Monday, May 14, 2018
Probably more information than you want to know.
Perhaps you would like to do something else.
Age is something that creeps up on your blind side - at least it seems that way to me. One summer I walked along an island trail that clings to a cliffside that drops off over a hundred feet and thought little of it. Next year on the same trail I seem to be thinking about it more than just enjoying it. The next summer I notice that I don't feel sure at all and the next time I am on that trail I have a telescoping walking stick that now accompanies me anytime I am on irregular terrain. Age.
A few years ago I was walking up an inclined street on the way to work and I am short of breath. No pain, just a little breathlessness. I mention this to my PCP and she orders a stress test and what do you think? I have some sludge in my anterior coronary artery. I have slightly elevated BP. My cholesterol is a bit high. I am prescribed a daily regimen of pills for the first time in my life. Age.
In a regular scheduled physical my PCP asked about my ability to empty my bladder freely and I tell her that I do have occasional issues with that, so I am referred to a urologist for the first time in my life. After an examination he announces that I have an enlarged prostate. Another pill - and the pill works. Age.
A couple of years ago I began passing a little blood in my urine. A call to my urologist and we do a cystoscope procedure - we look into the bladder and find two tumors that must be dealt with. This is day surgery and it is successful. They were malignant tumors. The exact same thing happened recently and two more cancerous tumors were successfully removed. While anesthetized a biopsy was performed on the prostate to follow up on a suspicious bump discovered by a digital exam and cancer was discovered. Age.
Today I began a series of radiation treatments to deal with the prostate cancer. I feel great. I am essentially a-symptomatic. But I have cancer which if not treated somehow could become a different kind of serious problem. So now for five days a week for 28 treatments I have a daily plan to follow. "They" say this works. I'm hopeful. Hope seems to be the coin of the realm as far as old people go.
I was having a meeting with the doctor at the radiation oncology clinic today and I told him that I noticed about half dozen people in hospital gowns (as I was) and mentioned that they were all gray haired. He smiled and said "Welcome to the club". It's almost impossible to live long without the problems of aging. So this is my new normal? Yes, and I am deeply grateful for the options I have. By the way, it's not going to get any easier.
It's like learning a new language: the language of old age. But it's more than words. It's the way you do everything.
Monday, March 19, 2018
These things don't occupy your mind too much until you pass 50, or for sure 60 for most of you. I say all this from a lofty perch in the midst of my 80s. That's when it gets serious. Friends and family begin dying off much too quickly for comfort. Children you once knew or haven't seen in a while are now voting adults if not parents as well. Then one day you realize you are *thinking* about it all the time - well, a lot of the time.
I've always liked the way Robert Herrick brought it together:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying;
Tomorrow will be dying.
A version of this was posted in January 2015. It just felt right today.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
while we piddle along with thirty days
to find the cave we saw from the boat. She had
been there before, this was my first time -
I carefully chose my steps. I wondered who was first.
Are there any signs that some 'Other' might have left?
And how long ago and who - what difference does it make?
None, of course. We were there. We are there.
But there it is - a small cairn in a rock cleft.
Stones like small marbles stacked, neat, telling - the 'other'.
So it's not a private niche, a solitary find, a personal shrine.
I wondered if there were such things except in our inward focused minds.
Our native need to own, to possess. 'This is my place'.
Then it happened - the ceremonial fire, smoke, the drum
and the 'knowing' that we are the 'Other'.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
the end comes. I have friends who say,
'i don't think about it'. They lie.
I stroll among gravestones and listen.
The din of voices is almost deafening.
I have found that bending low and
putting my ear to the stone sometimes
drowns out all but that one who long ago
laid down – I wonder how and why.
all living things die. The story goes
that even God died, but he had a key.
Not fair. The end is the end is what I think,
But I love surprises as much as anybody.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
She said, “You may never see him again.”
It’s like this: We had this trip planned to visit an old high school buddy and I fell down the stairs. Trip canceled, or at best, postponed. As it turns out we missed seeing them at all this year. As it turns out #2, they may not be coming back to their retreat in Pennsylvania. CA then said those words: “You may never see them again”.
This is not fortune cookie stuff. It’s real life. As it turns out, we pass many doorways that we shall never open again - - all the time. That’s the way it is.
But this is a guy I palled around with in the 1940s. Do the numbers. That’s a while ago and there is a lot of that in-between history we did not share. You know how it usually goes. High school graduation scatters people like a whirlwind. Many times this commencement scattering is permanent and irrevocable. I went into a marriage and then into an educational journey no one would have expected and he went into the Air Force and flew nuclear armed bombers for twenty years, and after that had a successful business career.
Then late one night about ten years ago I got this phone call and I knew immediately who it was even after all those years of not being in touch. That voice - you just can’t make that up. To cut to the chase, we began seeing each other almost every year since. Sometimes here in Maine and sometimes in Pennsylvania at their family retreat.
As time moves on and without much fanfare, we both find that we are in our mid-eighties and suffering from multiple age related problems, a mutual dislike for air travel and almost 3000 road miles between us. Odds are that we are not going to see much of each other from now on.
But, isn’t that the way it is? Several of my closest and dearest friends have died tragically or of natural causes before their “normal” times. Isn’t that the way it is? Why should we think there is some sort of special roll for us to play in this drama? What’s special about you or me that we should be spared the usual terminal scenario of the human condition. Well, I’m sure you don’t pander to such foolishness.
I say there is an upside to all this and this is it: get all the hugs and kisses you can while you can. Nurture your friendships and keep them well. Write letters, send emails, make phone calls, send cards and gifts. Do the maintenance. The best gift life ever gave to you was a friend - no matter how far away they are.