I was reading an article on line the other day and came across a paragraph that focused on 'Baby Boomers' (I hate that title), and it said that some of us were elderly. Curious, I looked up 'Elderly' to find out at what age one becomes elderly, and was shocked to find that I passed that milestone two years ago! How could this be? My mind is still sharp, even if my eyes aren't. My wit is nimble, even if my body isn't. This just could not be true, I told myself. So, I searched several more times, and each time came back with the same result.... I'm elderly. I was stunned. Then, I started to think about aging, and what we have been led to believe we were going to be in for, as opposed to the truth. My conclusion is that we have been led down the garden path to smell the roses, and instead have become lost in the woods.
We have been told all of our lives that we will grow old gracefully. Ha! Let me tell you, for most of us, there is nothing graceful about it. Instead, we stumble, hobble, and drag ourselves from doctor to doctor, from test to test in an endless circle. It's like going into a maze that has benches for resting, but no actual way out. Some of us take in more pills than food in a day. We are bombarded by commercials touting the latest wonder drug that may either help you, or kill you with the side effects. They tell you to inform your doctor if you have this or that condition. Well, if I have to tell my doctor what the hell is wrong with me, what is it, exactly that I am paying him for? Why in the hell would I take a pill that comes with the caveat that 'In some cases, side effects, including internal bleeding, stroke, and death have occurred'? Oh, yeah, give me some of that stuff! And the government wants to protect me from marijuana? Oh, boy.
Other commercials show happy people in their 60s and 70s playing golf, running and doing all kinds of very active things. Then, they try to sell you this med or that rub that will make your arthritis disappear! Right! I have arthritis in my hands, my back, my neck and my knees. I have two blown out rotator cuffs. No rub is making that go away, and I am not taking those pain killers. They just make me dopey, and I'm dopey enough already.
Listen, I'm not complaining about heading off into the sunset... we all do it. It is natures way of improving the world. I just needed to vent about the WAY that we head off. Doctors do the best that they can but, lets face it, they are still working in an inexact science. We don't call what they do a 'Practice' for nothing. I have the best doctors in the world, and my Primary Care Physician (Who the hell comes up with these ideas to change the names of what a person is or does?) is not only my doctor, but my friend of thirty years. It's just that the human existence is still a mystery to them as well.
Medical problems is just the half of it. They didn't warn us that, at some point, our children start look at us like we've either lost our minds, or just don't know what we are talking about. You all know what I am talking about: The eye roll when they think that you are not looking. The glazed over look that comes over their faces when you start to tell about something from your past and they think that they've (a)heard it before, or (b)are not really interested in what you have to say. I remember doing this to my own father a few times, so I want to say now that I was callous and very wrong to do so. I'm sure that he knew what I was doing, and it hurt him. We seem to lose some respect as the years continue to speed on by. People look at us differently, and they treat us differently. 'Oh, don't pay any attention them, they're old and grouchy!' Yeah, well we are grouchy for a good reason. I try not to let the disrespect that I get from some color my opinion of all. For the most part, I get what I give, and that's a good thing.
The last thing that I have to say is I hate the loss of dignity that comes with advanced age. I watched my aunts decline from smart, vibrant women to almost childlike people in a matter of a few years. The really sad part is that so many treated them like children.... not that they were mean to them... they weren't. It's just that they talked to them as one would talk to a child. It made me angry, at times.
When my Aunt Mary had to go into a nursing home for rehabilitation after getting stents place in her coronary arteries, the staff talked to her like she was a four year old. On one occasion, I brought her some homemade escarole and meatball soup. She didn't go to the dining room that day, and the floor supervisor came in and started berating her for not coming to lunch. I lost it and told her that I had brought her some food from home, and that she was not to talk like that to her ever again! This was an excellent nursing home and was top rated, but still, they treated her like a child. She was 91 at the time. I wish that she had a more peaceful last few years.
Well, I think that I have gotten this out of my system for the time being. Growing old gracefully has certainly not been my experience, but life is seldom what we thought it would be. It's full of surprises, good and bad, but that's what makes it interesting. I will continue to do whatever my team of doctors tells me, as one of my good friends has urged me to do. I just needed to get this off of my chest. I will, of course, write my opinions from time to time, for better or for worse. If I stir things up a little, so be it, as long as I can make what I write interesting, and make some people think about what I have to say.
Life has been an adventure... unpleasant at times, but good, overall. I would not change even the bad times, because out of most of them came good. I leave you, as I always do, wishing Peace and Love for all. Thanks for listening.
John Zaffino March 1, 2014
Kent Lakes, NY