Archive for the ‘Aging’ Category.

R.I.P. Mom 9/14/27 - 9/26-13

Can’t think of a better requiem than this number from our RCB concert last spring.  Like her, it’s at once both lyrical and fierce. While you’re listening, check out the anecdotes of her life as I collect them.  Feel free, if you knew her, to add anecdotes in comments below, or email, and I’ll incorporate them in the body of the post.

I’m gonna record some favorite anecdotes about my mom here, and it won’t happen all at once, I’ll be adding to this post as the muse grabs me.

  • I don’t know a lot about her young life, since we were not often in touch with her family in Lancaster, but one thing that she related about her time in high school amused me.  She said that she and some friends would meet in an alley or somewhere either before or after school to gossip, maybe smoke?, or just hang.  She said they called this meeting place “the heath”, a reference to the Weird Sisters scene in Macbeth.  You go for years thinking your parents are bland and pedestrian, and then some something endearingly literate like this bubbles up.
  • We had some testy interchanges about cars.  5 generations of my dad’s family (including me) made their living supplying glass to General Motors, and the American auto industry was our sugar daddy during the 50s and 60s.  When it came time for me to buy a car, though, that industry had surrendered its technological and qualitative edge to Japanese companies, attempting to compete not with innovation and quality but with import quotas and government subsidy.  The only new car I’ll ever buy was purchased in 1985, a Honda Civic wagon.  In later conversations with my mom, I’d talk about my disgust with the American auto industry and its failure to manufacture cars that met the quality and emissions standards of the Japanese cars.  She steadfastly castigated my assertions, and averred that the guys running Honda and Toyota were the same guys that were shooting at her high school friends who were sent to the Pacific theater.  It was hard to press my factual argument against her passionate and visceral position.
  • The joke she never tired of telling: A tipsy fellow is using a shortcut through a graveyard to get home from his watering hole when he comes upon a freshly-dug open grave, dirt piled to the side. As he approaches, he hears the plaintive cries of what is certainly a fellow inebriate who has fallen into the excavation, “Help! I’m so cold!”  The first fellow staggers carefully to the edge of the excavation and says, “Well no wonder you’re cold - you’ve kicked off all your dirt!” and proceeds to push the adjacent dirt into the hole.
  • Mom went to Ohio State after graduating from high school, with an idea of pursuing speech and/or journalism.  She ran headlong into swarms of GI-Bill veterans who were flooding campuses, and found her classes dominated by them.  She became intimidated as the faculty began to cant the classes to the GI’s, and recalled more than one professor addressing the women in the increasingly male-dominated classes as “pursuing their MRS degrees”.She met my dad (a GI-Bill vet) at OSU, they married and I was conceived in view of Ohio Stadium.  I think she always regretted not advancing to a degree, but the times were what they were, and she became a more typical 5os stay-at-home mom.  She wasn’t bitter, but I think she wanted more than she got from her college experience.
  • My parents were lifelong registered Republicans in Ohio, and it shaped my early political outlook.  I remember wearing Nixon/Lodge pins to class in the 6th grade in 1960 and, in my first election as a legal voter, I selected Richard Nixon over George McGovern, to my eternal shame.As the years progressed, Mom continued to cleave to the ideal of the progressive conservative that was never dominant in the Republican party, but that was at least prominent in its rhetoric.  A church-going woman, she became increasingly disgusted by the ideological poisoning of politics by religious and backwards factions, and so much of her conversation became stridently opposed to the party she was registered to vote for.  This one time in the early aughts, we were walking while she was bitching vehemently about anti-abortion Republicans that dominated Ohio politics, and I asked her why she was still registered as a Republican.  I honestly think it was a question she’d never posed to herself, she was so imbued with family-generated inertia.  I’m pretty sure that, within a week of that haphazard conversation, she changed her registration to Democrat and never looked back.Had she lived, she might have been the only Democratic vote in her adopted Georgia county.
  • From her neighbors Dave and Lana who lived in my grandparents’ place next door: “We were blessed to have Carol and Mickey as neighbors and as friends. Carol’s life should be an example to all of us.  Her gentleness ad selflessness was something to be admired.  Carol’s words of wisdom will remain with me as a mother and a friend. Thank you for sharing your mother with us! : (Mom:) Don’t worry about what your house looks like..invite people in”.
  • Watch this space…

I’m ready to go

My mom’s dying.  Well, she’s been dying for 10 or 15 years, in a dilettantish fashion, saddled with COPD and teasing death with bouts of pneumonia, ICU camp-outs and similar viral adventures.  But then last month she received a diagnosis of metastasized lung-cancer, and it’s taken a lot of the guesswork out of the process.

She’d been living in our childhood home in Perrysburg, Ohio, the one my parents built and moved into so proudly in 1961, and heretofore she’s insisted that she was leaving it feet-first.  Last spring she had a pneumonia episode that convinced her that, contrary to those assertions, she’d like to “have someone to hug me” when these episodes occur.  She’s had great neighbors on both sides who shoveled her walks when it snowed and looked after her and in general were model children, but I guess it started to matter that they weren’t HER children.

So in July we, my two younger brothers and I, began work to move her out of the house and into, eventually, a nice adult independent living facility near my youngest brother in the north Atlanta area.

I moved from northwest Ohio to Seattle in the fall of 1974, not necessarily to sever ties to the place or the people, but to establish my own ecosystem unburdened by expectations and close observation, but I always felt my parents’ place in Perrysburg as an anchorage.  Not a place that I would return to live necessarily, even in extremis, but something more archival, a memory that I could always illuminate with a visit or even a phone call.

The physical act of going through the house and saying goodbye to familiar stuff was filled with angst, but not unexpected angst.  My mom had resolutely pruned dunes of stuff in the attic and basement.  What really drove my emotional response was the fact that Mom and her house was the last link to a geographical and cultural touchstone that five (or more?) generations of my forebears had inhabited.  There were fields that my great-grandfather had hunted with my dad, places where my dad found Indian arrowheads and artifacts, generations of headstones with my surname displayed prominently, and the more distinctly-layered experience of my personal recollection - the swimming pool, places where Betsy and I had parked the car for sweet intimacy.  And once Mom moved, I’d have no concrete reason to return to northwest Ohio, and that tribal presence, which I still in some way felt after 40 years away, would no longer have its physical anchor.

We did Herculean labor and got the house ready for a furnishing auction and property sale over a 5-day weekend, and my SIL drove my mom south to Atlanta as the rest of us dispersed.  The movers arrived in Atlanta with the furniture that Mom had chosen to keep, and her new life of bridge and books and conversation seemed ready to begin.

Then, a couple weeks later, she fell ill, and a trip to a hospital hinted at, then proved, her cancer diagnosis.  Since then, we’ve been stepping through this journey of dying.  She’s still hanging in her independent living facility, aided by my brother and sister-in-law, hospice angels and home health-care folks.

Betsy and I flew here last month to ostensibly say goodbye, and she was able to walk to the car to go out for dinner and reminisce convivially.  It’s not easy to engage in a frank conversation with someone about their certain death, but Mom was kinda philosophical and said, perhaps to reassure me that I could talk about it, that she felt she’s had a good life, and that, in her words, “I’m ready to go.”

I flew to Atlanta today, as she had said she’d like to see me again, and things have deteriorated, as you might expect.  She has little energy to engage me, but her mind is as sharp as it was when she was fleecing her friends playing bridge.  She sits up for 15 minutes or so and gamely talks sports or whatever, then flags and has to lie down.

This will not be news to many, but it’s the first time I’ve been exposed to this granular process of dying.  My youngest brother and his wife will be doing most of the heavy lifting due to their proximity, but I’m glad I decided to allocate one more trip, both to cleave to my mom in her humbling decline and to give my bro and SIL a weekend to hang at their Lake Hartwell redoubt before the harrowing time ahead.

That’s Entertainment

I don’t give myself permission to sit and watch video that often, either movies or TV shows.  It’s not that I begrudge the time in front of a screen - I spend countless hours in front of my laptop, an appalling paucity of them billable.  It’s just that I can’t contemplate premeditated commitment, while serendipitous careening around the ‘net is somehow “off the books”.

And TV series are worse than movies, because while each episode is shorter than a film, I’m usually watching entire seasons of any particular TV series.  I did this with 30 Rock, and Weeds.  And then there’s Mad Men.  The series has appealed to me viscerally as well as aesthetically.  I suppose a good part of that visceral appeal is nostalgia, as the series is set during my formative years.  I’d be about 4 years older than Sally, the oldest Draper child.

It’s not directly evocative of my milieu; I grew up in the stalwart midwest, and my family toiled in orbit around the Detroit-centered auto industry, not the comparatively glib sophistication of New York City.  However, the adroit placement of objects (dial telephones, e.g.) and cultural references (racial attitudes, political issues) pings my memory continually, almost as if I were undergoing brain surgery and an electrode was traversing my 60s lobes like NASA’s Martian go-kart.

The business of the ad agency is crassly manipulative, but I find it neither shocking nor necessarily off-putting.  Who didn’t know, even then, that advertising was designed to get you to buy stuff?  Rather, there’s an almost charming innocence to their endeavors, even the darker aspects like cigarette advertising, especially when compared to the sophistication and granularity we see today in the right-hand panel of Facebook.  What they are actually doing at Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price is akin to chemistry experiments using 60s popular culture as a Periodic Table, and I find it a pleasant interlude to inhale the fumes from their beakers.

Traveling Violation

(Click on image to enlarge)

I had a little automotive adventure in June that went something like this: I was driving home from a client’s on Aurora Avenue when someone came to a dead stop in front of me.  I stopped a couple of feet behind them, then tick…tick…tick…tick…BANG!  Someone plowed into me from behind, jamming me into the car in front of me (and involving two more cars ahead of us).

I’m pretty sure I didn’t lose consciousness; the first thing I remember after the impact is the acrid smell of the airbags and my reflection in the rear-view mirror with blood oozing out of my nose.  I was hyperventilating a little and chanting holyfuckholyfuckholyfuck.  This confirmed my long-held suspicion that I would die with a bolus of filthy language dripping off my tongue.  Unless you count what I was saying as prayer.  I’ve heard, and uttered, worse.

In the ensuing moments, the car would settle a bit, startling me with a feeling that I’d been hit again.  I tried my door, thinking perhaps I should get out of the car in case it caught fire, but the door wouldn’t budge.  I found my phone and thought about 911, but figured that would have already been massively covered, so I dialed Mrs. Perils:

“Well, I just got rear-ended on Aurora, so I think I’ll be a little late.”  It was a Tuesday, and we had band practice.
“So where are you?”
“Somewhere between the Battery Street tunnel and the Aurora Bridge.”
Then sirens started in the background and got louder and louder.  “I have to go now, the ambulance is here,” and I hung up.  In hindsight, I probably could have handled that better.

A first responder entered the car through the passenger door and started asking me about my injuries (my shins hurt a lot, my nose was tender and bleeding fitfully and my left side, where the shoulder strap dug in, hurt quite a bit).  He also asked a bunch of “who’s your daddy” questions to ascertain if I’d had a concussion.  Meanwhile, someone had managed to pry my driver’s-side door open with a screech and a clunk, and they proceeded to move me gingerly onto a gurney and strapped my limbs onto it, saying they were taking me to Harborview, the go-to trauma hospital in Washington.  I insisted that they grab my backpack from the car that contained my laptop and, within it, my entire terrestrial essence.  The first responder handed me off to the ambulance EMT, and thus began my VIP ride to Harborview.

As the ambulance started to roll, I received perhaps my most traumatic unpleasantness: they stuck an IV into my arm.  I hate needles, and I fucking hate IVs, but I wasn’t arguing.  They asked me again to recount my injuries (shins, abdominal pain, nose obviously malfunctioning), and posed more riddles designed to detect concussion: “How old are you?”  “63.  No, 62″ and, chagrined by my error, especially the rounding-up part, I recited my birthdate just to prove I had a tenuous grip on the facts.  “Oh, wow!”, he said, and I decided to take that as a compliment instead of a negative commentary on my condition.  Later, I learned that my accident had made the TV newsreels, with photos of my car that some of my co-workers were shocked to recognize, accompanied by something like the hospitalization of “a man in his 60s”.  Ouch, dude, that (sounds) harsh.

Meanwhile, I believe the EMTs were concerned that my legs might be broken, or at least need attention, and they broke out a pair of scissors and, without unstrapping me, cut off my jeans.  I was startled - it’s been a while since someone was that anxious to get my pants off.  Then, at some point, they were either making a CYA recording or talking to the Harborview ER people, and the guy said, “he’s mentating well.”  Mentating?  Did the collision somehow activate heretofore dormant ovaries?

We arrived at Harborview, and there was a flurry of activity as they attached monitors, asked more questions and determined where I was at on the live-or-die scale.  Then I spent long expanses of time just lying there.  Meanwhile, someone who identified herself as a “social worker” called Mrs. Perils and told her how and where I was.  In retrospect, this sounds like a great way to do things, rather than have a harried ER doc contact the either concerned or bereaved.  Mrs. Perils and our son then set out for Harborview.

Meanwhile, someone had come in and asked if I had health insurance, and I gave him my Group Health card and explained that auto insurance would most likely be paying the bill.  Not everyone must have gotten that memo, because a while later, a woman came by and said she was a “financial counselor”.  She understood that I did not have health insurance, and was there to discuss my options.  There I was, half-fucking-naked and bleeding from the shins and nose.  Wasn’t there a more appropriate time for this discussion?  I told her about the previous guy’s visit, and she moved on to more fruitful venues to apply her expertise.

A while later, I still was worried by my abdominal pain, more so than the stuff that was bleeding, and they decided to do a CT scan, and off I went to the Magic Donut.  They said it was a borderline call, but I was happy to know that I had no internal injuries, and I only evince a soft glow now when the lights are out.  About 5 1/2 hours after I arrived at the ER, they handed me a bottle of Ibuprofen and a tube of antibacterial ointment for my shins and sent me home.

I’m not sure why, but I just drove myself to a state of normalcy.  I missed a day and a half of work, and two days of trumpet practice (because I wasn’t sure how much pressure would start blood gushing out of my nose again).  But on the following Saturday I showed up and marched with Rainbow City Band in the Fremont Solstice Parade, we went to Ashland as scheduled, and my aches and pains have slowly dissipated.

Things are almost back to normal now. It turned out that my laptop got sorta-pretzeled while careening around my back seat.  It still booted, but the screen was toast.  I was able to extract my data and port it to a new Macbook.

(Click on image to enlarge)

I’ve missed a bunch of kayaking because my racks were sent with my 95 Accord to a junkyard 50 miles north of here that’s only open 8 - 5 M-F, and I haven’t been able to retrieve them.  After dithering for several weeks, I finally focused myself enough to find a car to buy on Craigslist, and so far I’m really happy with it.  For one thing, it’s the first car I’ve owned that has air conditioning that works.

So, did this experience involve any life-changing epiphanies?  Do I, as a result, cherish life, live every day as if it’s my last, post daily pictures of cute kittens to Facebook?  Sorta, but not really.  I find myself not following people as closely as I used to when I’m driving, and I simply will not answer my phone in the car.  But mostly, I’m the same driver and the same guy.  It is tempting to think that, now I’ve had my accident, I’m somehow innoculated and safe from harm for another 10 years or so, like a tetanus shot or a colonoscopy, but on a cerebral level I know the same thing could happen tomorrow.  Driving has become less of a virtual activity; I know now that I’m actually in the car, and not operating it from some remote location divorced from the physical consequences of mishaps.  Most of the time.


I’m now at the age where “He lived a full life!” will roll glibly from the lips of my survivors, and as my shade ascends, descends or simply hangs in the viewing room like a bad smell, it won’t really have reason to protest.  Such high philosophy is noticeably absent when incidents occur on this side of the Great Divide such as the one on our hike on Friday.

We were walking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in what is now the Soda Mountain Wilderness (thank you, Bill Clinton, for your 9th-inning National Monument designations) just southeast of Ashland that we’ve been on many times.  It winds through mature second-growth forest, breaking out into slide areas that afford gorgeous views, either west towards Ashland and Siskiyou Pass, or southeast to Mt. Shasta.

Due to heavy winter snows and below-normal temperatures throughout the spring (sound familiar?), nature is somewhat behind schedule, and we’ve been seeing wildflowers on our hikes that are usually burnt out and gone by the time we get here, and things everywhere are lush and green instead of the more accustomed brown and sere, and we were literally reveling in every step.

Until this one step.  The one with my right foot as I was leading us on the trail through moderate underbrush.  About a quarter-mile before, we’d flushed a pair of grouse, and been startled at the loud, low vibration of their wingbeat, so we were on alert as we proceeded the rest of the way through the meadow.

So when I heard a vibration and scuffle on that fateful footfall*, I wondered for a second if I’d disturbed a grousing grouse*.  Two more strides, and I heard Mrs. Perils’ maidenly exclamation…”holy fucking shit!“, I believe it was…as she leapt up onto a log well off the trail.  What she had seen was a western diamondback rattlesnake, about 1 1/2″ to 2″ in diameter and at least 4 feet long, just to the right of the trail where I had stepped.

We were both pretty shaken, and as we proceeded each ensuing step was as fearful as they had been euphoric before. We froze at every rustle in the undergrowth.  As I had on countless other hikes, I turned to Mrs. Perils and assured her, “It is only the wind, Gretel!”

We tried to remember what the current procedures were for dealing with a snake bite.  Back in the 70s, we’d been sold snakebite kits that had razor blades and suction devices for draining venom; we knew that this treatment had been discredited, but were fuzzy about current best practices.  We got to a clearing with a sumptuous view of Mt. Shasta, but our enjoyment was muted.  We had a cell phone signal, so we made our one Lifeline call to a client of mine whom I knew liked to search the internet, and he pretty much confirmed what we thought we had remembered: immobilize the limb, keep the bite below your heart, no tourniquet, etc.  Oh, and call 911.

Our hike was not on a loop trail, it was an out-and-back, so we would have to walk past that spot again on the way back to the car, which was 3 - 4 miles beyond it.  Rescue would have been a major undertaking.  (did I really say “undertaking”?).  We walked on about another mile or so, hoping that, given time, our reptilian interlocutor would decide to move to a different snack bar.  Ultimately, though, we had to turn around and head back. We found a couple of sticks to brandish, and walked warily.  We didn’t know exactly where the encounter had taken place, but knew the general vicinity, and tapped our sticks ahead like blind people as we walked through.

Once we knew for certain we were past the spot, we built up an absurd sense of euphoria the rest of the way, as if we had a map that showed for certain we’d passed the lair of the only dragon in the forest.

Here are some photos to show why a person would undertake (there it is again) a stroll into the forest (click image to enlarge):

More photos in a gallery here.

* I know I can write stuff like this because I’ve read some Barth recently

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

I never remember my dreams.  And when I say, “never”, I mean that once every 4 - 5 years, I’ll awake suddenly and a vaporous 3 seconds or so will linger in my sentience, then make a quick exit through my nostrils when I exhale.  These infrequent and fleeting visitations are the only evidence I can cite that I actually have dreams, but they’re a comfort, because we all know that a person who doesn’t dream eventually becomes a serial killer (if he isn’t one already and has simply repressed the memory(s)).

This paucity of material is hardly grist for psychoanalysis, let alone for blogging, and you’re probably wondering why I’m wasting electrons and your precious time with it. Well, it’s a setup for this shocking disclosure: it happened this morning, and the sequence I remember lasted a good 5 - 10 seconds!

In it, I was walking down a long hall that extended through several rooms, and this place was presumed to be my residence, although it didn’t look like my real residence and in fact was more like one of my clients’ warehouse. Two or three rooms in the distance, I caught a glimpse of a large cat (cougar, leopard) crossing the hall and headed outside through an open door.  I had a half-second to register relief and begin to jump up on a table just in case (thinking as I did that a cat that size wouldn’t be deterred by a quick leap up onto what I then realized, with dawning irony, was a dining room table), when the lights went out at the end of the hall. Just then, I saw the cat rushing toward me out of the darkness.  I threw my arms up and yelled, “No! No!”. In the next half-second I realized that the cat had been in the process of running past me, and that I’d been a fool to attract its attention; and then I awoke, sitting bolt upright.

I wondered then if I’d actually hollered aloud, or only hollered in the dream.  Then I thought, no, even if I had that dream, which I’m not admitting that I had, I’m sure I have a healthy firewall between the alleged fantasy me and the real, dreamless me.  And then: “Was that you yelling? You woke me up!”  So I explained what I’ve just told you, and got a comforting hug in return, and I pretended not to notice “911″ dialed but not yet called on her cell phone.

I guess if you’re going to go to the trouble of remembering a dream that you might or might not have had, you may as well take a stab at interpretation. Why a cat? Why now? Does my subconscious know I have cancer and has cast it for its own purposes in the form of a dangerous feline? And has been trying its best to keep the bad news from me, and just fucked up big-time?  What is that thing on my arm?

And again, if I’m going to go to all that trouble, why this, and not a wild and vivid sexual fantasy instead (one that would certainly last more than 5 - 10 seconds, thank you very much)? Just my luck, I guess, because if I’d rent the night with cries of “Yes! Yes!” instead of “No! No!”, I’d have been beaten to death with her current nightstand collection of Virginia Woolf novels instead of the wary cosseting I was actually afforded.

OK, can we sleep now for another hour?


I’ve needed a haircut for the past couple of weeks (or more), and Saturday night was pretty dead around here, so I walked over to 45th to the sort of “alternative” salon I’ve been patronizing lately.  I go there mostly because I can almost always just walk in and get a decent haircut.  I used to patronize a perfectly fine and professional woman at a regular salon, but I increasingly find it impossible to make an appointment for non-work activities and actually show up.

I’ve been perfectly happy with the haircuts from the “alternative” place.  I usually end up with the same woman despite the lack of an appointment.  She’s pretty cute, and my haircuts with her begin startlingly like a lap dance (Not that I’ve ever had one - ED).  She stands directly in front of me, legs slightly apart, but that’s where the fantasy ends.  She’s totally focused on how my head looks from the front, and how she can possibly do anything positive with it.  I don’t envy her that task.

Well, Saturday night was a different kettle of fish.   The sign said “open” when I arrived, but the guy at the desk looked like he was getting ready to leave.  “Do I have time for a haircut?”, I asked.  He hesitated, and I turned to head for the door, but he called me back and said he could do it.  Once I was this close, I had to follow through, cuz it might be weeks before I got myself back there.

Once I was seated, he asked me what size clipper, #2 or #3.  I had no idea ( “Elena” never used clippers), but instinct told me to choose #3, presuming it would leave me with longer hair.  He snapped on his clippers and started mowing my head.  After the first stroke, I knew I was getting more of an amputation than a haircut, but after two strokes there was really no alternative to letting him finish, unless I wanted a mullet.

“You’ve got really thick hair, mister!”, he said.  I replied, “It’s thick on the sides, but thinning way too much on top.”

“I don’t really talk much when I cut hair - sorry.”  A few seconds pass, and he ventures, “What’s your name?”

“Phil,” I reply.  “What’s yours?”

“Blue Bear.”


Although the guy was pasty white with assorted head piercings, my mind immediately flashed to Blue Duck, the lithe Indian villain in Lonesome Dove.  We were alone in the shop, and even though it was next door to the wildly popular Molly Moon ice cream store, it was still the middle of January, and the street was deserted.

Despite these misgivings, my haircut ended uneventfully, I paid and left without further harm.  But a look in the mirror confirmed my initial suspicions - he’d cut it preternaturally short - shorter, perhaps, than it’s been since junior high.

When I arrived at my client’s office this morning, people were taken aback at being able to see my ears. They both insisted that it made me “look younger”, which might have seemed flattering if the corollary didn’t immediately present itself: they thought I “looked older” before.

This would have caused me much more angst when I was in high school, college or even a young adult.  These days, I’m only concerned about how much heat I’m losing through my skull.  Old age can be liberating.

White Male In His Sixties

My youngest brother, who turned 50 this year, called me Wednesday and said, “Old man, we’re getting to the age where you might have to start changing my diapers again!”

As many of you know, I passed one of those auspicious “0″ birthdays on Wednesday (or as KathyR called it, “uh-oh”).  I made a little run at developing something lofty and philosophical to blurt here, but just couldn’t get that worked up.  Not that it doesn’t affect me at all, and that I blithely cruised through the week; the sound of “in his 60s”, while not profound in the sense that “dying of cancer” or “symptoms of Alzheimer’s” would be, nevertheless has implications for my self-image.

And maybe that’s it: that I’m simply sort of ashamed of turning 60, in a way that I wasn’t at turning 50. At 50, I rented the back of a restaurant and invited most of the people that I knew or had known, defiant and devil-may-care.  This week, it’s more a feeling like I’ve screwed up and gotten fired from my 50s, and I’m trying to hide it from the neighbors.

I’m just musing here, not looking for sympathy, just screwing around with words.  I’m healthy, happy, reasonably secure.  I’m engaged all of a sudden in new ventures (adult band and the rental house).  I could lose a few pounds. All in all, though, I think I miss last summer more intensely than I miss six decades.

Thanks to all of you in my life who helped get me here.


Went up to the doc today for a checkback on my leprosy status.  The point of my elbow is still swollen and tender, which is probably a bursa sac still bitching about the gouging around they did getting a specimen to test.

The bigger issue I wanted to address was some alarming blood pressure readings I was getting over the weekend I was schlepping up to the ER to treat the infection, stuff like 167/96.  Blood pressure has never been on my radar, since I’ve always been OK, and I get a fair amount of exercise, and there’s not much family history.  But I’ve been a little wigged out the last couple of weeks since then, lying in bed listening to my heart rattling around in my chest and wondering when it would blow up, making abject promises to myself about losing weight, eating un-buttered toast, circumnavigating Antarctica on my bicycle.

It was hard to reconcile, though, with how good I felt, even hiking 10 miles at 3,500 ft or so down in Ashland, keeping to my Nautilus workout schedule, etc.

So, I approached my appointment today with more than a little trepidation, prepared to negotiate with my doc about bargaining lifestyle changes for a respite from drugs, wondering if (as with any visit to the doc) any discovery would affect my ability to secure insurance next year, since I’m self-employed and purchasing from the individual market.

So I wander into the office after a stressful drive there across the 520 bridge and through a thicket of red lights and clueless midday drivers and plop down for the triage.  Sweet deliverance.  My blood pressure is 132/83 (not bad for my age), and I’ve lost 5 pounds.

I feel like I’ve gotten a heart transplant, and the rhythmic clunk in my chest is my friend, not an enemy battering my gates.  I’m still gonna keep the weight loss thing going - I weigh about 160, and I should really weigh under 150 before I take my shirt off in broad daylight.

But it looks like I’m gonna live a bit longer.  I’d gotten into a mindset where I thought my longevity might be circumscribed by circumstances that I didn’t control, circumstances that contravened the assumption that I was good for another 25 years (based on genetics), and that I was owed a dividend from the exemplary lifestyle that I’ve crafted .

But then, I could have been killed driving up there, pumping a lethal amount of blood into the street regardless of the pressure behind it.

The message for the day is, I’m gonna live, but I’d better do some stuff before I get sideswiped by some other unforeseen medical malady.

Fear The Reaper?

These things kind of sneak up on you.  I turned 59 1/2 today, and while I’m certainly not so excited about birthdays at this stage of my life that I mark and celebrate half-birthdays, this one is remarkable for an inexplicable quirk in the tax code.  Today, if I had chosen, I could have withdrawn money from my IRA accounts without being subject to the 10% penalty that would have applied to any such withdrawal in the 35 years since my 25-year-old self started dropping his spare change off at some long-defunct bank. (I’ll still have to pay income tax on whatever I withdraw).

So, I wonder, what’s magic about being 59 1/2? (Ed: less and less!)  If I cross an eddyline in my kayak, there’s a palpable realignment as my bow gets jerked in a new direction.  I felt no such jolt today as I crossed into the downhill part of my 60th year.  Congress, however, must have felt, back in 1974, that 59 1/2 was the very moment when we need to pick up our scythes and start gettin’ the harvest in.

I think I’m going to play the grasshopper on this task for awhile, though, let things ripen and even do some additional planting.  It’s been a lousy growing season this year anyway, and I’m hoping for a long Indian summer.