Mine is a long sad tale…

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Mine is a long sad tale, as the dormouse said to Alice down there in Wonderland – because this is really is my ‘tail’ here, along with a number of the little Tootsie Roll segments above my tail.

Sad, I know. 

But maybe it’s not SO sad.

I went to the doctor today for my annual checkup and on the way into the building saw a man with a grey beard and long shaggy hair lurking by the parking garage; just kind of meandering along among the idling taxis and the little open-air ‘jailhouse’ they have these days to accommodate the smokers.

This man looked to be about 60 and wore khakis, an open-neck shirt, a suit coat, and, perched atop his head, a toy fireman’s helmet. He was smoking as he ambled along and every 20 feet or so he stopped, pulled out a pint and took a long swig.

“Drinking,”I thought. “Maybe that’s what I’ll be doing an hour from now when I come out from this appointment. Maybe I’ll be taking up smoking and trotting over to the packy for a tidy pint myself.” 

Because you never knew do know what they’re going to find out at an annual checkup where the ask so many questions, like when your last period was and whether or not you take Ecstasy.

I was told that this time I didn’t have to pee in a cup and that was a nice break. However they did weigh me, dammit, and the news was way worse than it had been last year at this time. Here’s last year’s rundown:

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Today I was told that  my blood pressure is113/70 and that my heart is pumping along at the rate of 65 good hard squeezes per minute, and that seemed great to me,

Some of the rest of the news was less than great: My weight is up eight pounds.

I felt happy to be able to say I run on the treadmill for 40 minutes most days and shy about admitting  I drink a glass or two of wine at night and, on weekends, sometimes take a slug or two of whiskey,

I did complain to the doc about my weight gain though, and in response she said something I misheard. Because we’re good friends by now, she looked me dead in the eye and said. “So you’re deaf now?”

“Deaf as a haddock,”  I said  with a kind of confessional relief, ,and went on to tell her how this leads to of marital dust-ups sometimes, since I always think my mate is saying these critical things to me when really he’s just asking if we have more  paper towels.

“But would you wear a hearing aid?” my doctor asked.

I sure would, I told her. “It would hardly show in my wild tangle of curls and I need the help.  I spend a lot of time young male teens and you know how they are: they’ll say a witty thing once but they won’t repeat it, especially if what they’ve said ranks high on the hilarity scale.

“All right then!”  she said and we made arrangements to have my ears tested by an ear guy.Then we made arrangement for me to have an ultrasound on account of the crazy distention of my belly. We made arrangement appointment for me to have a bone density test since for a while now  I’ve been hurtling fast down the old osteopenia highway.

The last thing I did was to pull up a picture on my phone of my poor crooked back which I didn’t even know was crooked until I went to a yoga class at the age of 50 and the teacher sorrowfully said, “Ah! I see that you have soloists.” By now even the neighborhood DOGS can tell I have scoliosis. Anyway, when she saw this image her dropped. “My god, this is the worst  curve  I’ve ever seen in a patient! You would have been 5 foot nine if you didn’t have this!”  – which made me feel pretty good since I have  a sister and a daughter, each of whom is 5’9″ and I did always feel a little “less than” around them.

We said farewell and I went off  to get the blood work  that will show this and that, my lipids,  my thyroid level, and so on and hey, couldn’t it be a worsening of my hypothyroidism that’s making my tummy stick out so? (We cling to these hopes at my stage of life.

When I walked back to the parking lot, I looked for that ambling guy with whom I now felt a distinct kinship. I didn’t see him but he’s  with me still in spirit. Sure,I have a lot of things wrong with me but as my nice doctor just said it’s mostly just wear and tear on the old jalopy. Plus, wait, I just remembered!  She also said it’s better for a woman to go into the older decades heavier rather than less heavy since the latest research now shows that women with a little meat on their bones have less of a tendency toward Alzheimer’s. And  – more good news! – she said drinking coffee appears to be also good for you, along with  having  a drink or two a night.

So there it is, on the whole a satisfactory visit. I feel pretty good. In fact I feel SO good right now I may just find my  own toy plastic fireman’s hat and plop it on those curls that I just KNOW are going to hide any hearing aids. 😉

me at MGH

 

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Crazy Fun

archer has funYou’ve got to love a holiday! We’re here on this Glorious Fourth eating eggs for lunch and left over fried chicken for breakfast, going out on paddle boards and fishing off the dock. Even baseball right IN the water was on the agenda this weekend.

Archer, this handsome Rhodesian Ridgeback of a canine, captured the spirit nicely.

By day there was the swimming and the spraying of hoses on sturdy baby legs by sturdy baby humans.

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Then the  in-the-water baseball looked like this:

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…while and the paddleboarding looked like this:

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By night there were fireworks, every night leading up to the Fourth,  and man they were CRAZY fireworks, that went on and one for an hour, because this is after all New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state where nobody dares tell anyone else what to do. They were going off from every corner of the cove and from two towns both up and down the lake from this cove.

To me the din was awful which seems strange since you’d think the older you get the deafer you’ll be so no problem about the loud noises.

For sure I am old: if I didn’t know it before the weekend, I know it now. The little baseball player pictured above asked me the other night just how old I was.

“I’m sixty-seven,” I said.

He looked up at me with his large brown eyes and said so sweetly, “I knew you were old, TT! You know how?”

“How?”

“Because your face has those crinkles.  And you have to bend down to hear me. Also, your voice.”

I’m not sure how my voice gives me away. To me, inside the chambers of my old skull my voice sounds to the same way it always has, but who knows? Maybe to the young I sound like Ursula from The Little Mermaid. 

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It is what it is, eh? All I know is I’m just glad to be here on this anniversary of our nation’s birth! Here I am three years ago on the same day with grandson David. It’s the kids who keep us smiling!

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This Old House ;-)

nixon and meIt’s tough being a woman; for one thing there’s thr chance that as the years pass you’ll start looking like a man – even like Richard Nixon in a wig. Yet I see all these age-defying products and I have to wonder what kind of fools their manufacturers take us for.

Just think of the skin creams that claim to be ‘age repairing’ and ‘youth restoring.’ I mean, come on: The human body isn’t some rickety old building whose floorboards you can pull up; whose walls you can tear down to let in more light.

I came upon a jar of face cream at the pharmacy the other day. From reading the labels on these moisturizers and creams all these years, I ‘get’ how alike they all are, but I bought the stuff anyway and told myself it was the high SPF factor that put it in my cart (yet if I’m honest I’ll admit I was mostly just mesmerized by the dark-crimson color of the jar, which reminded me so sharply of the votive candles of my convent-school youth.)

Generally, though, I’m a lot harder to mesmerize in the beauty products department. I know very well what’s happening in the regions north of my shoulders and I’m OK with it. I’m even OK with what’s happening to the south of my shoulders – although I do wonder why men get away with so much more than we women do.

Think about it: Men can have bellies the size of hot air balloons and still be cellulite-free, with thighs that look like marble columns on an ancient Greek temple. If their hair goes white, they just look more alpha male, more powerful. If it falls out, they just have to shave the whole dome, grow a beard, and they look like a dozen celebrities. (Think Bruce Willis. Brian Cranston. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.)

For us women, it’s a different thing. There’s a cultural expectation that we out do something about our cellulite. There’s an expectation that that we’ll be proactive about our hair, when it starts thinning or greying.

And so… we use products to thicken it.  We color it.

And if we start losing the hair on our heads, we sure don’t turn to the male trick of growing it on our faces. Far from it. If we start to see the beginnings of facial hair, we pluck, baby. We pluck. Or we seek out the zap of electrolysis. Or we turn to hot wax as did my old pal from the ‘80s who would remark, in her Southern drawl, “Ah’ll be lookin’ like mah own Scotty dog soon if ah don’t go get mah whiskers snatched off.”

And that’s all aside from the many other signs of time’s passage – like what happens to the skin on the neck. Or the skin on the hands, which get all veiny.

Still, even while noting these things on my own skin, I have to stop and be amazed at everything skin does, from acting as a barrier to passing on sensation to regulating temperature. Skin is actually pretty great. In fact all the systems of the body are great, and their aging is just a sign of their faithful service to us.

So why treat our bodies like old fixer-uppers, knocking down walls to let in more light, when the whole time we all know that the best, ‘realest’ light is the light that comes from within.

OK now WHERE did I put those tweezers? 😉

 

 

Old in a World Full of Youngsters

I am an old person, in Nature’s eyes anyway, and the old are ever mystified. My groom and I: constantly mystified.We’re mystified by the packaging our razors come in. We need to enlist the help of our young people to crack them open.  We’re mystified too by the activities of these young people, who can watch television without a television and play live card games with people in other countries.

We are mystified and we’re frequently in pain: After raking all day, David walks into the house looking like a human andiron. Just that bent and bow-legged. After doing God knows what, I wake one day with a sensation in my back of a knife soaked in acid and plunged in deep.

This was just last weekend. It felt as if a rib had tilted like that one rogue slat in a set of Venetian blinds and was digging into my lungs. I couldn’t sit or recline or breathe without feeling stabbed. I prowled the house all weekend, vacuuming, washing windows, even refinishing the top of an old coffee table.

By Sunday afternoon, though, I was a wreck, and so began licking up painkillers the way an anteater licks up ants. I swallowed aspirin at 2pm, Excedrin at 6:00, Advil at 10:00. No relief. At midnight I threw down a couple of fingers of whiskey, hoping that would knock me out but no dice there either. Finally, rummaging around in the guest bathroom I came upon some expired Percocet from who knows what painful procedure, fired one down, and found relief at last at 3 a.m….

Relief that was gone with the morning dew.

So, the second my chiropractor’s office opened at 8 a.m., I called. He saw me just hours later, asked many good questions and told me to get myself to Prompt Care right away, just in case one of my organs was about to explode. 

Then, he did an adjustment on me. He pinged at my sad little skeleton like a man tuning a piano. He pinged and he thought. He pinged and he listened.

And finally he sent me home with instructions to ice the area, 20 minutes on, two hours off, for the next 24 hours – which I did. And it worked. And I was CURED.

But the story would not be complete if I did not also relate what happened mid-way through the regimen, the morning after I saw the chiropractor and before my appointment with Prompt Care: 

I went to the freezer to get the last of the bright-blue icepacks, whose fellows, all thawed now, still lay about on the floor around my bed.

But this icepack with its array of purplish-blue cells held in a thick Zip-Lock bag did not look like the other icepacks.

“Some new kind I guess,” is all I thought and took it to the couch where I wedged it against my back and commenced writing busily away on my laptop – until about 30 minutes in, when I realized that this was no icepack at all. This was a bag filled with Jell-O shots, many tiny cuplets of blueberry-flavored vodka, long since stashed in our freezer by the aforementioned young people.

What can I say? By the time I’d finished the day’s second shower, this one to quell my distinctly boozy aura, I had passed through Mystification to arrive in the land of Acceptance.

Which frankly isn’t a bad dwelling-place at all for an old person in a world full of youngsters.

Post Op

“Will this hurt when the drug wears off?” I asked David an hour or two after my surgery.

“Nah,” said the former football star. “It’s just a cut. Cuts don’t hurt.”

Actually it  hurts like a mothuh as the saying goes. So I turned to the boyfriend  of my girl Annie. He’s a firefighter/medic.  

“John, am I supposed to call the doctor? This really hurts.”

“Of course it hurts! They took a three-inch chunk out of your leg!”

We’re with John and Annie right now and in a few hours our other girl Carrie will arrive with her Chris and their two little ninja-boys. In this calm-before-the-storm-time I’m studying the post-op lit which says to take Tylenol, which I never do, relying instead on my best friend Excedrin, and occasionally going over to Advil because Dave takes Advil before playing golf…. BUT! you can’t take Excedrin or Advil in these first few days so here I am downing my two capsules of Tylenol every four to six hours. 

As it happens Annie is under the weather today too with a cough and bad sore throat and just now said, “I want to take some Tylenol too but John says I shouldn’t if  I want to have wine tonight.”

‘What?” I said. “Wha-a-a-a-t?”

“Yeah, it’s too much for your liver when you have both.”

“Seriously?” I said. “Last night  I couldn’t sleep between the pain and a racing brain and I finally got up at 3am, tossed back two Tylenols and half a Trazadone from an ’06 prescription and downed a couple of quick fingers of VO.”

“Then what did you do, smooth it all down with a hit of meth?”

These kids: wiseguys all of ’em. They’re bossing me pretty good right now but it actually feels kind of good to me, weak and wounded and ill-informed as I am. Plus I think all this self-moody absorption is kind of fun. Next up: hair-twirling and thumb-sucking. 

 


Keep on Dancin’

(This is a picture of my spinal column ha ha..) 

I’ve always said if something bad happened to me – say if I had a colon resection and needed to wear a colostomy bag forever after – I’d just strap on that sucker and keep on dancin’.

Well I don’t have a colostomy bag and I HOPE I don’t have a melanoma (see last week’s post) but I do have one heck of a crooked backbone, which did not express itself until I was part way through a yoga class in 2005.

“Um, so you have scoliosis?” the yoga instructor came over and whispered to me as I was deep in Child’s Pose.

“What?  No! I mean I don’t think so! Why, is there something wrong with me?”

She was so kind. She kept me after class and had me bend over from the waist and sure enough:  one half of my rib cage IS higher than the other which is the test they use in elementary schools the world over to check for this lateral twisting of the spine.

It happens right in the womb it seems. You just sit curled up for too long in one position and the die is cast. People who have severe scoliosis have to have surgery: a rod goes in and by degrees straightens you right out. My friend had this operation back in the late ’70s and had to walk around for a few months inside a tubular cast that went from her chin to her pelvis, Now she climbs mountains and paddles kayaks and I don’t know what-all else. She has no pain.

I who started out with a case so mild nobody even knew about it had no pain either –  until this last year . Oh my pants started to fit funny, yes – the fly kept tending to the northwest – but I just figured I’d bought a bunch of cheap Made In China pants. It’s when my vertically striped starting heading northwest too that I realized something was up.  

I have pain now which is why I have to go the Y all the time and quite literally keep on dancin’.  I do Zumba and Nia and Hip Hop, I do Pilates and Yoga. I hang off a giant therapy ball, I do 40 sweaty minutes of Core and Glutes Class and I must say it’s interfering hugely with my work day. Still, what are you gonna do? If it helps me keep moving then it’s worth it. I know myself; I know my temperament. If I didn’t HAVE to keep moving on account of this new affliction I’d just sit at my laptop  24/7 and slowly become a sort of garden gnome.

Here’s the honest to God image of my spine, the truth-in-advertising version of that Stairway to Heaven at the top here. It scares the daylights out of me every time I look at it. That undulating white thing is a backbone?