds so gooood! Why? I could do so many things that I can’t do now. I could run marathons. (Okay–little ones.) I could climb ladders and clean out the gutters on a tile roof. Woo Hoo! These days a stepladder with more than two steps is a challenge. I could walk aplenty through Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Publix. These days my first stop in these stores is a motorized scooter to shop in. I like the ones with horns, bells, and headlights. I could put my shoes and pants on while standing. Not so any more. Sitting to do these mundane things works so much better.
Third, I could remember the name of the President, the day of the week and the year, what I did yesterday–you get the picture. Now I don’t want to remember the name of a liar and crook who is President. I’ve got the day of the week down pat, as I bought a clock that tells me so. And what I did yesterday doesn’t seem so important anymore, so I reckon nothing is lost there.
Fourth, my five senses are changing so fast that I need to kick myself in the behind to check my health. Take hearing, for example. Woe is me and woe, woe is Kay. Our conversations, if you could call them that, generally begin with “What?” The poor darling dear bears the brunt of my decline into sign language.
Fifth—and this is the big, big one–pain intervention. I am practically a pincushion for pain. When I go to the pain doc, he always asks, “On a scale of 1 to 10, what level is your pain?” And I always reply “Where? Toe? Back? Arm?”
My lower back is the main culprit, but the pain bush is growing. A year ago I had surgery on my big toe because of the pain. A year later the old pain had been replaced by new toe pain. So, I paid a visit to the surgeon and asked him to explain. He said it must be arthritis and there’s not much you can do about that.
Well, not exactly. One addictive pain pill (hydrocodone) in the afternoon and one in the evening is now on the menu. And then, there’s pot. Yup, I’m a legal pot head in Florida and a traveling pot head in Colorado. Yowie! My mother gave me plenty of advice about everything in her time, but she missed this one.
Enough said about the past-present. Let’s move on. There must be other reasons that age 8o matters. Perhaps I’m wiser? Sure, kiddo. So, why am I drawing a blank? What about becoming more tolerant? Or mindful of the meaning of life? On the tolerance scale, I think I’d weigh in on the plus side. I’m even beginning to like old people, unless they are driving and I can’t see a head in the driver’s seat.
I have probably changed the most (in a positive way) about the meaning of life. I would say I have acquired a deep respect for all living creatures. These days I find it difficult to step on a bug, unless it invades my home. Doesn’t a bug have as much right to life as humans? As a youngster I could readily kill most any animal or creature. Not today.
So, does this “new me” suggest something about my philosophy of life? What’s important? What’s not? I suppose so, but that awaits another essay. Que sera sera! The future’s not ours to see.”
Don Menzel is a past president of the American Society for Public Administration, an author, and an international speaker on ethics reform. Before his recent move to Colorado, Don organized OLLI-USF’s China Special Interest Group. He also served as an OLLI-USF faculty member for over 10 years. Bon voyage, Don!