I will be 57 years old in a few short months. To say I have been feeling my age recently is an understatement. The “little aches and pains” my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles always talked about are now my claims to their realms. My constant worrying about every little ache and pain and what they potentially may be both embarrass and anger me. I find myself turning into a bit (okay more than a bit) of a hypochondriac. Completing the age-old cliché, most of the conversations I have with friends and family ultimately include talk of getting old.
Last week my sister and her husband visited us. On their third day I slipped on wet concrete and performed one of those incredible body gyrations you do when you will do anything to keep from falling. Fortunately I caught myself after performing a stunt that must have looked like a killer orca rising up out of the water and twisting and turning for all it’s worth before lumbering back into the water. As I said, I caught myself, but I must have twisted something because the next day, and for five days after, I was almost unable to walk. Just pulling my left leg out of bed onto the floor was no easy feat. And every time I breathed in a stabbing pain hit me in the back. If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn I had a samurai sword stuck in my liver. The pain slowly, and I mean SLOWLY dissipated until by the seventh day I was able to return to my normal routines. But, wow, I have never experienced any kind of back problem and it has made me think about…and accept…my age! (Did I say accept? I mean begrudging allow.)
I remember my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles always talking about their little aches and pains. It was SO boring. I was determined not to sit around and be the kind of middle age fogey that couldn’t wait to share the latest bump on my head or how many times I got up last night to pee. But here I am, worrying about all the same stuff, asking my mother if my father had this little rash, or insisting that my friend Diana take a look at my poop. I guess it’s just part of growing old... if you’re lucky. I know I should feel fortunate that I’m still alive at 57, especially after the history of the men in my family. But it makes me mad that I am succumbing to the fear and loathing, and hypochondria, the little aches and pains bring. I should be celebrating each day I wake up in the morning! Instead I am certain that the looseness in my hip means I need a hip-replacement or that the pain in my lower abdomen is cancer or a headache means I have a huge brain tumor, and you know that no one survives a brain tumor. I am constantly certain I will go to sleep and never wake up. (Yeah, but what a great way to go, please God.)
I suppose what all this is really about is death. I am going to die. We all are going to die. And it is the ultimate end, or transition, or whatever you believe it is. But whatever we believe, it’s pretty clear we all want to stick around as long as possible. And in my quest to stick around I look for every little clue I can find that might tell me it’s not yet my time. I am on the site DeadOrAliveInfo.com constantly. It somehow reassures me that someone who did something that made them famous enough to be listed on a website went before me. I also like it when I see that someone made it well into their 90’s…gives me hope. Esther Williams was 91. Aw, I liked her. Sorry she died BEFORE ME! James Gandolfini was 51? 5 years younger than me? Man, have I got it going on, or what? But then there are those who are way up there and still hanging on. Betty White, you bum me out, and yet curiously thrill me at the same time.
So now I sit around and figure how much I will need to retire, not because of all the great traveling I will do or great places I will see, but because with the way my body is failing there is no way I can work until 66 (and 4 months, thank you very much Social Security Administration!). How much will I need to retire? How long will I live? Is there really any point to all this, acknowledging that growth on my ankle?
Well, I’ll tell you how long I’m going to live: 144. That’s right, I decided when I was 21 that I was going to live to be 144 years old. I am going to die on New Year’s Day, 2100. And since I have no idea at what age I’ll ACTUALLY buy the big one, I may as well shoot for the moon. Unless, of course, my recent forgetfulness is, just as I feared, the first signs of dementia, in which case, please just tell me I made it to 144.