Published In The Great North Arrow, June 2020: The Battle Wounds Of Old Age

- jim Young

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon


There were a lot of things I wanted to be when I grew up. A cowboy, a vet, a disc jockey, a fireman, a truck driver, an actor and more.

Some of those things I became and some of those I didn’t.


The one thing I did become, that I never really wanted to be, was a senior citizen but here I am. Of course it still beats the alternative.


My mother used to tell me that I was a lot like Ernest Hemmingway. Unfortunately she wasn’t referring to my writing skills but rather my fear of growing old.


All my life I’ve had a love/hate relationship with old people. I’ve gone through periods where I shunned old people because I felt uncomfortable around them and I’ve gone through periods where I couldn’t get enough of old people and I hung off every word and every bit of wisdom they were willing to share with me.


Now people tell me that I’m old and I guess maybe I am.


A lot of changes have happened as I grew old and I’m not really sure when all of those changes took place.


I bleed easily now. That’s not directly caused by growing old. It’s the blood thinners I take that make me bleed so easy. However, growing old is why I need those blood thinners in the first place.


I have noticed more aches and pains with aging that I just try to gloss over. My toes have been numb and I have a lot of pain there - but that's been going on for years. About 5 years before I retired I asked my doctor about it and he showed me, by pressing my toes and watching them turn white and then back to red when I released them, that my blood was still flowing well. He didn't seem too concerned about them - so I haven't been either. Now the bottoms of my feet have been starting to hurt off and on. But so long as I can still walk on them - oh well.


I was thinking the other day about some things I haven't been able to do for a while and I wondered "when exactly did that happen?"


Like carrying 2 cases of beer. Haven't been able to do that for a long time, so the trips in and out of the house are now doubled. Hell - at one time I could carry 4 full cases at a time - now I struggle with 2 empties.


Putting on my socks has even become a challenge. I noticed the other day that I can't put my socks on while standing up anymore. Sometimes if I lean against the wall I can still manage it but most often I have to sit or get down on my knees to do it.


And I have to be careful where I get down on my knees these days too, if I want to get back up again. One day I noticed a bolt from the snowblower that had fallen in the laneway. I can't just bend over to pick it up like I used to be able to do so I got down on my knees to get it. I forgot however to check my location and there I was in the middle of the laneway, not close to the car, garage or even a tree to help me up. The gravel beneath the light layer of snow was digging painfully into my hands and knees as I started to crawl towards the garage. Fortunately My Shirley had been watching me and came out to help me to my feet.


What I want to know is "when exactly did all these things happen?"


I don't remember the specific day I couldn't carry 2 cases of beer anymore.

When was the last time I could get up on my feet without having to lean on something?

Why didn't I notice that first time I couldn't put my socks on while standing up?

How come I can't just run and take the stairs 2 steps at a time anymore?


I guess I just wasn't paying attention.


But I did notice this the other day. I hang my sweater on a hook on the back of my closet door. It’s a nightly routine. The other night, for the first time, I noticed that I had stood on my toes to reach the hook. That was new.


I took my sweater back down and tried again. I can reach the hook with my feet flat on the floor if I make the effort, but it’s easier to just step up on my toes a bit.


Have I shrunk a little? Or are the muscles in my arms and legs just not able to stretch as much? How long will it be before I need a stool to accomplish this same task?

I know this sounds like I’m complaining but I’m not really. I just needed to describe this aspect of my life to make my point. I think I just need to pay more attention to the changes that are happening to me so I’m not surprised when they do happen.


On one of the inside covers of my Woodstock album is this note that has always intrigued me. “The recording of the music at Woodstock was a challenge of unprecedented scope and complexity requiring a level of endurance from both man and machine previously unheard of in location recording… Technical flaws, resulting from equipment failure as well as human overload are inevitable in a venture of this size. Just as inevitably some of them incur in the material included in this album. Consider them like the scars in fine leather, proof of the origin and authenticity of the material in which they are found.”


My aches and pains are just scars such as this… proof of my origin and authenticity. They are battle wounds of a life lived and I am happy to bear them.


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