Remember the movie, My Left Foot? Well, I’ve got a story to tell about my front tooth and it goes all the way back to growing up in an era before toothpaste and drinking water contained fluoride and kids with rotting teeth was the norm.
I came from one of those families that didn’t empathize dental hygiene and about every adult I knew had a full set of dentures. One of my best friends in high school had a set of fake chops before his junior year. By the time I’d gotten out of the Navy and lived a couple of years in California I had changed my ways but I still had a front tooth that showed the black signs of decay.
I’ve recently been scouring through things I’ve written over the years since retiring from teaching. I came across the following that I penned as I neared my sixtieth birthday. Well, In a few days I’ll turn seventy-seven and I decided to reprise this list of seventeen years ago.
As my sixtieth birthday approached I began thinking about what being sixty meant. If anything it certainly means you’ve lived long enough to have reached a few conclusions or truths about life, people, places, government, etc. With this in mind, I took a tape
When my clock landed on seventy I began taking note of what being a senior citizen involved. Like all phases of my life, I see this one as just another chapter in the book. I’ve pretty much accepted each chapter and enjoyed turning the pages. I think my only fear is still having a life while having no quality of life. But in the meanwhile, here’s a few of the aging thing I noticed most recently.
I’ve always loved to travel but in the past year or so, I’ve not been willing to venture too far from my family doctor and the medical community I’m familiar with. Even twenty years younger I didn’t want to get too far from a Walmart and a hospital. On two Florida fishing trips, I ended up in an ER and had to get back home under adverse conditions, including a severely broken shoulder. These days going to Columbus may be too far.
For much of my life, I’ve heard warnings that young children and the elderly should take certain precautions such as, be sure to get your flu shot, pneumonia can be deadly for geezers so be sure to get your pneumonia shot, or colon cancer is the silent killer so with a smile say “I’d love it” when a proctologist asks to shove a ten-foot rubber hose up your butt.
A sure sign of old age and one that slowly creeps up on you is losing most connections to popular culture. Just watch the Grammy Awards or sit around listening to your grandchildren talk about what they’re doing for entertainment. You know you’re old when it all sounds like Swahili.
Somewhere along life’s journey waitresses and nurses began calling me honey or sweety. I’m probably on the same page with Andy Rooney with that one. Look girly, my name is Larry or Mr. Chapman. Hell, I’d even be okay with gramps.
One I do enjoy is having young people hold doors open for me and calling me sir. If I could only get them to salute as I pass by.
I’ve heard that life is a series of hurdles. While there may be truth in that it is also a series of probes and pokes and as you age the frequency of probes and pokes increases. Someone is always wanting to put something someplace.
I don’t know how old I was when a doctor first suggested I allow him to stick a finger in my anus but it wasn’t too long after that instead of a finger it was a 6′ colonoscopy tube.
Our pepper mill broke so we went to a kitchen ware shop in Chillicothe to pickup a new one. Walking towards the door my wife commented on how much she enjoyed wandering around these kinds of places.
A little later I mentioned that if we were twenty years younger I’d like to have the kitchen remodeled with new cabinets, appliances, and the works. We both commented on how neither of us may live long enough to see it finished even if we did start such a project.
One of the regular characters of the Bob and Tom radio program was based on the legendary sports caster, Harry Carey. Don’t know what the real Harry Carey was like but the B&T version was a gruff sounding lecherous old character that you may not want to baby sit your children or herd your sheep.
In one episode Carey was visited by beautiful young movie star and he was trying to get her to change his adult diaper. She asked if he were incontinent and he replied, “No, just l don’t like getting up.”
I thought of this a couple of days ago when putting on my very first adult diaper. I knew it would happen some day but I’m pretty happy it’s only temporary and not age related.
One of my teaching colleagues loved telling the story about where tapioca came from. According to him, “It was the stuff dermatologists scraped off the inside of old people’s legs.”
Yeah, I know that’s gross but once you’ve swallowed your vomit it is very funny.
I’m telling this because today I went to the dermatologists to have some stuffed removed. As I’ve traveled along life’s highway I began getting these little bump like thingies on my back and around my hair-line. They are called seborrheic keratoses and they come with age. Totally benign they are one of the most common tumors found on old people’s bodies.
The dermatologist got out her jug of liquid nitrogen and quick froze several dozen. For a week or so I’m going to have a bunch of red spots on my face and back and then what’s left will flake off and be mailed to the people who make fish food.
A friend recently ask a group of people who they missed in life. The answers were what you’d expect, a parent, a spouse, a child, etc. I didn’t get into the conversation but I gave it some thought.
Like most everyone I miss my parents and other relatives who’ve passed on but mostly because I didn’t spend enough time with them when they were living and I didn’t mine them for their wisdom and stories. But, they are not the people I miss. With but one exception they lived long and full lives and when they passed they weren’t enjoying much quality of life.
The people I really miss aren’t even related, they are friends who held a special niche in my life. One is a person who would have driven me crazy if I had to be around him all the time but when I was around him it was a true trip. He could be spontaneous, quick-witted, unabashed, irreverent, independent, obnoxious, vulgar, and much more. He was also a walking encyclopedia of Greenfield’s social history. If you wanted to know who Jane Doe was cheating with in 1957 you just gave him a call. And if he didn’t know there was a woman I taught with who did. Both are gone and no one has come forth to fill the voids they left in passing.
Another unfilled void followed the sudden death of a man I knew from childhood. After school we went our separate ways but years later our lives touched again. In our lives we had shared lots of experiences. While not together we had both served in the Navy, gotten married, raised a family, and been basically gainful in life. We both enjoyed the outdoors, liked traveling, knew the words to every Hank Williams song, would consume an occasional beer, shared a similar sense of humor, were spontaneous, and had wives who didn’t mind seeing us go fishing and leave them to their peace.
Before retiring we had agreed that spontaneity would be our rule. We had both been stationed in New England, he in Connecticut and I in Rhode Island, and knew that a better sandwich, called grinders, couldn’t be found than what were common in that part of America. He once said, “I’m going to pull into your driveway someday and say let’s run up to Connecticut and get a grinder at Elmo’s.” My response was, “Absolutely!”
We never made it to Elmo’s but we made more than one spontaneous decision. While sitting on a very cold Lake Maultrie in South Carolina one March I suggested we grab a fishing pole and some warm weather clothing and drive south until the thermometer hit 80. Two days later we were sitting in John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo, Florida eating fresh fruit and drinking a cold Hatuey (Cuban) beer. That evening we spent the night in Key West eating stone crab claws and conch fritters. Next morning the cold front that drove us out of Carolina caught up so we headed back north.
Today I heard a man say we shouldn’t bemoan the passing of such people. Instead we should feel blessed that they once existed and we were fortunate enough to have known them. That’s a comforting thought but the void remains unfilled.
Cindi Pearce will begin conducting a series of yoga classes she titles Rusty Hinges. The first session will begin on October 6th at Spark Creative Artspace’s facility at 251 Jefferson St. in Greenfield. Cost of the classes are $8 per session. To register simply call Cindi at 937-981-3040.
This is interesting to reflect on. How much of this change have you witnessed? Are we better off? How much do you think will have gone away 100 years from now? What comparison had the greatest impact on you?
With the coming of SPARK! I decided to post this quote sent me by a friend. As a child I enjoyed drawing and at one time considered becoming an artist. Turned out I really don’t have a gift for visual arts but while in college I found one artistic niche in ceramics and minored in ceramic art (pottery). After graduation I never felt the need to get muddy again but I have used that experience to appreciate the work of others ever since. I derive great pleasure from picking up a pot thrown by another skilled potter, running my fingers around its walls, and mentally reliving what it feels like to create beauty and utility from a lump of common clay.
Maybe one reason I never felt the need to continue potting is having found another way of being creative. On a major level teaching history (his story) is practicing the art of storytelling. And even with non-fiction there are those who can, and those who can’t, tell the story in a way that holds an audience.
Those who prey on the vulnerability of others are not in short supply and the variety and cleverness of their schemes is often amazing. Once your name becomes a part of the Social Security recipient list and the world knows you’re now one of the elderly, a special breed of buzzards begin swooping from their roosts, looking to pick the meat off your dwindling savings account.
Everyday we get a phone call featuring a recorded man’s excited voice saying, “SENIORS, are you aware that….(followed by some dire warning).” If you wait for the end of the recording you’ll be told that if you no longer want to received these messages, “Press 9.” I’m pretty sure doing so just confirms that there really is a person at home and they then call you more often.
If you’ve ever tried entering the website of any company associated with the manufacture of alcoholic beverages you know that providing your birth date information is required. The typical experience involves clicking on the month and a twelve item menu drops down. Next comes the date menu which can’t exceed thirty-one items. And then you have to click on the year menu and….!!!
Turning the mouse’s scroll wheel for a young person should be fairly easy. But, the older one gets the more that old arthritic index finger has to move to get down there below the middle of the last century. I paid a visit to the Angry Orchard Cider website this evening and damn, I’m worn out!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a new study that projects the life expectancy and health of Americans sixty-five and over. Turns out that people who’ve lived most of their lives in Hawaii can expect to live another twenty-one years after turning sixty-five and will be healthier than other Americans during those extra years.
It comes at no surprise that long-time residents of America’s Southern states fare the worse with Mississippians taking bottom honors.
“Southern states tend to have higher rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a range of other illnesses. They also have problems that affect health, like less education and more poverty.”
You just can’t live your life eating fatty pork barbecue, fried chicken, fried catfish, fried mac and cheese, fried sweet potato pie, fried Johnny cakes, fried air, and washing it all down with tea sweetened with fried sugar and expect to end up with arterial pathways any thicker than a gnat’s hair. I once spoke with a registered nurse in South Carolina who worked in a nursing home. She said the most common and serious health problems her residents faced were diabetes related.