On Growing Older – Part 1, by A.E.

I am growing older and have celebrated the birthdays to prove it. Note that I am not calling myself old…It is too easy to convince yourself that you shouldn’t do something because you are old. No excuses, but there are limits. Instead, I continue to make my to do lists and push forward as best I can, testing my limits and recognizing that the joints are stiffer, the muscles weaker and the stamina slipping. There is no avoiding the slow march of time and the effects on the human body. The most we can hope for is to slow it down.

I am better off than most of my peers, and I attribute that to good genes, walking like I have a destination, and also to my chiropractor. In my early years he suggested that I join a health club, lifting weights and riding the bike to equalize my stresses and strengths since we will normally use or overuse one side of the body. The right side of my body, being my dominant side, was developed much more than the left and that caused stresses and pains that most of the time I just ignored. I still follow his advice even thoough, and  I haven’t worked construction in many years.

Now in my 80s, I have thick bone density and blood pressure is 129/79 and a resting pulse of 62. Not trying to brag, a lot of that is due to the walking and regularly visiting health clubs — right up until the Covid problem. If nothing else, walk, ride a stationary or regular bike, swim…If you can’t do any of that, then paddle your feet while sitting, do arm curls with a couple cans of beans in a plastic shopping bag. Anything to get the blood circulating better than when acting as a stationary lump. Move, or something will catch up.

No, I am not an Adonis in stature and never will be. I’m in good shape for the shape I’m in…which is 80+ plus years, out of condition, and overweight. I’ll keep working at it.

Growing older means that you need to plan how to make things easier and more organized. A case in point, I have multiple totes and buckets packed and stacked, sitting on some inexpensive 4-wheel moving carts from Harbor Freight. If I need to move them, just carefully give them a shove or pull. Just don’t stack them too high, it’s too easy to tip tall stacks. Remember, heavy goes on the bottom, light on top. Label them! Date them. Spray some bug killer around the back corners and crevices where they are to stored before moving the units into place. Throw some D-con under the units. Yes, I know the bug/rat killers are nasty; bugs/rats are nastier, so just let the areas air out before moving the totes into place.

Other things need to be addressed as well. For example, in the get home packs in the cars I’ve gone heavy on comfortable socks and gloves as well as bottles of Ibuprofen. If I have to walk more than three miles at a whack, I’ll need them. There are also over-the-counter drugs such as antihistamines and some prescription-only items. Do not save space by repackaging any medications, especially prescriptions. If for any reason your vehicle and packs are searched, having unidentified medications will be a complicating factor that you don’t need. It’s not worth it. A friend spent four hours at the border while the agents tracked down the identification of the repackaged antihistamines and decongestant pills she had in a backpack. Imagine the crud she’d have faced for missing prescription labels on opioids.

I also have stop the bleed kits-tourniquets, roll gauze, large absorbent pads, quik clot, rolls of sports tape and SAM splints in their own bag. That’s in addition to a heavy first aid/owie kit. I was gifted years ago with some very high end wool blankets that are stored in large Ziploc bags to complement the emergency medical stuff. I have been lucky enough to never need to use any of these pieces even though I have trained on using it. Which reminds me, It’s been a couple years since my last training.

I also don’t go out in the fall to play tag with Bambi down in the willows. I could do it, but I don’t want to put myself in a position that search and rescue needs to come after me. Cost vs benefit. For me, the joy of hunting was more important than the shooting. It isn’t that my horizons are closing in, It’s more what I can realistically enjoy without creating problems for others as well as myself.

The other thing about growing older, the number of people that can tell tales about my youthful stupidities are decreasing due to funerals. While that may mitigate my embarrassment, it also means I need to be the teller of those tales, usually in a humorous manner if possible. Horrified disbelief by the listeners adds spice. Through using poor judgment, if you survive, you may arrive, later in life, using good judgment. The reason you need to keep the tales alive is to remind yourself of how you got here and what not to do. It can also be a cautionary tale to younger generations, if they believe you.

In my youth, I received an excellent education, one I didn’t appreciate until later. Other than reading, writing and arithmetic; manners, courtesy and a willingness to pitch in on projects without being asked was of equal importance. I had the importance of manners and courtesy pointed out, after high school, at one of the first schools I went to: The secretary had her arms full and I stepped past two other guys to open the door, hold it, and offered a hand with her bundles. She stepped into the door way, turned and suggested to the other guys standing around that they really should invest in learning some manners. She commented that women were much more impressed by manners than macho, and it was apparent that I was the only one there with any manners. Of course, after that my nickname was Galahad…and that was okay. She was an older woman, must have been all of thirty.

Schools are not the end of an individual’s education, they just provide a foundation for the future. Learn some mechanics (at least learn how to check/change the oil, antifreeze, and transmission fluids…amazing how many people don’t know anything about these necessary items) and carpentry (can you put up shelving, wall mount televisions). Get first aid courses and materials for problems OJT may give you. Learn how to sew, wash clothes, and cook. (Mom insisted that all her kids learned to cook, sew and clean- just part of my early education) Can you run a tractor or a chainsaw? If you find something of interest outside of your “track”, dig into it! You may discover that what you have ignored for most of your life can be fun and interesting! In short, don’t be fat, dumb, and unhappy. Work at finding some joy in your life. (A friend of mine is a very good lawyer…I think he’d almost prefer to be a carpenter.)

Read news articles, fiction, technical pieces, things you agree with and things you don’t. (I read “Great Expectations” and “Julius Caesar” in literature class…didn’t care for them, but I could discuss them.) Find an unfamiliar word? Look it up. If you listen to Fox News, then listen also to CNN. (Sometimes their ideas/words feel like 20 grit sandpaper.) If you don’t know both sides from others’ point of view, how can you have a real view of the world. How can you discuss things with a friend or acquaintance who has a different viewpoint, when you don’t understand the background of theirs. I have had great discussions over a cup of coffee with people of very different backgrounds. ie: a Playboy Bunny who was getting her degree and was as smart and articulate as she was attractive, a bank president who commented that his board of directors were his greatest problem as they kept expecting things to get back to ‘normal’, an electrical engineer who blacked out part of a state. (He said “oops’ among other things.) People in different backgrounds and occupations can be fascinating and the information from them may be useful and important to your survival.

I have also had coffee with people I’ll never want at my back, never really want to talk to ever again, and some that outright scare me. I would never be able to make those judgments without manners and conversation skills backed by a wide range of knowledge. I was/am still courteous to them. The ability to discuss many things knowledgeably with courtesy and manners is critical…I think the modern name for the activity is “networking.”

There are people that are rude, crude, obnoxious and do it intentionally. They try to elicit a negative response and then use it against you. When dealing with them, continue with the manners and courtesy and walk away. If you find yourself mousetrapped into dealing with them, make sure there are witnesses and any agreements are on paper. Continue with the manners and courtesy even more so: they benefit you more than the other party. Then too, It can really mess with their heads when you don’t react to their abuse. Again, get any agreement in writing. If it isn’t in writing and clearly stated, it doesn’t exist. Special note: when walking away from these abusers, watch your back. Your manners and courtesy may be seen as weakness.

If a person has a particular belief that they are hung up on and you know it to be wrong, gentle disagreement and logic, not belligerence is the approach. The harder you push your viewpoint, the more likely they are to push back. When they start to yell, they can’t hear you. Sometimes it is more important to ask a question, an oblique approach preferably, such as: how much will that cost if everyone is involved? Should we bring back crucifixion? What if a college education isn’t right for him? If reason doesn’t work, let it go unless someone’s life is dependent on the facts as you know them. Just make sure to keep track of their beliefs. There are some people out there that I choose not to associate with, that have ideas and viewpoints that I can’t/won’t accept. I still treat them with courtesy, until there is reason not to.

With aging, there is the prospect of retiring. My view is, if you like what you do and are physically able, then why retire? If you do retire, retire to something, not from. Several people I have known, retired to do nothing. They gloried in the fact they could sit on the patio in the morning and have a second, third, or fourth cup of coffee. They could sit there all day! They had no hobbies, no interests outside of work. They had no heart or blood pressure problems, but within several years of retirement they died, usually a heart attack or stroke. Basically, they wilted on the vine. The successful retirees I know, are active in part time/full time jobs, volunteer services, play golf daily, go fly fishing, or travel. They are the ones that live long and prosper; old age has to chase them down.

If you live long enough, you may go from being considered a real nut case in other people’s view, to being eccentric, and therefore more acceptable.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)