Health

WHICH NUMBER IS AGE?

Age Old Question — “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?


Are you serious or just young? Because no one over 65 would posit a question like this without also laughing hysterically, possibly falling down and breaking a hip.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

Age it isn’t a number, per se. But it’s a number which will tell you when you can stop pulling the plow and collect your pension. Otherwise, it’s more like an ache in your back, a bag full of medications, and more doctor appointments on the calendar than parties.

It’s being tired, but never sleeping soundly but getting to stay up as late as you want and sleeping in. Every day, if you choose.

It’s discovering you can’t do “that” — whatever that is — anymore. Your brain is fine, but your body persists in arguing about everything and worst of all, winning most of the battles. It’s finally having plenty of time, but being always short of money. Lots of time to travel, but not much motivation to tackle airports and long car trips. It’s also discovering the joys of being home. Of having a home.

It’s realizing you’re smarter, wiser, more experienced than the kids and grandkids, but they don’t want to know about it. So you get to watch them make exactly the same mistakes you made. If they are of a creative bent, you can watch them make a whole bunch of unique (and sometimes weird) mistakes you never imagined and which, if they weren’t so destructive (or it were some other kids about whom you didn’t care) you’d find hilarious.

And with an inevitability like day following night, after using their creativity to shoot themselves in both feet … they will ask to borrow money. (Note: Loans to children and grand-children are not loans. They are permanent grants-in-aid.) Or perhaps move into your guest room. Or leave their dog/cat/guinea pigs with you “just until they get their lives sorted out.”

Life does not prepare you for getting older. Nothing prepares you for getting older. No matter how smart you are, it always takes you by surprise.

The best part of oldness? Not caring what the younger ones think. And, if you are lucky, you get to say (or just think) “Ha! You’ll see! Your time will come.” If they are lucky.

WHAT EMPOWERS YOU?

From the Top – Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.


What empowers you?

When you’re worried, frightened. When you’ve lost your way and have no idea what to do, what’s your game changer?

Is it a hug from a loved one? Encouragement from peers or colleagues? A visit to the doctor where he or she assures you that all is well, not to worry?

Information empowers me. Knowledge. You can hug me, praise me, love me, talk to me, but if I don’t understand what’s going on, I’m lost and miserable. You cannot comfort me unless I have information to process. For me, the head rules and always has. It is how I have survived and how I continue to live in a world full of danger.

Despite recent visits to doctors, something is happening. I do not understand. On my most recent trip to the cardiologist I learned that the painful lump under my right used-to-be-a-breast-but-is now an implant is actually a lump of twisted steel wire. No one told me after taking me apart in March, they wired me back together with steel, knotted the ends. Sometimes those wiry lumps saw right through skin on the chest.

I pulled one long wire out months ago. With a tweezers. It had poked through. In my defense, I didn’t know what it was. No one had told me I was wired. Or a few odds and ends may have been left lying around in my chest.

What empowers you? Are you satisfied with “Everything looks great” without details? I should have asked more questions.

pacemakerThe pacemaker guy tuned up my pacemaker. My heartbeat should never drop below 72. My pre-surgery heart rate was slow, around 50. Apparently 72 is the gold standard. Thursday, at the oncologist, my heart rate was 62.

I explained the pacemaker guy said it shouldn’t be so slow. They remeasured twice. It was up to 69 the final time. I decided not to worry. I can’t worry about everything; I’ll collapse from exhaustion.

My oncologist said (“Oh my God, that’s a lot of surgery!” ) heart surgery, there must have been CT scans plus other imaging of my chest. No one mentioned anything unusual — e.g. lung cancer. I agreed though I don’t remember. I was semi-conscious, unconscious, or in so much pain I didn’t know what was going on through much of my hospital stay. They could have done anything. I wouldn’t remember it.

Yesterday, the area around my pacemaker began to throb. It is Friday evening, so there’s no one to call. A sharp thing is trying to poke through next to the incision. Has a wire come loose?

There’s no one to call, no doctor to talk to. Information void. Garry asks me what I want to do. I have no idea. I don’t know if this is serious, if I’ll be dead before Monday. Or it’s nothing and I’m just making myself crazy.

What empowers me?

Information empowers me, comforts me, reassures me. The wire isn’t through my skin. Yet. I wonder if it’s a lead from my pacemaker that’s come loose, in which case is there anything preventing my heart from stopping?

What about that party this afternoon? Can I go? I’ve been looking forward to getting out, dressed up, some make-up. It’s been a long, lonely time.

What empowers you? What would you do? What should I do?

100 POUNDS LIGHTER AND SMILING

Can’t Stand Me - What do you find more unbearable: watching a video of yourself, or listening to a recording of your voice? Why?


I don’t find either unbearable. I spent a lot of years working in and around media. You get used to how you look and sound. I think most people get upset because they have an unrealistic idea of what they look like, what their voice is like. Familiarity makes it better.

superwoman-2-largerBut really, I’m just using this post to tell everyone about today’s visit to Beth Israel. This was my 3 month appointment where I got to learn how things are going with my heart and pacemaker.

EVERYTHING IS GOING GREAT!

Got that (sorry for the pun) off my chest.

It’s been a long time since I heard good news at a doctor’s office. The things I’ve been worried about turn out to be normal, bone and tissue still in the process of healing. It will take time.

The pain in my sternum will be with me for who knows how long. But the pacemaker is doing its thing. Though I suggested he turn it up so I could have a turbo-charged heart, the pacemaker guy said “Sorry, not yet. Maybe next time.”

I am  the bionic woman. Faster (not). Better (than what?). Stronger (working on that).

The new mitral valve is doing what a mitral valve ought. My previously blocked aortic valve is unblocked. Everything is good, good, good.

I feel 100 pounds lighter. Now, I can address the continuing deterioration of my spine. It can’t be fixed, I know, but there may yet be something that might lower the pain level long-term. So I can get out more. Walk a bit. I’m going to give it my best shot, anyhow. If there’s nothing more to be done, I’ll deal with it … but maybe there are options to explore.

Meantime, I am feeling as happy as I have months. Imagine. Good news at last. How amazing is that!

WHEN SH*T HAPPENS, SMILE

After major surgery, the process of healing is long and slow. Progress occurs in leaps rather than steadily. Periodically, you notice a jump in progress. Today I can stretch. Tomorrow I can pick up my dog. Next Monday, I can (slowly) navigate the stairs. Suddenly, I can drive and manage a trip to the grocery store, go out and take a few pictures. It’s all in slow motion, but it’s happening.

Surgical pain decreases. Incisions heal. Then, progress stops. That’s it. The surgical part of your resurrection is accomplished. The rest of life comes rushing back.

Speaking of back, the spine that didn’t work before still doesn’t. I can’t walk any better than I  could pre-surgery. The rest of my chronic problems are back too.

96-UP-NIK-33

While I am realizing how much my back hurts, everyone is telling me how great I look. How much better I must feel. I realize that — appearances notwithstanding — I don’t feel all that much better because what was bothering me the most wasn’t what they fixed. If I try to explain that, everyone tells me not to be so negative.

So I shut up. It’s natural, I guess. After all, I just had four different kinds of heart surgery so ergo ipso, my  heart must have been a major component in what was bothering me, right?

Wrong. My heart was failing but I didn’t notice. Impossible you say? Not really. It was a gradual thing which I attributed to asthma and other problems I’ve had for years. The bursitis in my hips bothered me most and my difficulties walking and doing stairs was less heart, more arthritis. My digestion has been a disaster for more than a decade, the result of botched surgery. That didn’t change.

I know the quality of my life is supposed to have improved. I know because everyone tells me so and I do mean everyone, including almost complete strangers. As far as they are concerned, the fact that I am going to (in theory) live much longer than I would have without the surgery signals a major improvement in my quality of life. Never mind that I didn’t actually know I had a problem with my heart and wasn’t concerned with it.

I was (am) more worried about a recurrence of the cancer I had 2-1/2 years ago.

75-UpBalconyNIK-35

The reality — which no one wants to hear — is life and its quality have stayed the same. Making me sometimes wonder why I bothered. I want to blame someone, but who? There are no bad guys in my scenario. I can’t even blame myself. Shit happens. A lot of it happened to me.

So I guess I have to keep searching to find the up side to all this beyond (maybe) increased longevity. I need something else. Even if that isn’t what everyone wants to hear.

YOU LOOK GREAT!

Binding Judgment

Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover — literally or metaphorically? Tell us about a time you did, and whether that was a good decision or not.


Don’t know about books. So many books don’t really have covers anymore! Houses, though … I’ve fallen in love with houses because they were beautiful only to discover they were falling to pieces underneath. Sometimes after I had already bought them, which (lemme tell ya) is a real bummer.

Home

And then — there’s me. The cover looks pretty good these days. If only the stuff underneath were half as healthy as the wrapper appears. Ah well. If one must fall apart, one might as well look good.

If you look good, you get the surprised “Wow, you look great!” from friends rather than the shocked deer-in-the-headlights face followed by a horrified “What’s the matter with you?” That can ruin your whole morning. I’ve gotten both and I prefer the first.

Now, I need coffee.

LIFE HAS SIDE EFFECTS

We say the same thing in a variety of ways:

  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Everything has consequences.
  • For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — Newton’s third law with a philosophically relevant twist.

It’s certainly true of medication. Whatever is bothering you, if you take something for it, it will do something bad while doing what you want. You may not be aware of the side effects, but that little yellow pill could be taking out your liver, kidneys or heart while getting rid of your headache.

Cracker jacks single boxMy migraine medicine makes me groggy and stoned. Time changes ones perspective. Dopiness was — in my wild and crazy youth — the prize in the Cracker Jack box. Remember Cracker Jacks? Stonedness has morphed into just another annoying side effect. I’m muzzy-headed enough without chemical assistance.

I’ve got a lot of physical issues. If I took something for each thing that bothers me, the side effects would be worse than the conditions for which I take the meds.

At a more innocent stage in my battle to continue living, I took whatever any doctor prescribed, to a point where no one could separate the cure from the side effects.

Ultimately, I became a medication minimalist, striving to take the least amount of whatever to achieve the desired result.

pills

Pain relief, controlling blood pressure and sleep are the things I take medication for — the big three in my world. I’ve got plenty of other problems, but I don’t take stuff for them — either because the side effects are worse than the problem or I can’t afford the prescription.

Allergies. Weird gastric stuff. Asthma. High cholesterol. Arthritis, rheumatoid and osteo. Tendonitis. Bursitis. Non-focusing eyes. And the potential for the return of breast cancer but in some new and terrifying permutation. There’s more, but honestly I can’t remember it all.

I was sitting here pondering what, if anything, is bothering me enough to take something for it. The headache? The dry, burning eyes? The itching dermatitis? The pain in my hips? Chest? The light and sound sensitivity that warns me my headache is heading into migraine territory?

Maybe I should just have a cup of tea. It seems to work for the British.

VITAL ORGANS WILL PLEASE REMAIN VITAL

Great Expectations - Tell us about one thing (or more) that you promised yourself you’d accomplish by the end of the year. How would you feel once you do? What if you don’t?


180-Me-5-20-14_11

I’ve promised myself to keep living right through the end of the year. I don’t know if I — myself — would be disappointed were I to fail, but I’m pretty sure at least a few folks would be a bit upset at my unfortunate demise. So I’m counting on lungs, heart and all those other vital organs (including the under-appreciated and oft ignored pancreas) to keep doing their things … so I can keep doing mine.

OH BRAVE NEW WORLD

It’s weird how something suddenly makes me realize how much the world has changed and not in a good way. Yesterday, I went to the kitchen to cut up an orange and a grapefruit. It’s a low-calorie healthy snack, right? I cut up the orange, dumped the sliced into a bowl. Then I cut up the grapefruit and put it into a bowl with the orange slices.

Whoa! I took a second look The orange slices were bigger than the grapefruit. Not a little bit bigger. A lot bigger. When did that happen and what have they done to oranges?

75-Orange-Grapefruit_3

Last summer, the strawberries got huge. They were closer to the size of plums than berries. Surprisingly tasteless, too. Somehow, I doubt it’s a natural mutation. They are messing with the fruit.

The grapes also got enormous last season and didn’t taste right. I won’t buy them anymore. What was wrong with the old grapes? They were entirely big enough and tasted delicious.

Meanwhile, my doctor thinks I might want to smoke dope and it’s actually legal to do it.

How ironic that I am less surprised by the gradual legalization of marijuana — its morphing into an all-purpose drug along the lines of aspirin — than I am by the genetic meddling going on with the food I eat. I don’t even know what’s in my food anymore. Is it still nutritious? Or is it a lethal time bomb?

Probably I don’t want to know the answer to my questions. It would just alarm me.

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED MARIJUANA?

“Have you considered marijuana?”

My head spun. Twilight zone? No, just my doctor suggesting pot as the right drug for me. It would deal with a variety of issues. He wasn’t even suggesting “medical marijuana” because though theoretically we have it, actually we don’t. Yet.

marijuana in my dreams

“Uh, yes,” I said. “The downside, other than the price tag, is coughing. Right now, coughing is a bit rough.”

“Take in more air when you inhale,” he said. “You’ll cough less.”

Right.

I grew up in a world where getting busted for having a couple of joints in your pocket could land you in jail for a very long time. A world in which marijuana was the gateway drug to a life of dissipation and degradation. Which would end with you face down in a gutter in some part of town where even the cops won’t go.

Now I live in a world where one’s doctors recommend smoking pot.

My mother was born in 1910 and passed in 1982. Growing up, horse-drawn carts were far more common than automobiles. She was a child during World War I, a married woman and a mother in World War II. She survived — somehow — the Great Depression and marched with friends and family in a spontaneous parade of celebration when the New Deal passed. Even though the Depression didn’t really end until the war came and brought employment to everyone who wasn’t fighting.

antique car

By the time she passed, there was cable television and home computers, two cars (at least) in every driveway. One day (I was a kid) I shouted “Oh look, a horse and cart!”

She looked bemused. “When I was your age,” she said, “We used to shout “Look, a motor car!”

And today, my doctor suggested I smoke pot. What a world, eh?

ITCH!!

For everything, there is a season. This is my season to itch.

First, you wake up from surgery in screaming agony and after a while, it subsides. Little by little, it goes from agony to misery. The misery lasts months, though if you analyze how you feel, you recognize under the pain layer, you’re feeling better.

Until the itching starts.

itchingFirst, it’s a tickle. A couple of days later, the prickly feeling becomes a torrent of itching. Which you dare not scratch lest you open up one of your incisions.

I have seasonal dermatitis too. It kicks in every spring and fall. It’s not a disease, so there’s no cure and by itself it can cause frenzied itching. And hey, it’s spring, sort of. A bit cold and rainy, but according to the calendar, it is spring. So my dermatitis has clicked “on.” Add that to the healing incisions and it’s a perfect storm of sensation.

You can get drugs to dull pain. Sometimes you can get drugs to make pain go away entirely for a while.

Nothing makes itching stop.

It’s a sign of healing they say. Me? I hate it.

IF YOU LOOK GREAT BUT FEEL LIKE CRAP, SMILE!

I decided to take a selfie this morning. I look pretty good. I walk like Quasimodo and mumble “Oy” under my breath a lot. My chest hurts … not only the new incision, but the implanted breasts my surgeon built a few years ago.

As I feared, they’ve taken a serious hit in the course of this mess. Putting on some kind of support garment helps some. Between my chest (new incisions and old incisions), my back (new damage, old damage, calcified damage) and the oh my God itching … it’s a symphony of sensation.

But I look fine. My hair hasn’t (yet) fallen out. It has thinned, but not completely disappeared and I’m glad I didn’t precipitously cut it off, though there were times in the hospital when it was stuck to everything, in my bandages, my food, my mouth … it was a very hairy world for a while. At that point, I was sure I should have gone for pixie cut, just for the ease of maintenance. And not having it adhere to absolutely everything.

selfie - marilyn - me 4-27-14

The discrepancy between how I look and how I feel is more than a bit weird. From the mirror, out peers a healthy-looking woman who can’t pick up a small dog or a frying pan and creeps around the house hunched over mumbling imprecations, mostly in Yiddish.

Garry and I have discussed this, how strange it is when you look fine but don’t feel anything like you look. How do you deal with compliments when everything hurts?

Answer: You say “Thank you! ” Then you smile, showing as many teeth as you have remaining in your mouth.

As Garry says, “It’s all packaging. As long as the package looks good, print the legend.”

UNDERNEATH THE PAIN, THERE’S ME

I had a spinal fusion and laminectomy when I was 19. For the next 45 years, I pretended I didn’t have a problem. I rode horses, climbed mountains, went sledding and skating and hiking.

Then, one day, thanks to an uninsured driver who T-boned me because she didn’t feel like waiting for a green light, everything changed. There was nothing for me to fight or overcome. There was a flapping noise and I knew my chickens were coming home to roost.

Marilyn again

There was no possible cure, no new surgery to repair me. If I didn’t take reasonable care of my damaged spine, I’d be in a wheelchair. I gave up the horses, sledding and other dangerous stuff, but kept up the walking, hiking and an occasional wild ride on a roller coaster. Until the lump of calcification on my lumbar spine grew to the size of a small soccer ball and the bursitis in my hips made everything hurt.

Still I refused to give up my feet in exchange for a chair or scooter. I’m sure if I stop walking, I’ll never start again. So I save renting an electric scooter for those rare times when we’re at a theme park or something else that requires lots of walking. I don’t have the endurance to spend a whole day on my feet and the pain would take all the fun out of it for me and my companions.

Mind you, there have been a lot of other life threatening medical events along the way. But none of the other medical problems, no matter how potentially lethal, limited my life the way the arthritis in my spine has. Apparently for the last few years, my heart has also limited my activities. I didn’t realize what was going on. I had no reason to think my heart wasn’t just fine. As far as I knew, it was okay. So I attributed all the symptoms to something else: asthma, allergies, whatever. Now, of course, I know better.

I plan to keep doing as much as I can. Right now, I can’t do much. My cracked sternum is unhealed. When it is healed — another 7 or 8 weeks from now — then I’ll see what I can do.

The pain — and there is a lot of pain — is like a separate entity, perched atop the rest of me. Underneath the pain, I think maybe I’m beginning to feel pretty good. It sounds weird, I know, but the pain is a layer — like evil frosting. Underneath, there’s the rest of me. That part feels better than it has in quite a while.

So, I have to let healing finish. There’s a lot of internal as well as external healing that has to take place and there’s nothing I can do to speed the process … but a lot I could do to slow it down!

Patience is not my strong suit as I’m sure you’ve guessed. But this time, I need to find it. I can’t hurry bone and muscle. Trying to force it is likely to prolong the problem, not shorten it.

It isn’t easy! Especially with the weather turning warm at long last.

WHY AREN’T YOU DEAD YET?

Why aren’t you dead yet?

If you’re over 65 and/or on Medicare, or poor on Medicaid, that’s the message you’re getting.

Out-of-pocket costs of Medicare have been going up annually, with ever-higher deductibles and premiums and a massive doughnut hole in prescription coverage that like the energizer bunny just keeps going and going and going. Many of the most fundamental, critical medications aren’t covered at all — emergency and other inhalers for asthma sufferers, nitroglycerin, newer antibiotics. Out-of-pockets costs are terrifying.

Coffin

It doesn’t matter that you literally can’t live without your medications. Survival is your problem. Your health care providers, including your doctors, don’t care.

Ever since I turned 65, it’s been a downhill slide into worse medical care. As long as I was on MassHealth (Massachusetts’ Medicaid), I was okay. Medication was affordable. If I was sick, I got care. Lucky I had cancer while I was covered by MassHealth. Otherwise, I’d be dead.

The day I turned 65, I was dumped from MassHealth. I vainly hoped I’d be protected by my disabled status. I had been on Social Security disability for years. Officially disabled, I was thus entitled to MassHealth.

No problem getting around that. Social Security reclassified me as just old, not disabled. They switched me to standard Social Security. I get the same money, but without the protection. They also changed the poverty line so I no longer qualify for the extra help I was getting for medications.

Cost-of-care

Apparently when you’re over 65, you need a lot less money to live on. Pity no one told my mortgage company or other creditors. Or the drug companies. When you hit 65, you are healed of all existing disabilities and can can live on a third of the money you needed before. Poverty — when you are 65 or older — is set to levels so low you couldn’t afford a refrigerator crate.

All of this occurred right after the second anniversary of the two tumors which cost me both breasts, at which point I discovered I needed major heart repair. Without MassHealth, I needed a new medical plan and had switched to a Medicare HMO. At the time, there was only one in Worcester County. Fallon was (and remains) awful with practically no oncologists and they didn’t include the only dedicated cancer facility in central Massachusetts.

So, for a year, under Fallon, I didn’t see an oncologist. I made appointments, but they were consistently cancelled because the guy had meetings. Not emergencies. Meetings. By the end of 2013, facing heart surgery and needing a real oncologist, I switched to one of Blue Cross’s Medicare PPO Advantage plans. Simultaneously, Partners Group, the umbrella organization for all the doctors I’d been using withdrew from the Medicare and MassHealth HMO programs. Partners Group chose to not serve the old and poor. Not profitable.

At the beginning of 2013, I had no doctors. My PCP, gastroenterologist, psychiatrist … my entire support network … dissolved. In theory, I could continue to go to them. It was, after all a PPO … but it turns out just because you can go to a doctor doesn’t mean your insurance will pay the bills.

I needed new doctors and I don’t have them.

I’ve had four different kinds of heart surgery and I don’t have a cardiologist. No one is monitoring my blood pressure or medications.

Essentially, I’ve got no medical services. I’m taking the medications I was taking before surgery because I don’t know what else to do. I’m doing my best to hook up with doctors, but I’m in limbo and have been since before the surgery.

I’m angry. I’m trying hard to stay calm, but inside, I’m terribly angry. I’m getting the message loud and clear.

“Why don’t you just die already? Stop using up valuable resources we could use for younger people who deserve to live.”

I’ve outlived my usefulness. So how come I’m not dead yet?

When did we become this mean-spirited country with medical organizations which would rather close down than provide care to most vulnerable citizens? How did we come to this? Who are we?

I know. I get it. Just die already.

A MIDWEEK UPDATE

Time for an update!

The visiting nurse made her final visit today. I am officially able to be on my own. I have been assured no matter how I feel, I’m doing really well.

All four of my incisions itch. The big one down my chest, the medium one on my shoulder and the two smaller ones on my left leg. I dare not scratch but oh, how badly I wish to claw at those incisions!

My chest still hurts. I can’t pick anything up. It’s an interesting cocktail of sensation. My guts are in knots because it appears I have picked up a case of The Stomach Virus That’s Going Around. Garry has it, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that I have it too, but the timing could be better. Keeps things lively in an unpleasant way.

It turns out what’s been making the chest pain worse is my computer. Not the computer per se. It’s the picking up and putting back that’s making my sternum hurt, so now I have to ask Garry to hand the computer to me, then put it back when I’m done.

dell14Z

It’s almost as bad as needing help to go to the toilet. Okay, not quite that bad, but bad enough. And this is my ultrabook, the lightest computer I own. Not counting the tablet which is under-powered and runs Windows 8, a hateful operating system that renders it even more useless than it would otherwise be. Seriously useless.

But — I digress.

am getting better. I can’t see the changes from one day to the next, but I can see the differences from week to week. I’m a lot stronger than I was, but it’s infuriatingly slow.

Impatience has always been my nemesis. This time I have to find patience. I can’t let myself get stressed, can’t push the process. It takes time for bones to heal, for a new valve to settle down, for a reshaped ventricle to work properly. It’s only three weeks since I came home from the hospital. It will be at least another seven before I can haul a laptop without help.

I’d heave a sigh, but it would hurt.

GROWING OLDER

Marilyn and I are watching a “NCIS” episode involving Gibbs and his dad. Mark Harmon and the late Ralph Waite. We’ve seen it before but it’s an especially poignant show because Waite died just a few months ago and the story deals with a difficult father son situation.

It also touches home on aging and health issues. Gibbs’ dad, his driving license just revoked, is desperate to find an old war buddy who is dying. Gibbs is preoccupied with a case and impatient with his dad. Conversation is awkward. It reminds me of another father and son.

My dad was never big on intimacy. We’d talk about sports and men’s clothing. Towards the end of his life, My dad talked a bit about frustration with his health. He was a big, strong man who was very handy for most of his years. Now, he mostly sat in the dark as his strength ebbed. Conversation was even more difficult. Even sports and men’s clothing drew little interest. The award-winning TV news journalist was having difficulty talking to his father. The image of my father, the younger man, kept flashing through my mind as we sat in silence. I made a silent vow that I would not become my father, wrapped in silence.

Almost 20 years later, that vow is still flashing through my mind. For one thing, I’m no longer the perennial young man whose pictures adorn our home. Mortality has made its presence known. Marilyn is fighting to regain some semblance of quality of life after complex heart valve surgery. She is a proud, fiercely independent woman who doesn’t like asking for help. It’s awkward for both of us. We make jokes about our so-called golden years but we don’t really laugh.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

It’s funny because we actually look younger than people our age a generation ago. But it doesn’t help when we hear our bones creaking. It’s certainly no joke to Marilyn who wonders if she’ll be able to do some very basic things to re-establish her independence.

Marilyn has had health issues most of her life so she is no stranger to pain. Fittingly, she sometimes looks at me wryly when I complain about aches. Who do I think I am? Well, I am that vain guy who burned through a lot of prime years with little regard about paying the piper.

The dues are coming in. But the reporter in me must acknowledge there are so many others who have more serious health issues. That’s probably an understatement if you just flip through today’s news stories. Still, growing older isn’t the picture perfect stuff of those old movies.

Print the legend!

JUST ANOTHER UPDATE

I’m getting back into life. Progress feels rather glacial from my perspective but it’s undeniably progress.

foyer and lightI can write, as long as I keep stuff short. I still can’t focus long enough to read much but I’m getting there. Close, very close. Finding a comfortable position in bed remains a major challenge because I can’t yet lie on my side without feeling like my chest is being crushed. I’ve been assured it will come, but not yet. Soon-ish.

I tire quickly but each day is a little better than the one before. I have bursts of energy early in the day then I wear down. By 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I’m beat and I hurt. Still, last week I was exhausted by noon. Change comes and I guess one needs to take the long view.

I did I lot of stuff yesterday. We went to the grocery store and the pharmacy. I did the stairs — both flights — three times. I hiked up and down the driveway — our own bunny slope. It was a lot for me. And I was released from physical therapy ’cause I’m doing so fantastically. I have photographic plans for today.

Except I don’t feel well. Or not well enough, whatever that means.

I guess how one feels is a matter of “compared to what.” Compared to two weeks ago, I’m feeling great. Compared to last year, I’m a puddle of misery, a complete disaster.

It just depends on how you look at it … and whose body in which you are living.