Turning seventy did not make me “old.” Important as that number sounds, and as momentous it seems the occasion should be, it is actually just one more day gone by. As they have always done, and as they will continue to do. When I was much younger, though, this age seemed like a far-distant, undesired and likely unreachable milestone. Yet here I am! And, in fact, no matter what the numbers say, most of the time I don’t feel old.
I have a quote written down, that I’ve saved for years. Attributed to Gertrude Stein, it states, “We are always the same age inside.” Inside, I feel about thirty-five years old. The mirror, of course, tells a different story. Sometimes aching joints and failing eyesight offer another opinion, too. Still.
Most of the time, aging is just a process, slow enough to not even notice the changes. Usually there is plenty of time to get used to it. In other ways, it takes me by surprise. Professional people seem, lately, to be barely out of puberty, yet here they are working as doctors and dentists and airplane pilots. And, with age, I have often been treated with a level of condescension I’ve rarely experienced since I was a child!
Now, when I see obituaries, I automatically categorize the deceased as “younger than me,” “my age,” or “old.” The ones classified as “old” give rise to exercises in simple arithmetic, and thought patterns like, “if I live that long, I have this many years left.” Some things simply become more obvious, or more offensive, now that I’m older. Watching old episodes of ER, I want to yell at the television when I hear the doctors debating about the viability of saving “an unhealthy sixty-two-year-old!” Only sixty-two!
Dealing with my own health, I find – or I assume that I find – a similar attitude. A couple winters ago, I took a bad fall on the ice, landing heavily on one side. A month later, I stepped off a ladder, thinking I was on the bottom step when I wasn’t, and landed hard on the other side. Luckily, neither fall was terribly serious; no bones were broken.
The only long-term side-effect is that both of my elbows appear swollen (still! two years later!), and are very tender. Lifting even light weights causes pain in my elbows. I notice it during my exercise sessions, but also when getting groceries, closing doors, and carrying packages. Supporting myself on an elbow in order to read in bed is very uncomfortable.
I know it’s not life-threatening; clearly, nothing is broken. Still, my life would be much better without this discomfort. So, when I have found myself in the Medical Center, I have brought the subject up. At least three times now, to as many different professionals. The best advice? Aspercreme. Which sounds to me like they’re telling me to live with it. And, yes, the topical pain reliever offers some relief. I can’t help thinking, though, that if I were twenty-something instead of sixty-something, they might do better than simply telling me to hide the symptoms!
But, that might just be me, being cantankerous. I’m the age for it, after all!