The aging process continues its depressing task of slowly but surely dismantling my physical and mental capabilities. I was glad to have dimming eyesight so that I did not have to scrutinize my physical appearance in the mirror. However male pride and the need for 500W bulbs in every room demanded that I should make my eyesight the "best" it could be. So, I had cataract surgery that was very successful, or was it? I could see the color white for the first time in 30 years, I had 20/40 distance vision and only needed glasses for reading. I could now see everything clearly. Everything! And the scariest was my face in the mirror first thing in the morning. I would love a mirror that has the ability to make me look like I look, in my mind's eye, Paul Newman's younger brother. I am still looking, and hoping!! I then noticed on close inspection that my eye lids had sufficient skin in them that if removed and stretched would make a very satisfactory sail for an ocean-going yacht. So, stage two eyelid surgery. It was successfully completed and my peripheral vision has given me a new panorama view of the world. So two surgical successes under my belt, what next?
At this point I forced myself to a screeching halt. What am I doing? I am 75 not 25. My wife is 75 not 25. Even our kids are well over 25. If I was to look 25, what would I do with my 75-year-old body and mind? Would I like a 25-year-old wife? Hell no! Maybe when I was 25, but now? So what exactly am I intending to do with this 75 year old body? Am I about to fall into the trap of a "full body" rejuvenation? I am really comfortable with being 75, retired, filling my days with activities that I want to do. If I was to look 20 years younger, would I lose all my old friends, would I have to adopt the behaviors of someone 20 years younger and start exercising again! Hell no! I did the two surgeries to improve my quality of life. To stop me falling over things and bumping into large obstacles for a while, at least.
As I have reflected on my newfound vision, seeing the world as if for the first time with all of its magnificent landscapes, colors, movement of rivers and skies, the wind moving through the branches of leaf clad trees. Re-appreciating it all for the miracle that it is and enjoying it for free. How many other things can you do and get such enjoyment from at no cost?
I began to think about other technological advances that have made my life so wonderful. The advances in medicine and science that have added dramatically to our lifespan, comfort, and enjoyment. It has made the world much smaller and our ability to connect with other people one at a time or in large groups across countries gives us so many advantages over our ancestors. Unfortunately none of these advances can give me a brain or memory upgrade! However, given that we can be resourceful and cunning, we can make lifestyle modifications without losing any significant quality of life. Not to mention that on many occasions, you can use these defects to your advantage.
There are things that from a physical comfort perspective are essential as joints wear out, accidents happen, and many other misfortunes that we will encounter during our lives. When they come along, we just have to make that quality of life decision and plan our lives accordingly. When I was young I would worry about looks, now I worry about functionality. When I was young, I wanted to be the fastest runner, the best athlete, now I am delighted to be fully mobile. A dear 90-year-old friend of mine described to me one day what his daily routine was in just getting up out of bed, and getting washed and dressed in the morning. He told me cheerfully and with a wry smile on his face. At that moment, he became my hero. The "new" me is the one that I look at in the mirror every morning. I can love him or hate him, I choose love.
Roy Houston is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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