Thursday, March 19, 2009

Getting Old

by Richard Crews

One interesting change I've noticed in recent years is that it takes a long, LONG time to heal things. A couple of months ago, for example, I slipped against a low curb riding my bike in the rain and took a tumble. And after all these many weeks I still have painful bone bruises on my left knee and left elbow. That was A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO! Here's another example: a couple of weeks ago one of the dogs scratched my arm when we were playing. It was quite a superficial wound--it bled, it scabbed, it granulated quite normally, but now it seems to go on and on being a small sore scab on my arm; a few years ago it would have been long gone by now.

This is the latest confrontation with old age--an injury added to insult, so to speak. I have gradually adjusted to being physically weaker than I was: ten years ago I recall hoisting many a 90-pound sack of dry concrete mix onto my shoulder and porting it 100 yards down a woods path; these days a 60-pound sack is an effort. My eyesight and hearing are less able (presbyopia and cataracts, and presbycusis plus accumulated acoustic trauma). I have more and more trouble, year by year, keeping my weight down. I find it is harder and harder to add new memories. And, for these and other (socially determined) reasons, I find I walk the earth pervasively feeling inadequate and ashamed of who I am--of who I seem to be turning into.

Happily my writing skills seem intact. And my thinking skills, though they are different--more ponderous, more reflective, less flashy and quick--seem satisfyingly functional.

The recurrent, and growing, question is--how long shall I tolerate these accumulating and mounting declines before I cash in my chips? I have often seen old folks who clearly did not get the memo--they clearly had overstayed any reasonable welcome on this Earth. How--I have so often wondered--can they possibly not see that their time is past . . . long past? In addition to the stealthiness of the insidious declines, there must be some inner blindness to the net effects. True, perhaps there is some unforeseen justification that emerges as the years progress. But just as "perhaps-able" is that the subtle, deep-seated fear of death--or at least fear of the unknown--plays havoc with one's perceptions of one's own decline.

Ah, well. Time will tell.