When Aging Came To Visit

Not much snow, but frozen solid!

Not much snow, but frozen solid!

It seems that 2016 was the year that the word AGING, started being used in conversation frequently around  my house, and as a result became a permanent resident. The twenty-five year old I still thought I was began to slow down. I noticed my body got stiffer and tired more quickly. I began rebelling against those things that I was supposed to accomplish on any given day. What took me fifteen minutes to do a few years ago took up to thirty, if not more precious minutes.

It was Bill who started it. At seventy-seven, he had knee replacement surgery early last January. My own right knee started hurting right after his surgery. I chalked it up to sympathy pains. I kept up my walking routine most days and continued with my pilates and yoga sessions. The main problem was when I was seated in the lotus position and ole Righty just didn’t want to stay bent up like a pretzel. I allowed myself straighten her out from time to time to ease the pain, but she still doesn’t like to do that. Now I’m noticing that when it’s very cold, like it was this past weekend (in the single digits),  the knee got very stiff and uncomfortable. Geez, Bill, why can’t you just keep your pain to yourself?

In early August when my sweetheart, Bill, was scheduled for shoulder replacement surgery in mid-September, my neck got stiff and both of my shoulders began to ache. More sympathy pains? Was it my rotator cuffs? Or was it those weighty burdens I carry around with me all day? Maybe it was the work of getting my memoir published, trying to stay caught up with blog posts, newsletters, check books, laundry, cooking, and the other chaotic day to day things I didn’t have any desire to do, or enough hours in the day in which to do them.

While Bill’s surgeries are healing beautifully, something is still amiss. It’s the brain. I discovered in November that I was a year ahead of myself. I kept telling people I’d be seventy-five on my birthday when I was only going to be seventy-four. Hooray! I gained a year! Things can’t be going south yet, can they? But then words became a big problem. I knew which word I wanted to use in a blog post or a crossword puzzle but I just couldn’t find it.

The urge to nap became a frequent visitor and is also now in residence. I need at least thirty minutes to close my eyes and drift off into a dreamy, relaxed state. I also find myself ready for bed at nine most evenings. My early morning walks out in the cold and windy mornings don’t carry the thrill they used to. I’m now waiting till it gets a bit warmer.

What is happening to me?  I think of  my cross-country skiing days in northern Vermont, when I couldn’t wait to get out into the frigid air and be the first creature making tracks in the deep snow.

Bill is falling into step with me.  When I asked if he wanted to go out to dinner and a movie the other afternoon, he said, “It’s too cold! Too windy!”  When I asked what’s gotten into him, he says, “I’m seventy-seven. I’m old!”  If he is old, so am I, right?

Sunday morning after it warmed up a bit, I took a quick twenty minute walk to check out the condition of the streets as we’d had an inch or so of snow the day before. It was nothing compared to the winter storms we’d experienced up north.  Most churches were closed for the day, and few cars passed down our street. I needed a few groceries. It was cold. It was windy. The street was very icy. And no neighbors were out … even the the young families who’ve recently moved here with their kids. Where were the sleds and the snowmen? Where was the laughter and the fun?

I wore a wool hat, gloves, boots, and my down coat. I felt quite comfortable, but by the time I got back home I decided I didn’t need those groceries after all. I decided to cuddle up in a wool blanket, next to our old-fashioned radiators, and read. If the youngsters in the neighborhood don’t go out in the cold, maybe it isn’t old age after all! Maybe I’m just getting smarter.

Here is a very moving meditation on aging by Parker Palmer.  He has such a wonderful way of expressing what growing older is all about.  He’s inspired me to just go with it and enjoy.

Time Play, Act III

clockface2Like last week’s post, this is another I wrote in 2006. My mother had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer a year earlier. She spent most of her time denying she was nearing the end of her life. My head was filled with thoughts of aging and mortality, both Mom’s and my own. The poem below slipped out onto paper in response to a prompt on a poetry site I was following at the time.

My attitude toward aging and death has changed since then. I love being in my seventies. For the most part it is a very comfortable and peaceful time. I’ve enjoyed being able to slow down, to do more of what I really want to do, and taking all the time in the world to do it. I see things very differently now. Wisdom has overshadowed my ignorance and in many ways I’m more patient with myself and others, as well.

It’s fascinating to me that my fears of aging and death no longer haunt me as they once did. Back then I wanted time to pass quickly so that I could get on with my life. Since then I have developed a great appreciation for this moment … right now … the in breath … the out breath … even if what is happening isn’t the most pleasant thing in world. By allowing myself to live with what is before me, the sting of life is not as severe, and I see things more clearly.

This is what I wrote on August 24, 2006.

Time has never been my best friend. There is never enough or there is too much. I look for quality time, end up with no time. At times I’ve been able to stretch time, but that skill is elusive. It’s either rush, rush, rush, or are we there yet? I waste time, I buy time. I’ve even killed time. Time is a mystery. I’ve written a notebook full of poems about it. I don’t know any more about it now, than I did before I took the time for this exploration.

Time Play, Act III

Instead of rising the curtain falls
on a revolving stage numerals tick
tossing seconds back and forth
the orchestra marks each hour
with silver chimes

In the fly-space heavenly doors
swing open spilling light
revealing angels robed in red
feathered wings propel
cogged wheels around the clock

Beyond the flicker of footlights
tiers of aging faces line the dark
fear the cuckoo’s wooden call
a chorus of fingers points to the dial
weeping candles hail the fractured moon

There is one part of the aging process that is not at all pleasant and that is the loss of friends.  In the last 24 hours one has passed away and another is in the ICU at a nearby hospital.  My prayers reach out to both of them and their families.