Growing older sure beats the alternative

Published 7:30 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Recently I was visiting with a friend from the old days and we were surprised at how old we are. Not that that is a bad thing. We agreed that our hopes would be that the aging process for us would continue. As the French actor and vaudevillian of the last century, Maurice Chevalier, once said, “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.”

My friend’s mother, who passed many years ago, came into our casual conversation. She was a woman who had lived life to the full, yet had experienced an illness that had taken her life prematurely, at least from the vantage point of living into her 80s. The surgeries and chemotherapy had taken its toll and she had humorously said, “This growing old is for the birds.”

What she meant, of course, was that growing old presents many challenges and some of those challenges bring frustration and are sometimes nonsensical. But, let’s remember, it beats the alternative.

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I am not all that old, if you ask me. At the same time, I am only a few years away from Social Security and Medicare; that is, if those two programs don’t die before I do!

I am, also, just a few years younger than my granddaddy on my momma’s side was when he died. I remember thinking at the time of his passing that he had lived to a ripe, old age. Now I realize that in today’s world, he would have had a probable bypass and lived much longer.

Growing older is not just for the birds, though. It’s for all of us if we are fortunate and can grow, not just older, but wiser. Mark Twain, possibly America’s most quoted writer, said “Age is strictly a case of mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” I wonder if he could have meant, “If you can’t remember it doesn’t matter?”

And speaking of remembering, where was I? Oh, yeah, growing older.

If I keep forgetting at the current rate, there won’t be a whole lot to remember. That sounds pretty confusing, and if you understand what I have said, welcome to the Growing Older Club. Maybe you will like this story I read the other day.

An elderly couple was having trouble remembering things around the house. They went to a doctor and explained to the doctor their problem. He said that, at their ages, forgetting things was par for the course. His advice was for them to simply write things down.

Later that evening, they were watching television and the old man got up. His wife asked, “Where are you going?”

“To the kitchen,” he said. “Would you get me a bowl of ice cream?” she asked.

“Sure,” he said.” She reminded him of what the doctor had said. “You’d better write it down.”

The husband said, “That’s okay, I can remember one little request.” Then she added, “I would also like some strawberries on my ice cream.”

“Okay,” he said. She urged him to write it down, but he became perturbed and growled back, “I don’t need to do that, I can remember that much!”

Finally she said, “I’d like whipped cream on top of the strawberries and I know you had better write that down. I have asked you too much.”

He gave her his most irritated harrumph and fumed into the kitchen. He muttered, as he went, ‘I don’t need to write down that kind of stuff!’”

About 20 minutes later, he returns from the kitchen and hands her a plate of bacon and eggs. She stares at the plate and asks, “Where’s my toast?”

Sound familiar? Maybe not, but the mind isn’t the only thing that goes. So does the body.

Growing older means becoming acquainted with colonoscopies and hernias, creaking knees and corns on the feet. It means turning your head in the direction of some voice and having to hold up things to read at more than just an arm’s length.

Growing old means a doctor’s appointment every week and not just general practitioners, but expensive specialists. It means turning your kitchen cabinet, where there once were only cups and saucers, into a medicine chest with more liver pills than Carter ever thought about.

Growing old means going to class reunions where, instead of asking about employment and grandchildren, there is the prizewinning attendee who still has both original knees and hips. Instead of asking who has come the greatest distance to get to the reunion, the booby prize goes to the one who takes the most medicine.

“And the winner is Jack Winters who takes 13 pills four times a day, not counting his three breathing treatments. Boy are we glad Jack is here, along with his pharmacist!”

Finally, I read a quote of Billy Casper’s, a really good golfer in the 1960’s. Age seemed to have brought upon him something known as Furniture Disease. I think I have a little case of that. What may you ask is Furniture Disease?

That’s the place and time in life that you get to when your chest begins to slide into your drawers. Oh the woes of getting older; but remember, it beats the alternative!