The spouse bounded out of bed this morning, jumped in the shower…and came out an old man. Apparently he bent down to pick up the soap, a simple movement he has accomplished effortlessly hundreds of times, except today something was different. Something pulled or twisted or stretched and now his leg refuses to work correctly.
The spouse went into the shower, but Granpappy Amos came out. If you’re a Baby Boomer you probably remember Granpappy Amos as the crotchety grandfather from The Real McCoys, a television series from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Grandpa Amos, played by Walter Brennen, had a bum leg and a distinctive walk. Now the spouse is dragging around his right leg and wincing when he sits down.
Where do these mysterious aches and pains come from? I understand being sore from exercise, or hurting from an accident or illness, but how can I go to bed perfectly healthy and wake up aching? Several weeks ago my shoulder started hurting, not constantly, but off and on. I couldn’t sleep in my usual position because it hurt my arm. Just as mysteriously as it appeared, the pain went away. I hope the spouse’s leg will follow the same course and will resolve itself.
One of the challenges of getting older is not knowing what pains to pay attention to and what pains to ignore. How do I know what is just a normal ache of an aging body and what is a sign of an impending medical crisis?
I do not want to be that senior citizen whose primary topic of conversation is her medical problems. In the years before her death my mother’s main social interaction was travelling from one specialist to another, and then reporting every interaction in minute detail to anyone who would listen, over and over again. She seemed to take pleasure in every new diagnosis. Each new symptom was cause for another trip to the lab for tests and to one or more specialists for treatment. Every ailment brought her back to the spotlight.
I don’t want to be that old person who desires companionship but doesn’t know how to ask for it. With my mother it was difficult to know when she was really ill and when she was seeking attention, like the little boy who cried wolf.
But, maybe along with the aches and pains that age is bringing me, there will be some wisdom. Perhaps the universe is providing me the opportunity to reflect on my past and giving me the opportunity to learn. I may have developed more empathy for my mother, but I hope I won't be condemned to repeat her mistakes.