As I write this post, I am sitting in my cardiologist’s office awaiting a nuclear stress test. There is no particular
urgency, except for the fact that I am blessed with an overly cautious doctor who believes in preventive medicine. The appointment would not be notable except for the fact that tomorrow at 12:01 A.M., I turn 55 years old.
In the past, birthdays have not been a big thing for me. It was simply another day. Perhaps the fact that I was born five days before Christmas, and rarely received a gift without the disclaimer, “This present is for your birthday and Christmas”, has something to do with it. I really don’t know, but it was always just another day.
Unlike friends who freaked out when they turned 30, 40, or even 50, I took them in stride. I just couldn’t be bothered to care. Why then, does turning 55 cause me such angst?
During the last five years, I had a major health scare. My doctor sent me to the emergency room for what I thought was at worse bronchitis or pneumonia, only to find that I had a blood clot in each of my lungs. I remember thinking that I’d been walking around with not one, but two potential killers in my lungs. Of course, the ER doctor, who’d obviously missed the med school class on tact and bedside manners, said, “You could have dropped dead at any moment.” “Duh,” I thought, thank you very much for stating the freaking obvious.
Anyway, God, the Angels and Saints and my Guardian angels were looking after me, so they caught the offending emboli in time. After four days In the hospital, The hospital released me and sent home on daily blood thinners. Because of the risks caused by the blood thinners, I became very familiar with the techs at the blood lab.
I suppose that it goes without saying that this was a huge scare for me. For weeks, I would go to bed, but I couldn’t sleep because I was terrified that if I did, I wouldn’t wake up. At some point, it dawned on me that the risk of a reoccurrence was remote because I was on blood thinners, but still, the event got my attention. I mean, I’d lived with migraines forever, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and more for years, and most recently fibromyalgia. The difference was that none of them confronted me with the inevitable fragility of this thing that we call life.
Of course, I knew that my life could end at any moment, but when you are young, you hold on to the notion that ‘any moment’ is not now or in the foreseeable future. The young live in an alternate universe where death happens to others but curiously, not to them. Like the rest of us, sooner or later they succumb to reality. Perhaps it is the increasing aches and pains that don’t magically disappear, or the one minute mile that turns into 2, or the fact that staying out “late” unconsciously becomes 10 P.M., instead of midnight or later, or any number of not so subtle hints. In any event, as we age, the ‘merry old land of oz’ dissipates and we are dumped on our behinds in Kansas. The fantasy becomes our wicked reality.
Whatever, the reason for my ‘awakening,” during the last five years, the impossible or remote has become a reality and it scares the hell out of me. I find that facing this hard cold reality sucks the big one! I’d rather live in denial with my head merrily stuck in the clouds. Well, not really.
Getting older is not a bad thing and why we fight it, I don’t know. The fact remains that it is going to happen whether you want it or not. You can go in fighting against it, or you can use that acquired wisdom to fashion a life that is not dependent upon age. What I am saying is that one is funny because they are funny human being, not because of their age; one is kind because they are kind, not because of their age, not because of their age; one is compassionate because they are compassionate human beings, not because of their age. Age is a number, not a sentence. As George Burns stated, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” Wisdom is a gift of aging, but I am going to kick and scream to maintain the sense of awe, fun and curiosity of the young.
P.S. I intended this post for yesterday. I am happy to post that my stress test was perfect and showed no problems.