The golden years

Ed
Ed Smith
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Having a disability at any age is no fun.

Having one when you're older is no ha-ha matter at all. By older, I mean older than people you'd like to be younger than. I've noticed over the last few years there seems to be more and more of them.

I'm pretty sure that if I were to get in the lineup at the post office to get my old age security cheque, I could look over that lineup from stem to stern and want to be younger than any of them.

Those last few sentences have me backed into a mathematical corner, because I'm not sure what the hell I just said. I was never any good at mathematics or being disabled, and I resent growing older with every second that passes.

I know, I know. I should consider the alternative. Don't go there. That line is so worn out that it's been dead and buried for a thousand years.

How do you know when you're getting older? You notice some young woman in her 40s looking at you with frank interest, and then, wonder of wonders, she begins to walk toward you. The years drop away from you like the grease off a well-baked pair of turrs as you smile a welcome. Then she walks right past you to the bodybuilder 10 feet behind you.

You read in some Chatelaine article that the three ways a man knows he is still a man is by the money in one pocket, the car keys in the other and sex. So, you do a quick inventory of everything and decide you may as well stop off at the cemetery on the way home from choir practice. If you're going to be in that heavenly choir, you might as well practise.

One more? Certainly. A woman with greying hair totters up to you at a conference and says, "My mother says you taught her English in Grade 10."

The only response to that is, "I'm sorry, Madam, but you must have the wrong man. I just moved here from New Zealand where all my life I was an approved grower of marijuana plants for the health-care system."

One last sign that you are now past it is when people stop saying, "You don't look anywhere near your age," and start saying, "You're really looking good these days." Ask them, "Compared with what?" and have fun watching them flounder. Gotta take your fun where you find it.

My disability is pretty much guaranteed for the duration. Guaranteed as well is the fact that I will get older, although I may not look like it. My problem is that I definitely do not want to enter old age carrying a disability with me. I simply don't like the way things are going for us old folks.

You may be wondering what brought all this on. Well, I heard on the CNN news the other night that Dick Cheney (George W. Bush's vice-president who, instead of continually shooting himself in the foot like his boss, went around shooting other people in the face - remember?) was given a heart transplant.

But then I heard the controversy swirling around this event. Seems that there are scads of people all upset because Cheney, at 70 years of age, is considered too old to get a new heart. There are many younger people around, the headlines were screaming, who should be in line for a transplant long before an old man.

But of course! He's 70 years of age! Let him die.

A few years ago I fell out of the contraption that lifts me from my bed to my chair (and vice versa). You've seen those great huge slings that lift cargo out of the holds of ships. That's me - in the sling. Anyway, at the height of the lift, this thing accidentally let go. I tumbled out of it, smashed my head against the steel frame of the bed and my ribs across the steel legs of the lift.

I said I was fine, but it was suggested that since I couldn't feel anything except my head - and that was never on right, anyway - I should be examined by a doctor to see what may have been broken. That made sense, so off we went by ambulance so as not to make anything worse than what might be already bent out of shape.

The doctor on call put his hand on the back of my neck, pronounced me to be entirely whole, and left. When I got back and told my daughter what had happened, she just about blew a gasket. She called our medical friend - who has long since departed the area - and strongly protested this totally unsatisfactory "examination."

His response?

"What difference does it make if anything's broken? All he does is sit around in a wheelchair all day."

When Other Half's aunt was 95, she had a leg amputated. When the family inquired about a prosthesis, they were told that, given her age, that wouldn't be necessary or appropriated. OH and her siblings are a formidable group, and protested in the strongest possible terms. Sufficient to say, their aunt got the prosthesis and used it for many years after.

We were told in school that Eskimos - an accepted name for Inuit back then - used to leave their elders behind to perish on the ice when they went on some nomadic adventure. I don't know if that's true or not, but if it is, it strikes me as somewhat kinder than what seems to be happening to seniors these days. At least it was somewhat quicker and a lot less painful.

We won't talk about diminished pensions and cancelled driver's licences and all that. So, you see what worries me about getting older with a disability.

And we won't talk about Stephen Harper, either.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: CNN

Geographic location: New Zealand, Springdale

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  • Max E.
    April 15, 2012 - 17:33

    Well written Ed. We all worry about Steve, for one reason or another.