Thursday 1 December 2022

I've turned 70

70 years. My goodness, do people really live that long? I grew up with some sort of idea that old people were, well, old. Canes, walkers, rocking chairs, slow to move, slow to respond. I know somebody’s going to come out with some quip like, “You’re as old as you feel.” At sixty you can fake it, but I think at seventy, you have crossed the line: you are officially old.

70 years. 852 months. 25,567 days. At this point, does everyone ask themselves, “Where did the time go?” Do people in general also question what they’ve done, what they’ve accomplished, and what mistakes they’ve made? “If I could be twenty again but knowing what I know now.”

My father died two days shy of his 80th birthday. How much time do I have left? This ride isn’t going to last forever, and like it or not, my stay is limited. I just don’t know when it’s going to be over.

So, just what have I accomplished? What do I have to show for anything I’ve done throughout the years? Can I point to something and say, “I did that”?

When I was a kid, I seemed to have shown promise. That promise never materialised. Much to my chagrin, I’ve turned out to be at best average, probably more mundane, even mediocre. If I am where I am, I see it more as a question of luck rather than of a carefully executed life plan of goal fulfillment. I know somebody reading this may think I’m demonstrating humility or self-deprecation but I’d say it’s more about the curse of being smart enough to realise I’m not really smart. Clever in some ways, but nothing like that promise of me as a child.

I think about my mistakes. Sometimes, I wince. Yes, I think about my mistakes, and I literally wince. I can’t take it back. I can’t undo it. I can only live with it. And it doesn’t matter if there is some sort of explanation, a rationalisation, or a legitimate excuse for what happened; it was a mistake that I committed. I’ve had moments when I’ve been working at my desk, and I flashed on something and gotten up to pace while wringing my hands. “How could I have been so stupid? How could I have done such a thing?” Some things will haunt me for the rest of my life. I can’t rectify them; I can only try to live with them. I said try. I guess I’m managing but I still have my moments.

Health is everything. It’s a seemingly trite statement everybody’s heard and doesn’t think much of. That is, until health becomes an issue.

I hit sixty and started having problems. I realise now that God had granted me sixty years of virtually no health issues at all, and I should be grateful. Now, the wheels are starting to fall off the wagon, so to speak. I’m managing; I’m getting by; but I’ve come to realise how my main focus of the day is health related. Before, it was get up, get dressed, get out the door. Now, it’s get up, do this health-related thing, do that thing, do a series of isometric exercises, stretching, and go to the gym regularly. I can’t stop moving. If I do, I stiffen up; I begin to ache; then I have to work to get loosened back up and get rid of the aches. While before it seemed as if I could go all day without stopping, now I take breaks throughout the day to get up, move around, stretch, etc. I’ve read health experts say that sitting too long is bad for us so is this related to my age or just something we all need to pay attention to?

Is this what it’s like at seventy, how bad is it going to be at eighty? I’m scaring myself.

Don’t get the impression I think about this every day, but I do from time to time wonder how the end will come. Recently, a cousin had a stroke which left him numb down the right side of his body with a speech impediment. Supposedly he can recover with therapy, but this has been a life-altering event. His quality of life has dropped considerably. Another had been doing twenty-five dumbbell raises with both arms. One day, feeling good or feeling cocky, he did fifty reps. He pulled a muscle in his shoulder, had a great deal of pain, and ended up off work for two weeks. I explained my own experience over the past decade, having done such a thing more than once, letting my enthusiasm get in the way of good judgment. Instead of going from twenty-five to fifty reps, he should had gone to thirty reps and stayed with that for three, four, or five sessions before trying thirty-five. But not twenty-five to fifty in one go!

I’ve noted over these past years, I don’t seem to feel any pain while I’m doing something. It’s not until the next day or the day after that the ache or the pain shows up as a sign I’ve hurt myself. I don’t know if endorphins mask pain during a routine, but I try to be hyper-aware of the slightest discomfort or even an odd feeling as my signal to stop doing what I’m doing out of fear of hurting myself. When I was thirty, if I hurt myself, I could recover relatively quickly. Today, it takes longer, sometimes a lot longer so hurting myself can be a disappointing setback.

As you can see by the above writing, health has become my number one preoccupation in life. Some may say that I’m self-disciplined but it ‘s more about being scared. As I’ve written here, back in 2012, I had a sports accident and traumatised the upper left quadrant of my body. I was in pain twenty-hours a day for almost six months. I could barely move. Every waking moment was about pain management: when do I take a pain pill; how long do I have to wait for the next one; and what can I do in the meantime to minimise any pain I may feel. It was a nightmare; I was trapped in my own body; and it was Hell on Earth. I will do anything to avoid going through that again, so I’ve been frightened into being disciplined.

I've become my father
At family gatherings, I'm now the senior member. I'm the old man. Although, I see myself as my father in other ways.

My mother died when my father was 72. He spent the last eight years of his life, living in the family home all by himself. I'm retired and live by myself. How did my father manage compared to how I manage? How did my father occupy his time compared to how I occupy mine? The rest of the world moves on with their own day-to-day issues, and the affairs of one old man are of little or no consequence. That is, except to him.

My father fiddled with his own interests, his own projects, for himself. He didn't do it necessarily for others; he did it because it brought him some measure of satisfaction, maybe even accomplishment. I now see myself the same way. What I do isn't that meaningful in the grand scheme of things. There are now eight billion people on the planet, and most of them have no idea I exist. Certainly, anything I do has a negligible impact on the world. So why do I do it? For myself. At the end of the day, all of us do whatever we do for ourselves, not with the intention of setting the world on fire.

Final Word
So, here I am. 70. I made it. Several years ago, a friend told me she had read that if we make it to 70, statistically, there's a good chance we'll make it to 80. I guess we'll see. I was chatting with somebody about my health issues, and they chuckled and said, "What did you expect? You're 70!" I replied, "I've never been 70 before. I had no idea of what to expect!"

I've heard it said that we are generally living longer and while decades ago, 70 may have been considered as old, nowadays, 70 can still be considered as an active, "non-old" per se age. "You're as old as you feel." Well, I don't feel old. Heck, I don't know exactly what old feels like. I am aware of certain physical limitations but I do seem to be still moving. Once in a while, I run across somebody younger than me with huge problems to deal with. There but for the grace of God... Should I complain? It reminds me that I'm lucky. Things may not be perfect but they could be worse.

Back in July, I wrote to a friend who was turning 70, congratulating him and giving him my best wishes, ending with, “See you at 80.”


I wrote this on 2022-10-20 and only just now, 2022-12-01, got around to clicking on Publish. I'm slow. What did you expect? I'm 70! Ha, ha!

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