Years ago, my mother rebuffed the news of my coming out by explaining that she couldn’t deal with it. Her exact words. “I’m too old to change.”
It rarely happens in life when you have extreme clarity. But at that particular moment, it was like a lightning bolt out of the blue. I made a vow to open my mind to the possibilities of life. I’d do my best to never be, too old to change.
And it has been a challenge. Over the years, we’ve moved from city to city, from job to job. My career in healthcare has had its ups and downs. Mostly ups, until the last move to Phoenix. But even then, I realized early on that I’d landed in the wrong organization. The thing about change is that sometimes we need to be careful about what we wish for. And to recognize when it makes sense to say no thank you, and move on.
I’m grateful for many things in my life, but none more than that one insight from my mom. She suffered a lot of emotional pain with that too old to change. And though it’s a wonderful thing to hear affirmations from those we love, sometimes, it’s the judgments that force us to envision whom we choose to be. My mother offered that gift, and to her, I’ll be forever grateful. By learning to change, my life has turned out to be a lot better than I ever expected.
The other day, I needed heartburn medication and so I went to our kitchen drawer. Food generates heartburn. There’s no sense walking to the master bath for a simple roll of Tums. The kitchen seemed a logical location.
At first, I couldn’t find the Tums. That’s because the drawer was loaded with over-the-counter medications. From Gas-X to Tagamet to Advil. From Tylenol to Aleve to Mucinex. Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu, Gaviscon, Nexium and chewable Vitamin C. The drawer was brimming with health remedies. It made me wonder. Are we really this ill?
We don’t have a medicine cabinet in our house. Instead, we have drawers in the bathroom that provide ample space for everything we might need. Upon recent inspection, we seem to need a lot. How many first-aid creams are required to heal a cut? Does Airborne protect you when you fly? Does magnesium really support a healthy immune system? We live in a pill-popping society. Perhaps with a healthier diet, we could skip the Pepto-Bismol and Dulcolax.
Once a year, I think about going through all the meds to check expiration dates. But I don’t. It just seems too overwhelming. Instead, I commit to checking before using any of the products. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time to do that with cough syrup. Robitussin is so disgusting—going bad can only improve the taste.Continue reading . . .
I’ve discovered a new talent. I’m able to fall asleep in public sitting straight up. That’s right. Put me in a chair, lower the lights, and I’m out, often sleeping through the first five minutes of a movie or a play. No matter how loud the volume or interested I might be in the subject matter, I drift off. Regardless of the time of day, I snooze.
Yes, I’m getting enough rest at night. There’s no problem in that department. And I don’t have narcolepsy. I’m not falling asleep anytime or anywhere. Just when the setting seems to call for it. Otherwise, I’m perfectly alert. Mostly. Unless the story you’re telling me is going on too long, or the jokes aren’t funny, or I’ve heard it all before. In that case, I might suppress a yawn. But only to be polite.
I’m not a big fan of napping in general. I never have been. It leaves me feeling groggy. But now I’m beginning to wonder if a catnap—defined as short, light sleep—is required as we age. Does it just come with the territory? If that’s true, I can accept it. I just wish I wasn’t doing it in public. Especially when I’ve spent money to be entertained.
Now I get being sleepy if you’re suffering from jet lag.
On our first day in Australia, we met mutual friends at a lovely restaurant for dinner. They invited us back to their home for dessert. The strawberry short cake was amazing. The sugar content alone should have kept me alert for hours. But after I put the cake plate down, I fell asleep. I next opened my eyes to see the host staring at me. “Are you okay?” he asked. I was fine. Certainly a bit better rested.Continue reading . . .
I’ve just taken an Aleve to calm the pain in my left thumb that an orthopedic surgeon pronounced as arthritis. Damn him!
Okay. It happens. None of us are young forever. My Dad had the same problem with his left thumb in his mid-forties. That’s when he dropped out of his bowling league. He was an awesome bowler until that left thumb started to ache. And being a lefty, well, that wasn’t going to work.
Me – I’m a righty. So this slow deterioration has come without any physical justification. My left thumb is barely used. I don’t hitch hike. And unlike Jack Horner, I don’t stick my thumb in pies. Though, if I did, I’d head over to Rock Springs Café in Black Canyon City, Arizona. Spoiler alert: best pies ever. Come visit Arizona and I’ll prove it to you.
So what good is a left thumb?
I don’t use it to type. My right thumb handles the space bar. But I do use it to hold the steering wheel when I drive. Yow that can hurt. And my left thumb is also the preferred digit for ripping open envelopes. I’ve tried using my right thumb. It just feels so wrong.
Not the worst thing
I guess this isn’t the worst thing that could happen. People are diagnosed every day with life-threatening illnesses. What’s one left thumb in the scope of all that suffering? Not much. Besides, it gives me an excuse to stop lifting heavy weights at the gym. Instead, that left thumb might enjoy holding onto something icy cold like a shake from Culver’s or Dairy Queen. Come to think of it, I’ve heard icing an ache can bring down swelling. Hmm. Now there’s a perfect solution in search of a problem.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I seem to always be in the supermarket. I must have better things to do with my time than wander through Safeway, Fry’s and Trader Joe’s. And yet, now, I even go to Whole Foods to take out lunch.
Has grocery shopping become my new hobby? Seriously. How else can I explain pushing a cart up and down the aisles every other day and thinking it’s fun?
I’ve decided that as you age, eating must be an obsession. As if time is running out, I seem to be eager to try everything.
Lord knows there’s enough food in our house to last for weeks. If we really needed to unload the cupboards, we could easily manage, though we’d be light on dairy and produce. Hmm. Perhaps that’s what’s going on.
Is anyone hungry?
Maybe it just reminds me of my childhood. In my family, food was love.
Feeling blue? Have some chocolate pudding. Sick. We have a great chicken soup. Tired? Coffee cake is on its way.
There was once a time when I went outside on a nice day and rode a bike. Now, I wander the supermarket aisles. Not exactly exercise, but it is walking.
Bigger is better
Of course, I’m writing this sitting outside of Costco waiting for the doors to open. It seems my desire to be entertained has morphed into the big box stores. Making a second meal on bits of cheese, guacamole dip, and hot appetizers that they cook up for eager shoppers. I might buy the paper towels, but let’s get real. I’m here for the freebies.
I try not to let it bother me—but I am getting concerned. I wonder how many other people are feeling trapped by their fascination to horde food. Perhaps it’s all just a big nothing. Or maybe, I’m onto something. Either way, I find myself totally enraptured. Cut it, slice it, serve it. Call me yours.
I just received another invitation from the National Cremation Society. They seem to be reaching out monthly. They must know something I don’t. Perhaps it’s the actuarial table for men over sixty who were born and raised in New York City.
Diet is so Important
A few years back, I rubbed shoulders with an oncologist from MD Anderson. We talked about the benefits of eating organic. He made it clear that for someone my age, it was too late. I was already filled with harmful chemicals from a lifetime of processed foods. Thank you Hostess, Swanson and Sara Lee. At least now I don’t have to feel guilty about not shopping at Whole Foods.
At last check, I take no medications. My Dad didn’t either and bragged about it for years. Then at 78, he developed a degenerative disease. So much for his good health. But I did have a male grandparent that lived independently into his 90s. He never held an emotion back. He yelled as easily as he cried. He exhausted us all.
To Be or Not to Be
In our house, we’ve discussed whether to be buried or cremated. Jeff wants to be environmentally friendly. He got the idea from living in the Bay Area. I own a plot. And since I come from a dramatic family, the whole event has been planned out in my mind. Someone will sit in the front row, bawling hysterically, and at a key point in the eulogy will cry out, “it should have been me.”
Trust me. You won’t want to miss it.Continue reading . . .
I’ve been told that wearing white tube socks is passé. And if the crowd at the gym is any indication, that’s certainly true. Black is the new white. So I bought some black no-show socks. The ones you can’t see when you put on your sneakers. And I gathered up all my old white tube socks with the intent of sending them off to a friend who said he uses them when he dusts. Sock puppets, I get. Dusting? Not so much.
No sooner was I on the elliptical at the gym then one of my new socks started to slip. Half-way through the workout—it had crept down to the bottom of my foot, eventually balling up under my heel.
Don’t reach down?
There have been moments when I’ve nearly lost my balance on the elliptical due to a minor distraction. Straining to make out a CNN headline on the flat screen television mounted high above the gym. Spotting an attractive passerby and allowing my eye to linger too long. Listening to Eydie Gorme on my iPod. She may be dead and buried but she can sure belt out a tune. Swinging your arms to and fro as she hits a high note can be dangerous. It’s best to listen from a seated position.Continue reading . . .
As another birthday comes and goes, I’ve been thinking about the cultural values that we Americans share on aging.
Financial planners build their careers tapping into that promise. Exciting travel. Leisure time with the ones you love. All very enticing — and yet — no one really wants to grow old. That’s okay for wine and cheese. But people? Not so much.
I think retirement has been romanticized.
Now, I’ll admit there’s something wonderful about having the day to yourself. Golf, tennis and hiking – assuming your knees and hips hold out. Walks in the fresh air – if you’re steady on your feet and it isn’t an ozone watch day.
Checking out a promotional flier for an adult community reveals happy seniors engaged in water volleyball, dancing and yoga. When you actually visit, most are sitting around playing cards and complaining. Wait. My mistake. No one plays cards anymore.
Yoga – Really?
My biggest concern about aging is staying mentally sharp. I want to continue to learn. Solve problems. And I don’t mean what to defrost for dinner.
And though I still enjoy working out — and do it often — I’ve come to respect the reality of what my body will and will not do. To those who advocate “no pain, no gain” — I say — “weeks of physical therapy and chiropractic visits”.
A Mindful Plan
I’ve heard it said that the fastest route to depression is spending too much time focused on yourself. If you want to be truly happy, expand your horizons. Facing an empty day might be a real mood killer.Continue reading . . .
I don’t know what got into me, but the other day at the dentist, I agreed to have my teeth whitened.
Maybe it was the dingy color — a recent birthday — or the fact that I haven’t ever had my teeth professionally whitened. And as all things done spontaneously — I instantly regretted it.
For people with big smiles and large mouths, tooth whitening really makes sense. After all, everyone can see their teeth. But for someone like me, who has a small mouth and rarely smiles, what’s the point?
Now for Jeff, well, he has teeth the size of Chiclets. When he smiles, which he does a lot, the entire world lights up. I can always tell how our relationship is going based on how often I get to see those teeth. Sometimes, it’s not often enough.
They promised me it wouldn’t hurt.
Oh sure, they said some people have sensitivity afterward. But I thought they meant — when you eat. I hadn’t realized my teeth would be twinging and zinging — aching — with sudden shooting pain as if I needed a root canal.
And I hadn’t expected it to last all day.
Lucky I Guess
So I’m one of those people with extreme sensitivity. Heck. I am a sensitive kind of guy.
I certainly didn’t mind reclining for an hour as my mind ticked through all my real and imagined problems. It was nice to close my eyes in the middle of the day. And then I remembered reading somewhere that when you look at someone’s teeth — you’ve just peeked at their corpse.
Hmm. Now that’s something to think about.
The American Dental Association is on record about flossing. Despite rumors, the ADA still recommends it. If you don’t believe me, check out http://bit.ly/2iF139u. It’s all there in black and white. Missing, however, is a warning about popcorn. Someone definitely needs to send a letter.
Yesterday, I opened a huge tub of popcorn that we received during the holidays. Actually, there are three types of popcorn in the tin – white cheese, cinnamon roll, and caramel. I found the caramel irresistible. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
When we first received the tin in the mail, we agreed to give it away. Then we hid it in the garage. Yes, I know – that makes no sense. But that’s how we roll. We have trouble parting with things we love.
We hoped to serve the popcorn when we next had company. Huge bowls filled to the brim. Of course, to do so requires that we remember where the popcorn is stashed. I’ve been practicing. As mature adults, we need to keep our memories sharp. I heard that on NPR.
Where is it?
Now our garage lies on the other side of the house. Quite a distance from our family room where we watch television in the evening. During the commercials, I managed to dash across that distance in record time holding a super duper red plastic cup in hand. Four different times back and forth. Even the dog was impressed by my speed.
The sugary crunch of caramel corn is almost primal. By the fourth cup, I was ready to howl at the moon. But I didn’t. Our dog doesn’t like loud noises. Instead, I let the sugary goodness seep into my soul.
Gosh, I love my sugar.