Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mortality and Other Annoyances

The Aging Process by reign 60
The Aging Process, a photo by reign 60 on Flick
They tell me that I'm going through the "aging process." I always thought of that as something that can be fixed with a pad of steel wool and a can of Rust-Oleum. I'm now informed that it is far more cosmic than that--something I had begun to suspect a few years ago after a round of doctors appointments to check on a few maladies of seeming little consequence.

What I discovered is that the "aging process" is a default disease. Floaters in your eye? Just part of the aging process. Ringing in your ear? Yeah, that just goes with age. Bladder not fulfilling its part of the deal? Growing old has its issues.

The thing is that while there may be a default diagnosis there is no default treatment. While I am a reluctant pill popper, I figured that surely something as universal as this "aging process disease" could be annihilated by a fat pill, white in color, with letters like 6YTK inscribed on them. Far from it. Turns out that everything requires a different pill and each one costs something like $357.62, unless you inquire about a generic version, in which case it costs $4.98. Glad I asked.

I'm starting to get annoyed, however. It's the little things. I'm always happy to get those 10% senior discounts; my longstanding reputation as a good steward (which my kids translate as "cheap") overcomes admitting that I am old enough to be worthy of this act of benevolence on the part of the local merchants. But just once it would be good to have them inquire as to my eligibility rather than have it assumed. I want to be carded when ordering Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast.

It may be that part of this is punishment from beyond. I used to travel a lot and that put me sitting across many hundreds of tables accompanied by many more hundreds of people, often seniors. Most of these dear folk seemed able to talk only about the side effects of their various prescriptions, the bedside manner of their physicians, and the latest Medicare loophole to exploit. I know my eyes glazed over. I know I muttered silently something to the effect of "Dear God, why oh why me?" I'm now wondering if this is the Medicare version of the Myth of Sisyphus, whereby one is sentenced for all eternity to push a Tylenol up a long  hill with the tip of his nose, only to reach the peak and watch helplessly as it rolls back down again? 

Is that it? Am I now to be known by my ailments rather than my accomplishments, meager as they may be? Will I be remembered as that guy with all those problems he talked about at dinner--ear-ringing, shoulder-aching, back-tightening, eyes-matting, knee-throbbing, belly-expanding, mouth-drying, Parkinsons-pending, arthritis-invading, libido-impairing, memory-fleeting, weight-adding, bladder-misbehaving, hair-thinning, skin-splotching, and on and on?

If that is all that remains, the living of a life seems kind of trivial. I will have to acknowledge that this rant is a cover-up of sorts, allowing me to use my aches and pains as a way to avoid thinking critically about my own life, distilling from it the kind of insights that could be ennobling as well as disappointing. 

Somerset Maugham called it The Summing Up. Frederick Buechner described it as his sacred journey. Dean Acheson immodestly referred to his life as a Cold War diplomat as being Present at the Creation. Maybe we all need to revisit the path over which we have traveled, letting it speak to us in new ways. 

Now, if only i could find the damn thing. Where are my glasses?