Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What a Drag It Is Getting Old

Last week my optometrist told me that my glasses are suffering from panascopic tilt. That was the most positive thing I’ve heard from a doctor in a long time. At least it was the glasses that had become defective rather than me. I suppose I should also feel buoyed by my dentist’s pronouncement that my oral health is not “too god awful bad”. Apparently my 15 minute nightly ritual of picking, flossing and brushing hasn’t been a total waste of time.

I like visiting my dermatologist. She is pretty and seems so sympathetic that my years of trying to convert fair, freckled skin to a rich cocoa shade has resulted in a lifelong income stream for her. Damn you, Coppertone, and your ads full of beautiful, happy people glowing with a “healthy” tan.

My last primary care physician was less kind. When I complained about swelling of the ankles, he told me I had to expect unpleasant side effects from the battery of drugs he had prescribed to me. “It’s not as bad as a coronary, is it?” he asked me. I began to fret about my long list of ailments that seem to expand with each checkup. I wondered about the combination of pills, potions and sweet smelling lotions I was on. I have pills for blood pressure, cholesterol, low thyroid, acid reflux, and several other ailments I no longer remember. Then there’s the cream that is giving my arms a painful chemical peel to fight the skin cancer that hasn’t even started yet.

The more I thought about what a biomedical cauldron my body had become, the more I worried. Then I began to worry about what all this worrying was doing to my blood pressure. I grabbed my home BP monitoring kit. Still in the normal range. That was a relief, but those normal readings are the result of multiple agents swirling through my arteries so that they are now the size of sewer pipes.

I decided to go to bed. A good night’s sleep was all I needed. So I strapped on the mask of my CPAP machine, fidgeted and fussed with it to try to minimize the hiss of escaping air (the masks are not designed for people with facial hair or, in fact, for people with noses), and waited for the rhythmic pumping to do battle with my allergies. It sounded like Darth Vader was in the room. Sleep was impossible.

So I did what I always do at times of panic; I called my sister. She is five years older than I am. She would have some sage advice. She told me that it wasn’t surprising that my body was falling to pieces. That’s what happens when you get old.

Old! Seems like everything always comes back to that one cursed word. My joints ache because I’m old. I’m tired because I’m old. My allergies are getting worse because I’m old. My teeth are going to fall out, my sex drive is heading towards negative numbers, I have my web browser set at 150 per cent magnification, and I’m getting cranky. Really cranky.

I now understand why those old ladies in the supermarket look so pissed off all the time. After a lifetime of struggling to survive they are rewarded by having to reach for heavy items from a too-high shelf with arms that have become weak and stiff and painful. Then some perky young thing bounces up, grabs the same item with ease and smiles as she tosses it into her cart. Oh god, where are my anti-depressants?

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