Thursday, March 17, 2011

Aches, Pains and Aging

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.


  1. How funny that you would mention Granpappy Amos!
    I've been walking with that hitch, complete with the elbows jerking up behind me for a couple of weeks. The toe has caused the knees to hurt from compensating for the bad gait...and on and on.

    I'm counting on warm weather to make everything all better. :-)

    I hope your husband feels better, and I think you are in little danger of becoming your mother in that (not uncommon after all) way. If you start, you'll hear yourself and . . . stop it.

  2. I sympathise - especially as I know just what you mean about the aches and pains of old age! This getting old is a bit of a bugger, isn't it?

  3. My mother also loved to chronicle her aches and pains, and I listened with anxiety, thinking of how it must be to get old. Now I'm old, and it's not so bad, other than those out-of-the-blue twinges that sometimes really hurt! I've learned to be careful with certain movements, but I remember I got those even when I was young!

  4. Hope your husband feels better soon. My husband and I (we're in our 40's) have been talking a lot about aches and pains lately. We just had a recent conversation where we were wondering how that became a regular topic for us.

  5. It sounds to me like the spouse tweaked the sciatic nerve. I would guess it was done, not bending down but, straightening back up.
    In any event, I commiserate.

  6. Food for thought. I also hope I can remain pleasant to be around in my last years. A lot of older people have a hard time learning the world does not want to hear about their aches and pains.

  7. This post really speaks to me. I do NOT want to become my mother! Except.. why has my elbow hurt so much these past few days? I didn't know this was a symptom of lung cancer (an ailment I am secretly, bravely nursing, preferring - for the sake of my family - it will remain undiagnosed until my uncomplaining yet agonising death). The reason I MUST catnap in the afternoon is because I simply don't have the energy to keep on through the day, battling as I am with (insert a wry, long suffering smile)another chronic fatigue, as of yet to be diagnosed, illness.

    I battle on, never let it be said I complain (sighhhh)..

  8. Have you been listening to me and my husband lately? The thing that amazes me is how the aches and pains shift from one day to the next. I try to keep my mouth shut, but just like Shrinky, I am fighting all those yet to be diagnosed illnesses. :)

  9. Oh, how true! One minute you are full of energy and the next, a little thing causes big pains. We forget that even with exercise our muscles and joints are getting old and are hardly used the way they were meant to be used. So, a slip and we're on our back for weeks.

    My sympathies.

  10. I'm just starting to get some mysterious aches and pains ...and I'm only in my 40s!, I think it is a good lesson to learn not to always complain about your problems. Hope hubby's pain disappears soon.

  11. Oh, I'd forgotten about the McCoys. This getting older stuff has us both spending much more of our time and discretionary income on chiropractic and massage visits, trying to get more good miles out of bodies we haven't necessarily taken the best care of before now.

    This was a really thoughtful and poignant post.

  12. I just came over from Deb's (Catbird Scout) and I had to leave a comment on this post. I'm 52 and understand much too much about these mysterious aches and pains! Even so, I appreciate this age like none other!

  13. P.S. I've added a link to your blog over on my site.


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