Aging Ain’t for Sissies

Valentines for My Life

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Gentle reader, will you please be my Valentine? I would be honored.

I regret I haven’t been with you much lately. As I’ve previously mentioned, I suffered a blow last October that knocked the wind out of my sails. Next day came the devastation in Israel. Flattened me the more.

But I’m the tenth generation of strong American women–that I know of. Up and at ’em. Tottered back to the gym, walked Uschi, did my best.

Then, as you may have read, Christmas hit. With wallops. Typically, I overcommitted.  Soldiered through. But my study bore the brunt of my discombobulation…it is still beyond beyond. I think I may have to study stratigraphy so I can identify layers…

Oh, and in the midst of this a curious small nubbin popped up at the bottom of my belly. Doctor said, “Oh, it’s just a hernia. Not to worry.” I worried. Unaccustomed to nubbins out of place.

Then, as I’ve been thinking and thinking and considering and weighing, the one-after-the-other-of-these-slams made me realize, quite all of a sudden, I am old.


Not really.


It took me a few weeks to come to terms with this shocking idea. But I did. Zone by zone.

Should you reply, Oh come on, Sylvia–if you’re nearing eighty-nine, of course you’re old! Absurd to imagine otherwise.

I would respond You’re only as old as you feel…how you live your life.

Until last October, I felt fine. As fit as I felt at seventy-five. Truly. Oh yes of course my knees hurt from time to time (one has been replaced–a mistake, I now think–the other’s kneecap got smashed when I tripped and fell walking, preoccupied listening to the last chapter of Where the Crawdads Sing). The arm that was broken (relishing a sunlit Saturday morning, I was drifting and dreaming in our front doorway preparing Uschi for our walk–she then was an eighty-pound German Shepherd two-year-old–when I heard a dog’s ferocious barking…our fluffy Mme. Alfred Carrière rose blocked the view of Uschi’s enemy from down the block…Uschi saw her, pulled me faster and faster toward the street with all her strength–I felt like a character in a children’s cartoon, feet flying but my wits in slow motion–it was dawning on me I should let go but I worried about cars until finally I said to myself, “Okay, let go!” I did and an instant later found myself lying splat on my left elbow and arm in the middle of the street…At the end of three months’ physical therapy, I couldn’t get my arm to reach as high as the PT wanted, it hurt too much, I was impatient, felt I’d done enough, and I quit…dumb dumb dumb…if you ever break an arm, for heavens’ sake, get that arm to crawl up the wall to the line where they want it to go, no matter how much it hurts because it won’t get better) that arm annoyed me from time to time when I needed to reach for something and couldn’t, but in the spirit of Necessity is the Mother of Invention, I’ve invented workarounds.

So I rallied through Christmas, had the silly little whatchamacallit in my tummy tucked back in place (into the hospital at 6:00 a.m., out at 10:00 a.m., superb surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurses, hospital, care, amazing experience), but this business of feeling old stuck.

Needed to work on that.

Two weeks past the operation I was able to return to CrossFit. At that point Bill generously bought us the same exercise bike we have at the gym–our wonderful Dr. Lewis says we each should peddle half-an-hour every day. I’ve so far done twenty minutes. Bill hasn’t mounted it yet.

Does my ninety-three going on ninety-four year-old husband feel old? Once, shaking his head, he spoke the word. I was shocked. Haven’t heard it since. He is strong, vigorous, sharp as sharp. On recent walks, apropos of our democracy, Bill has been telling me how other great cultures have ended–he’ll name the places, dates, players…his memory, his sensibilities are phenomenal.

Nearly forgot. Just before Christmas I learned Bill and I have “old kidneys.” You don’t want old kidneys, children. You want to keep your kidneys younger than springtime. Who knew? I have other body parts that close relatives have lost their lives to (is that a kosher sentence?). But kidneys were never mentioned. Now they’re mentioned.

Okay. Been a couple of months with a single glass of wine. Tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, oranges, are verboten. And CHOCOLATE!!! Beastly.

A friend chided us: he would rather eat what he loved and live shorter. In fact, I had considered that as an option. But I decided food is just food. Life is life. I choose life over Marinara sauce. Even over Prosecco and Mrs. See’s Nuts and Chews.

Yes, of course there are annoyances, inconveniences, frustrations. But with our exercising, walks, politics, movies, time with family, friends, the world, and nightly Wordle (all the elements with which healthy old people are supposed to be involved), my life is as much in order as it has been for years.

Enough nonsense.

I want to send my body, my spirit, a Valentine. I want to thank them (without being maudlin) for their service. Kindness. Devotion to the cause. I want to give my corpus a Valentine because it has managed to give me an uncommonly long run. Want to keep on going. Want to honor it, care for it, give it my best. It’s doing the same for me.

And I want to send my LIFE a Valentine. I’ve been given so much. I have (you’ll forgive me if you happen to have the same feeling, I can’t know everyone’s circumstance) the most wonderful husband on the planet. Yes I do. I have been given blessings in abundance…a loving roistering family…marvelous friends from all stages of my life–my best friend in the seventh and eighth grades lives close by and just turned ninety. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Blue Mountain sending thirty-two animated Valentines. Marvelous having so many people you love who love you. (I was surprised, going down the list, when I realized how many friends and family are alone. Makes me sad. Of course what makes me sadder are the number of friends and family who aren’t around to be on the list.)

Not permitted to walk Uschi by myself anymore (more than chocolate, deprived of walks with my darling girl is the hardest consequence of my age–I keep bleating that it wasn’t Uschi who caused me to trip and break my kneecap…it was not watching the sidewalk while waiting to see what Tate would find in Kya’s drawer) but I can quite comfortably walk the course with Bill down to the Pacific Ocean–and further. I still can put together a supper that Bill and Cameron enjoy (I’m presently on a delightful Jamie Oliver binge). I have a resplendent garden–although somebody has nibbled delicate broccoli bouquets to nubbins. I am comfortably enough fixed that I can donate to causes I care about. Bill and I can usually solve Wordle by the third try. I still can see and hear. And I sleep well (BBC and NPR in my earbud most of the night).

I just absolutely must drink two liters of water every day to keep my old kidneys happy. That is a trial. But the mercy of it is I’m not living in Gaza. Not going to complain about too much water.

Lordy. Happy Valentine’s Day! If you’re still with me, perhaps you’ll do me the honor of being my Valentine.

I’d love that.

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