Growing older: mind over matter?

ImageYes, I’m getting older but I like to think I still think young. I believe I still see myself much the same as I did a decade or two ago. That’s what my brain is saying anyway. My body’s got a rather different perspective, and it makes no bones about telling me its side of the story. My body says, in so many blunt ways: No sense denying it: you getting’ old, boy!

It shares that sobering message through a variety of minor ailments and changes in the most basic functions.

Back in the day, a 12-hour drive to BC would warrant a single pee break. Nowadays, if I make the three-hour drive to Cowtown without a refreshing pause, I’m tickled pink. Giddy almost. Of course, that requires some planning and adherence to the golden rule: just one morning coffee before embarking on the drive. Not thinking or having a second cup means I might make Leduc. Or might not.

And what’s with these middle-aged mystery pains that barge through the body’s doors to shout, “Hi! Miss me?” I could be walking somewhere, minding my own business, and – BAM! – some sharp pain flashes in for a sec, and then it’s gone. Might be in the leg or the arm or the back – ZAP! – and that’s it. Where did those come from, and why? What’s with all that?

Then there’s back trouble. Nothing stops the carefree thinking of youth faster than back trouble. Just before last Christmas, I moved some furniture at home and did some damage. Threw my back out, as the old-timers used to say. I felt nothing at the time, but within a week or so it was clear something wasn’t right. But I figured that it would all blow over in due time. Well really, what was I going to do – go to a doctor? Pshaw. We men only seek medical intervention for serious threats to our manly manliness. Things like catastrophic blood loss or the dreaded Man Cold.

But the body has a way of getting its message across. And when the body leads with the back, it’s game over, as my old friend Fred would say in his thick German accent.

I heard the message loud and clear in the dead of night back in early January. I struggled mightily to get out of bed – not an easy task with what would soon be diagnosed as two ruptured discs and a displaced vertebra. Not easy at all because my mind was desperately trying to block the screaming match between my spine and my bladder. “Slow down, man! You’re killing me!” shrieked my spine. “Oh shut up and hurry up, you spineless complainer,” my bladder roared back. “I’m a gonna burst if you don’t get to the potty pronto!” Naturally, I tagged up with my bladder and scrambled a little faster. You never want to get on the bad side of your bladder, nosir.

So I made it to the bathroom and then crippled my way down the 14 stairs to the main floor for a glass of water. Ran the kitchen tap, drank the water. Was about to head back to bed but then Big Bad Bladder cleared his throat: “Ah, ahem, got a little something left in the tank here, old fart.” Just a few minutes earlier, I thought I’d peed the longest pee in the world. But no. When you get older, there are always leftovers. You could stand at the toilet for an hour and not see another drop. But zip up, wash up, and head out the door and BBB whispers: Not so fast there, old fella!

Well, I take care of that little bit o’ business in the main floor bathroom and then start heading back for those despicable stairs. Instantly, a black wave of pain courses across my lower back – “I’m baaa-aaack!” growls my back in its best Freddy Krueger impersonation. So much pain, and now I can’t move. I can’t even put an ounce of weight on my right leg. So Freddy’s doing the torture routine with my lower back, I’m going all Karate Kid, standing on one leg with my arms up in the air holding onto the wall so I won’t move anything. Well, I stand there for a couple of minutes waiting for the pain to subside so I can hobble back to bed. A few more minutes pass; no change. Then another five minutes. Ten. I realize I could be standing here all night. Then I realize I can’t stand all night – not on one leg. So what to do? Not a lot of options; can’t move a muscle, can’t flamingo forever, for sure don’t want to fall down. Only one thing left to do: scream for the Bos Lady!

So I call out: “Maria.” Tentative at first; not too loud. After all, the house is silent. Surely she can hear me call out in the dead of night. I wait. Nothing. I yell again, a little more loudly. Then again. And again. Still nothing. Pretty soon, I’m screaming her name over and over, feeling like Fred Flintstone banging at the door, screaming “Willlll-maaaa!!” after the cat locked him out. (Yes, there does seem to be a lot of Fred’s popping into this little story, isn’t there?)

Well, finally my screams awaken the dead as the Bos Lady appears on the scene with sleep in her eyes and a scowl on her face. “What in the world’s the matter with you?” I explain through clenched teeth and ask her to help me hobble to the dining room table to get off my feet. Foot.

Fast forward six months and I’m moving around fairly naturally again. Six months of hearing all the “getting old” jokes from my kids. Six months of therapy and chiro treatments. Six months of the daily internal dialogue: Do I want to take my T4’s today to make it through another work day? Or do I simply want to poop today? The two are mutually exclusive, I learned.

Yes, getting older has its moments indeed. You can fool your mind some of the time by thinking: I’m still young – I’m only 51. But one’s body has a way of harrumphing all of that nonsense.

Take another example. Body hair. I’ve lost most of the hair on my legs in the past few years (never knew that would happen!). Cultivated new hair elsewhere though…nose, ears, eyebrows. Fortunately, nothing’s growing on my back yet, and I’m thankful for that small blessing.

Still, I’ll carry on with my wishful youthful thinking. Because if I think I’m old, then I’ve given my body a free pass on the expressway to actually being old. But sometimes it’s hard to stay positive. Think about it. When I was born in 1962, they were just starting to build the Houston Astrodome, and it’s since been imploded from existence. When I was born, the Trans-Canada Highway just opened. Stanley Milner was a River City alderman; now he’s a library. In ’62, we were still hanging people in Canada and staring down Russian missiles in Cuba. . Why – when I was born, the Maple Leafs actually won the Stanley Cup for crying out loud!

Oi vey. Maybe I am old!

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