by Hénock Gugsa
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What are you thinking when you’re 65 and looking at the abyss in front of you … what lies ahead? One thing for sure – it’s going to be full of surprising discoveries about mortality. As far as you are aware, you have not traveled down this road before. It is going to be a new and unique experience despite the testimonials of others older than you.
What are these discoveries? Well, some are small and others are huge. They may be benign or they may be devastating. And since you are now old, you have nothing else to do but to be preoccupied with them. You seek them out, and when you find them (or they find you), you can’t help but dwell on them. You constantly talk about them, you rhapsodize, and you even write about them if you can tie yourself down.
We begin with the positives.
First: you begin to worry less about tomorrow because in effect you are already in tomorrow-land.
You can make a list of things (activities) with which you can occupy yourself. Preferably, they are voluntarily selected by you, and there are no deadlines, and no serious accountability or consequential commitment should be attached to them. The common denominator to these activities is that they be personally rewarding purely for the accomplishment aspect alone.
You may forget things, and as long as you are not in Alzheimer territory, you should relax. Nobody will blame you for forgetting an appointment now and then, and you won’t be expected to remember everything from the past.
You have really no need for a watch or a clock except as tools to remind you of mealtimes and when to go to bed. You don’t care a whit about calendars; every day is really a continuation of the previous one with slight variations. You may notice changes in the weather, and you may even talk about it just for the thrill of annoying someone. But you know there’s nothing you can do about the weather except move somewhere else … and you won’t because you don’t wanna!
Lastly, you notice you have begun to enjoy the little things in life as if you were a little child. And that’s alright because this is the beginning of your second childhood. You enjoy stealing cookies from the cookie jar, telling silly knock-knock jokes, and being bratty like a six-year old. You can get away with tantrums mostly because nobody’s paying you any mind. But you don’t care because you think you rule!
On the negative side …
Sometimes, you are paranoid about bad surprises …. You are now aware that you clear your throat a lot whether you are about to speak or not. There is always either a dryness or an abundance of mucus permeating the entrance, the passageway to the esophageal canal. If you are not careful or attentive, the slightest excitement can bring on a choking fit. What you drink, how you drink … what you eat, how you eat … and even how you lay your head on a pillow can be perilous feats. At night, when you swish the mouthwash in your mouth, don’t even dream of gurgling … focus your mind on what you’re doing. Don’t go off daydreaming!
You need many props in your daily meanderings … railings on stairs, and handle bars in buses, bars, and bathrooms.
When you get up in the morning, you have to take quick stock of your physical status. What is the “ache” level today? You must remember to stretch and do some side-to-side raised knee swings from a horizontal position. Lower back pains could be so debilitating … lumbar herniated disc, sciatica, etc. are as bad as kidney stones or bad toothaches.
Hearing is one of the early problems you encounter. So you have to use your other facilities to make up for the loss. You need, for example, to will yourself to be constantly alert and physically aware of your surroundings. Pace yourself, be smart and use nearby tools to get around the obstacles life keeps throwing your way. Have you heard of something called “CC” or closed-captioning?
Old age is a whole new ball game. It is something not many people are prepared for. And if you thought you were, you’ll find many undreamt-off surprises in every corner.
One always needs to weigh the carefree abandon one associates with happy old age against the unrelenting daily (moment-to-moment) care and caution one needs to employ.
On balance, it seems to this writer that old age is indeed full of vagaries … some are fun and some are unpleasant. Depending on your philosophical outlook and your mental disposition, you as an old person may turn out to be a good player.