The Odd Pot

An incurable affliction

I’M AN OLD MAN, and I don’t like it one bit.

New ImageThis phenomenon sneaks up on you like a rat snake. First, you feel the energy level slipping. I initially noticed that about a decade ago when I was in my mid-60s.

That’s when I quit mowing the yard in summertime.

Then your body begins to jig and jag in various ways, nothing that puts you out of commission (yet), but it’s noticeable. Your balance becomes unreliable. You feel this most on standing from a chair or bed.

What separates the sickness of aging from other afflictions like a bad cold, the flu or injuries from a motorcycle accident is that you can recover from a bad cold or flu and, with luck, from accident injuries of every sort.

But there is no recovering from getting old. There is no pill to take. You will not take an aspirin and feel better in the morning. It’s a downhill skid.

This is rather disturbing, that there is no cure for the first time in your life. But I have been fortunate. I can say there is no cure for the first time in my life because — knock on wood — I’ve never had anything incurable befall me. Others are not so lucky.

I have no vices, and I’m skinny svelte. These things work in my favor. I used to have vices. Smoking, drinking. But I quit smoking about 30 years ago, and I quit drinking on a March evening in Houston, 1996.

I started smoking at age 19 when I was in the Air Force. I smoked pipes like David Niven, cigars like Fidel Castro and cigarettes like millions of people. Oddly, it was not very difficult to stop smoking. I tapered off. No cold turkey for this boy. I recommend that method.

I started drinking in my mid-20s when I was married to my first wife. It was moderate at first, and I favored Southern Comfort, which is ghastly now that I think back on it. Syrupy swill.

After the first divorce at 26, I got serious about drinking, switching to alcohol for adults, and I remained serious about 25 years. I wasn’t a falling-down drunk nor a nasty one. But I did drink daily, every single, solitary day. Then I quit. Life improved immensely.

Oddly again, quitting was easy, easier than stopping smoking.

And I was not always skinny svelte either. I weighed about 55 pounds more than I do now until I was in my early 30s. Heftiness is bad for your health, and you’re less likely to reach an advanced age if you’re a meatball.

I weigh now what I weighed at age 21.

So, no smoking, no drinking and skinny svelte, all positive things if you don’t want to die prematurely, and I will not die prematurely.

It’s too late for that. I can only die via the normal schedule.

I’m hanging in there, but I don’t like it. And there’s no good solution. There is only one cure. And you know what that is.

39 thoughts on “An incurable affliction

  1. As a former smoker (you) have you ever had a chest x-ray as part of a physical exam? As a former smoker (not me) you might ought to have one.

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    1. Carole: Yes, I’ve had a number of chest X-rays since my smoking days. I believe the most recent was just last year. No problem. My wife smoked until we met 17 years ago. She gets X-rays too. Glad you did not smoke. That proves you’re smarter than I am … or was … or something like that.

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      1. My aunt, blood kin, is 97. She and my uncle, by marriage, went to Mayo Clinic every year for a tune up/check up. He was a doctor and died anyway at 95. She perks along and being one of not especially good genes in terms of health, still takes her annual driver’s license test and passes though she does not drive. My husband’s family is a long line of people who live until they are ancient by comparison. I don’t think longevity is necessarily a good goal in life.

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        1. Carole: My mother made it to 90, and she just gave out at that point from a number of age-related factors. Mentally, she was sharp as the proverbial tack till the end. Physically, she was a complete mess the last few years. I don’t want to go there. I prefer my father’s exit, a sudden one. But I’d prefer that it hits me later than it hit him at 75. I have a heart issue, so that actually cheers me up.

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  2. Well, you could become one of those people who live to the ripe old age of 114, eating bacon, smoking puros, and drinking moonshine every day. It’s never too late to change, you know. But just the same, I would encourage you to avoid doctors.

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    1. Ms. Shoes: My general philosophy has long been to dodge doctors. But the gut problem I had almost a year ago was sufficiently worrisome that it drove me to a colonoscopy, which came up clean if you don’t count a colon infection. It was cured with antibiotics. That doctor thing is a toss-up. It can help you or kill you, depending. My mother got checkups like a lunatic. They never found anything, and she lasted to 90 when her body just gave it up from old age. My father was another checkup fanatic, which did him no good whatsoever when he died from a heart attack at 75. None of his checkups had indicated any heart problem whatsoever. His sister, my sole aunt, always dodged doctors, and she died at about 85 of cancer, which was discovered too late to do anything about, which I think likely was the best outcome. She died fairly soon after it was discovered. She opted for no treatment.

      So … checkups? Lord knows.

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  3. At the tender age of 71.5, I have only recently begun a rebellion in my head about the travesty of getting old. I’ve had a couple of near-misses in the health department in earlier years, and soldier on to this day. But this damn aging! I hate the thought of it all. I’m healthy, and look younger than my actual years. That actually works to my advantage on the one hand, but against me on the other (meeting younger men, and when they find out how old I am they’re gone). But what the hell, I do know what the alternative is, and will go skidding in through the pearly gates having lived it up in these final years. Wow! Thanks for providing a platform to sound off on this.

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    1. Angeline: I really did not feel it a lot till I hit 73 and the reality became quite obvious. Before 73, not so much. Now I’m 74, and it has not reversed itself. On the contrary. Now, what is this about younger men? You act your age! You hear? Jeez, woman. Don’t knock yourself over the head in that department. Men of any age rarely opt for older women. It’s just not what we do. Quite the contrary. The Goddess did not make us that way. From our perspective, the younger the better. There are exceptions, very rare ones.

      My wife’s sister, the one who lives here on the mountaintop, has long been a fan of younger men. Well, since her estranged hubby accidentally shot himself to death some years back. But he was her junior too. Fresh meat, as she refers to them. Carne fresca. It never went anywhere good, and she’s stopped it.

      As for providing you a platform to sound off, I’m here to serve. No problem.

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  4. Felipe: Doing some working out will help. I know that you walk, but some core exercises will make your balance and circulation better. You don’t have to become a body builder, but some strength work, such as lifting moderate weights properly, can help. It will increase your weight slightly, because it will build muscle. Just being skinny isn’t enough. A reasonable fat content for a healthy male is 15-25%.

    I’m not saying this to be critical, but it has helped me. I usually do it for about 45 minutes, 3 times a week. 15 minutes on a bike to warm up and get a little cardio, then half an hour non-stop going between different machines and free weights. It makes a difference, and I just hit 70.

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    1. Kris: I walk briskly most weekdays for 20 minutes. I also have a home gym set which I try to use every weekday too. Yes, moderate weights. I rarely do it more than 10 minutes, however. So that’s 20 minutes walking, 10 minutes weights. Half an hour. Better than nothing. Basically, I’m lazy.

      I am not skinny. I am svelte! Trim! Sleek!

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  5. Stay away from doctors who tell you to not eat bacon or drink tequila. And run if they start pushing drugs at you. Other than that, eat plenty of eggs. You could be in much worse shape. I can introduce you to many your age who are.

    Carry on, sir!

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    1. Ricardo: I’ve never run into a doctor down here who gave me any eating recommendations whatsoever. I did have one about 10 or so years ago who tried to put me on cholesterol-control drugs (statins?), and my cholesterol wasn’t even very high. It was in the low borderline zone. I just ignored him. And yeah, I could be in worse shape by far. My blood pressure is admirable, but that’s because I’m svelte, I think.

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  6. I really must come for a visit so not only can we have a great time but commiserate a bit about aging. I am just getting over a session of bad heart stuff. Certainly no fun but not ready to say “goodbye” just yet.

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    1. Ricardo: I do want to see that movie. Don’t think it’s arrived yet at the state capital. If I miss it there, which is quite probable, with luck it will arrive on Netflix. I hope so.

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  7. I am two days older than you. When I was a kid, old people stunk. I always thought that when I get old, I wouldn’t stink. Well, I am there now, and I stink. It won’t wash off.

    My goal is to outlive the doctors. Years ago, I went to the doctor’s, but I got there an hour early. So I went to the coffee shop next door. Yes, there was my doctor, eating all of the stuff he told me not to eat, bacon, eggs and hash browns.

    I go to the VA hospital nowadays. Obamacare made my private insurance too expensive. The VA is a real trip. Usually, I am the healthiest-looking guy there. I have most of my original parts. There is a lot of old and ugly there. My wife hates to go there.

    In May, it will be five years since I was diagnosed with lymphoma. I had three tumors cut out, and I had the big one burned with radiation. So far, I am on a winning streak. But all winning streaks eventually come to an end. Until then, I am having fun.

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    1. Señor Gill: So we are almost twins. Gotta ask. How do you know you stink? Your wife tell you? I don’t think I stink, but who knows? I think my wife would tell me, but she’s Mexican, and they’ll bend over backwards to not say something negative. It’s not always a good trait. If I stink, I want to know it. I’ll do a double scrub.

      I used the huge VA hospital in Houston to have my tattoos (all but one) lasered off in the 1990s at no charge. A trip indeed. I wouldn’t want to be treated there, and I won’t. I’m with your wife on not going there.

      Felicitaciones on the lymphoma. Let us pray that it stays away. Be positive. I am. Have fun.

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  8. I usually use “Old People Smell Remover.” You can get it at Walmart. (Just kidding)

    Getting old is not for the timid. I’m a decade younger than you, Felipe, but am feeling my age from time to time. It’s important to take care of your hips, knees and ankles so you can still be mobile. We usually walk a few miles per day but not today because it’s a blizzard. Thankfully, we’ve got a pool where one can get a bit of exercise before relaxing the muscles in the hot tub. I am grateful to make it into my sixties. Some of my friends haven’t been so lucky. My sister died at six of leukemia, which is treatable today. So I’ve been trying to live one day at a time for a long time. No point reliving the past or worrying about the future. If politics raises your blood pressure don’t follow it. It doesn’t have that effect on me.

    My great aunt made it to 100, I think, partly to receive her letters from the Queen and our PM. They turned out to be Xerox copies, and she was quite disappointed and died soon after. I’m hoping to make it to 90, but I may revise that when I’m 86 😉

    Here’s wishing you a long happy life, señor.

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    1. Brent: Maybe Canadian Walmart has no “Old People Smell Remover,” but I think the U.S. stores do. Mexican Walmarts do not, and since I have no plan to ever cross the border again, I guess I’ll just smell foul. Oh, well.

      Sorry to hear about your sister. That must have been incredibly hard on the family. That’s a really, really bad age to die.

      Well, we’re still kicking. And that’s a good thing.

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  9. As I get older I’m starting to appreciate the metric system. I recently changed the speedometer on my bicycle to kilometers. Speed and distance in miles was getting too depressing. And I’m also considering changing my age from Fahrenheit to Centigrade.

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    1. Creigh: You’re a genius. Why didn’t I think of that? I just became 33 years old. Thanks so much. I feel more robust already. I haven’t even married my second wife yet. I can correct so many errors. This is a blessing.

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  10. The old man still gets in, can’t keep him out, so I’ve found. 74 made a difference. Balance has become a small issue. That bothers me some. Mind still works okay. Last I checked anyhow. I’m slower now, hate that. Energy level has dissipated. That’s the big reason for selling the Mansion on the Mount. Built a small place, but still feel a bit of a loss of independence. Loud music is a pain. Used to be I’d ask them to turn it down. Now I just leave. Knees are shot. Going for injections when I get back to Canada, not going to appreciate that much. But I’m still here. Lots of friends and schoolmates aren’t. Buddy upstairs has dementia and his wife is scared. They have been married 50 years, she says, now I’m going to lose him to this. That has to be the worst. My son-in-law’s father has Alzheimer’s. He’s in great shape health-wise. She has nothing but memories. For me, every day has wonderments. I read a lot, don’t say much, but I listen more than I used to. So, in spite of it all, air goes in, air goes out, and I shuffle along.

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    1. Bob: Air goes in. Air goes out. That’s something to appreciate.

      I got a chuckle out of your asking Mexican to lower the noise level. How did that go for you? Didn’t? I recommend silicone ear plugs. We love them here at the Hacienda. Buy ’em by the gross.

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  11. Felipe,

    Like you, quitting smoking was relatively easy for me. I started smoking at age 16. By the time I was 20 and serving our great country I was up to a pack a day. Two events contributed to my quitting. The first occurred when I was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago. I was there in the dead of winter and attending a school on the swing shift. You had to go outside for a smoke break. When it’s -20F you lose a lot of motivation to go outside just to smoke a cigarette. That cut down a great deal of my consumption. The second event occurred months later at my next Navy school in Orlando, Florida. I used my buddies to wean me off my nicotine habit. I quit buying cigarettes and was constantly bumming them from friends. They eventually got tired of funding my habit and cut me off. By then I was down to 2-3 per day so it was easy to just quit.

    Now, about this getting older stuff. I’m only 57 and am in excellent health but am noticing the effects of aging. I’m stiff and sore in the mornings and it is taking longer to recover from running injuries. Reading other’s comments it sounds like I have a lot to look forward to! However, my plan is to stay active and at least slow down the process. I run three days a week (down from 5-6) and workout another 3 days per week. Sunday is my day of rest. Thus far, I have no need for drugs. I loathe going to the doctor.

    Well, that’s enough rambling for one day! Take care!

    Best Regards,
    Troy

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    1. Troy: Sounds like you did not smoke for many years, which was smart. And yes, tapering off is definitely the way to go … I think.

      If you feel stiff in the mornings at the tender age of 57, you might want to reconsider all the running. One fellow I know here in town used to run like a maniac 15 or more years ago. Now he’s, I think, in his late 70s and really rickety. I don’t know if all his running did that, but I bet it was a big contributing factor.

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