An awful lot has been written about getting older. There is also a lot of awful writing about getting older. There is information about failing vision and hearing but most of what is written is that “best time of life” crap. As far as I know there is no information out there on the sudden, instant onset of old age. I have found that you don’t have a lot of time to consider getting older, rather one just wakes up one day and realizes “Shit, I’m old!!” It does not always happen as a result of the years that have been accumulated because most of us think of ourselves as fairly young until the “Oh Shit” day. Then it happens. You start to notice that things that were never scary or intimidating or painful now give you pause.
Waiting for a slow elevator at the office, someone suggests the stairs. In years past I would have led the way. Now I give the elevator button a frantic jab and silently pray for the ding of its arrival. On that rare occasion when the elevator does come I have restrain myself from bursting into a chorus of “Blessed Assurance.” When it fails to arrive I change in mid-prayer to please don’t let me embarrass myself. I try to keep up with the others but if my knees had a voice they would be screeching and screaming like the zombies on that television show. And then I feel the sweat coming on. I hope it’s not running down my face but I can feel it popping out on my forehead. Then my purse suddenly is 10 pounds heavier and my lungs are begging me to gasp for air. But I fight on, maintaining normal breathing, which brings the sweat even more profusely. I feel it trickling down my lower back and soaking my neck. At last we arrive on the second floor and I fling myself out the door and away from the others as quickly as possible, mopping my face on a tattered Kleenex.
Equally bad is low slung, squishy furniture. Coffee shops have those chairs and couches that I used to migrate toward and now avoid at all costs. Getting up requires that I activate my super powers and shush those damn complaining knees. And what to do when it’s suggested that we just sit outside? Oh sure, I was hoping to acquire a few more age spots and break into another sweat since my clothes are almost dry from the stairwell/sweat lodge.
Amazingly these things happen seemingly overnight. One day you are hopping up and down as nimble as a jackrabbit and the next your knees are like those of the tin woodman. Once upon a time I could jump up from a low slung chair and walk directly away and then all of a sudden I had to try several times to hurl myself up and then stand still for a minute to get my balance, all the while pretending I was just pausing to look around my chair for forgotten items. I loved to sit outside in the sun and would sit like a lizard soaking up the warmth. Now all that lovely warmth has moved inside my body where an active furnace churns out so much heat that I swear that I could radiate enough to warm an entire house.
My knees have had a hard life. They bear still visible scars from learning to ride my first bike. They, along with my hefty legs, have carried me many miles running and walking. Those knees have absorbed those awful collisions with the dishwasher door, the car door, and a few, really embarrassing falls. And, I have never taken them for granted. I marveled that I could run for miles, never sidelined by those common knee problems. Until the “Oh Shit” day, that is. I guess I got the good from them but the next time someone tells me that aging is all in the mind I will tell them they are damn liars. It is not in my mind. It is in my knees.