A shopping trip


I had to take Peggy to the airport at 4:30 this morning, so, hating crowded stores as I do, I went grocery shopping on the way home. The main aisle of the store was crowded with young male stockers pushing large dollies. I watched in awe as they joked with one another while lifting heavy boxes, and I thought about how recently I could have done the same and how much I took it for granted. I recalled working on a roof one day when I was their age, and my employer/helper was in his sixties. Out of the blue, he paused and watched me for a long moment, and then he said, “You are a master, and I’m a past-master.” So did it seem to me today as I watched those young men. What was easy has become hard, and what was hard has become impossible. I used to do bicep curls with 45-pound dumbbells, and that was easier then than lifting a 30-pound bag of cat litter was this morning. How can it be that so much of my strength is gone, and I can’t get it back? Walking hurts my knees, exercise that helps my back hurts my shoulders, exercise that helps my shoulders hurts my back, and each of my two kinds of sleep apnea just keep getting worse, as does my memory if not my intelligence. I am made ever incredulous by my decline. Yet, as I watched those young men, I felt equally incredulous that in four decades, many of them will be as I am now. After all, they looked like gods, and gods are eternal.

When I took karate, I was impressed by tales of aged karate masters who had vanquished gangs of young hoodlums. I believed at the time that all ails could be remedied with diet, determination, and exercise, and that age itself could be postponed indefinitely. Now, I know the extent to which bad luck can overpower strength, and age can overpower anything. Still, it was hard for me this morning to believe it for those young men, just as it’s still hard to believe it for myself. I keep hoping that I will find a way to improve my situation, yet the years bring only decline. Despite my best efforts, I can’t turn it around, and the pills I take to ease the pain will almost surely shorten my life.

My friend, Gordon, died this year at 87. I remember him best for looking me in the eye with the haunted look of the Ancient Marnier as he said, time and again, “Old age ain’t for sissies.” I considered his warning trite, and got tired of hearing it, yet he said it with an earnestness that left no doubt but what the realization was eternally fresh in his mind, which I’m sure it was as he became ever more tormented by his failing body. Just as he never adjusted to his decline, so might it be for me, yet I have another friend who’s 94, and while he says he’s bothered by the fact that he can no longer do much of anything, I never see him but what he seems happy. I ask myself what he has to be happy about when all he can do is sit in a chair and watch TV. My best guess is that (a) he’s simply wired that way, and (b) unlike Gordon, he isn’t in pain, pain having the ability rob anything of enjoyment. I can not tell you what a burden it is in my life, yet I’m ever aware that there’s no law that says it can’t get even worse (it almost surely will), but there is a law that says narcotics can suddenly stop working. Oh, but how I dread that day.

* I wasn't so young in the photo, being 43 at the time, but it seemed appropriate since I was mugging for the camera. The picture was taken at a hot spring in Oregon's Alvord Desert.

32 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow. Another post from the hands of a master in making me ache.
Pain is a sucky beast. Which infiltrates and destroys every aspect of our life.
And yet, there is a piece of you which remains. Your questioning self.
You worry about your memory and your intelligence and I can only say (as a neurologist said of my mother) 'yes, damage has been done. But you started from a very high base.'
It can get worse, it likely will, but I hope (so much) that the time has not come. Yet.
Hugs and caring. As always.

Snowbrush said...

I share such things in order to feel better, which is very different from finding it desirable to cause people to feel distress on my behalf. Of course, I want people to care, but, on the other hand, I don't want them to see me too much as a victim. I have trouble enough with that on my own, plus I don't want people to feel so bummed that they go away.

Elephant's Child said...

It would take more than a post which makes me think and feel to drive me away. Not going to be a happening thing. And I certainly don't get the impression that you are setting out to yank on my heart strings. If it happens (which it does) it is my doing - not yours.

Stephen Hayes said...

I can share your pain without thinking of you as a victim. Ultimately, you are the one calling the shots in your life and I know you're capable of making the best decisions possible for you and your loved ones. Having said ths, I sincerely wish you weren't troubled by so much pain. Take care.

All Consuming said...

I think pain and age and life itself as it moves and pulls us along affects people so very differently that I'm often amazed at those who seem to be doing just fine despite a variety of ills and infirmity and those who have to fight to deal with it all. For all the good it may do to say - at least you had those years of ultra fitness, of god-like strength and movement. Your youth was a physically fit and healthy one and I'm so pleased it was. That may make the fall harder, but the ride up to the top must have been good too.

You've yet to bum me so much I'll go away. In England what I have just written is very risque, but I'm throwing it in anyway, devil-may-care because you've put up a picture of yourself in the buff with a winning smile and a very fine arse. Something for the laydeez there, and possibly the occasional gent.

Paula Kaye said...

As a woman, I see myself much the same way. Only instead of strength and abilities I must admit that I focus more on my looks. How my hair has lost most of it's color. How the age spots cover the backs of my hands. How my once perky chest now resides closer to my waistline. I, too, look at all these cheeky young girls and think to myself....you too will look like me someday. I like your thoughtful posts Snow!

kj said...

I have pain also, snow, and I know you manage to do more than I do and can. Using my past capacity is a yardstick of failure for me--I'll never measure up--so I try to stay active and I know I'm a better person in some important ways

I am now 66 and this year I am very aware of my advancing age. I think it's a developmental compass or something . But you and I are both upright. And astute. I know your level of pain holds you back in many areas. I have the feeling you have cut back on narcotics for pain control? I would guess you are in transition and transitions are tough. I know because I is :-)

You have fans and friends here, snow

Love
kj

Sissy said...

Gordon was correct; old age isn't for sissies. Each day sees me farther and farther behind with all my "Need 2s" and "Want 2s" and it scares me hopeless at times.

Sissy

rhymeswithplague said...

Don't get the wrong idea or anything, but I predict that if you can find 11 more photos of yourself that are that bum-alicious and put together a Snowbrush calendar, you will have enough income to sustain you and Peggy during your declining years.

ellen abbott said...

I have minor pains...lower back when I stress it from working too long at a time and mainly arthritis in my thumb joints, aggravated by making the art woks by which I make my living. They hurt just about all the time but compared to what you endure it is but a speck. I am very thankful that my health is still good and that I can still do just about everything at 64 that I have been able to albeit not for as long. I try to be ever vigilant against accidents but they happen suddenly and without warning and can change your life in a heartbeat. A mat slipped out from under me recently and I landed hard on my thigh and wrist. I was so afraid I had broken my wrist. I was lucky this time. May not be so lucky a next time.

Strayer said...

People love tragedy, I think, like to know others feel what they feel, but cannot or won't express it. You give words to what people go through. Aging and pain, most of us will experience these things if we aren't already.

PhilipH said...

Sudden death at any age is, in my opinion, preferable to growing old. We cannot see what life holds for us and neither would we want to.
We just take what life chucks at us and hope it doesn't hurt.

Snowbrush said...

"I have the feeling you have cut back on narcotics for pain control?"

No, I'm using more. Of course, I was on Fentanyl (a super strong painkiller) for over three months after I broke my back, but aside from that, I'm taking more narcotics than ever, partly because they help my back pain a lot more than they ever did my shoulder pain. For instance, I worked hard on a carpentry project yesterday that made it necessary to empty out much of the garage. I was in so much pain when I finished that I couldn't stand long enough to make supper. I took 25 mgs of oxycodone, and it enabled me to cook cabbage and black-eyed peas, and bake cornbread. I had watermelon for dessert, and then did housework. Without the oxycodone, I would have spent my evening either in a chair or in bed hurting too much to do anything but hurt. Obviously work costs me, yet I can't NOT work because if I don't work, then what's the point? It's also true that I hurt if I do nothing, and my guess is that, overall, work reduces more pain than it creates.

"Using my past capacity is a yardstick of failure for me--I'll never measure up--so I try to stay active and I know I'm a better person in some important ways"

Oh, certainly. I'm wiser, smarter, more capable, and more knowledgeable in many ways than those young gods at Winco, but, goddamn it, I want it all.

"Sudden death at any age is, in my opinion, preferable to growing old."

Not to argue, but some of us should handle it better emotionally than others, and it seems to me that the people who live into their nineties are the ones who handle it best. My father only lived to be 85, but he was that way. He bitched and whined his whole through until he got old and found Jesus. After that, he spent his days in contentment, reading his Bible, talking to the Lord, and telling Peggy and me what the Lord had said in response.

Snowbrush said...

"I have the feeling you have cut back on narcotics for pain control?"

No, I'm using more. Of course, I was on Fentanyl (a super strong painkiller) for over three months after I broke my back, but aside from that, I'm taking more narcotics than ever, partly because they help my back pain a lot more than they ever did my shoulder pain. For instance, I worked hard on a carpentry project yesterday that made it necessary to empty out much of the garage. I was in so much pain when I finished that I couldn't stand long enough to make supper. I took 25 mgs of oxycodone, and it enabled me to cook cabbage and black-eyed peas, and bake cornbread. I had watermelon for dessert, and then did housework. Without the oxycodone, I would have spent my evening either in a chair or in bed hurting too much to do anything but hurt. Obviously work costs me, yet I can't NOT work because if I don't work, then what's the point? It's also true that I hurt if I do nothing, and my guess is that, overall, work reduces more pain than it creates.

"Using my past capacity is a yardstick of failure for me--I'll never measure up--so I try to stay active and I know I'm a better person in some important ways"

Oh, certainly. I'm wiser, smarter, more capable, and more knowledgeable in many ways than those young gods at Winco, but, goddamn it, I want it all.

"Sudden death at any age is, in my opinion, preferable to growing old."

Not to argue, but some of us should handle it better emotionally than others, and it seems to me that the people who live into their nineties are the ones who handle it best. My father only lived to be 85, but he was that way. He bitched and whined his whole through until he got old and found Jesus. After that, he spent his days in contentment, reading his Bible, talking to the Lord, and telling Peggy and me what the Lord had said in response.

Snowbrush said...

"I certainly don't get the impression that you are setting out to yank on my heart strings."

I thank you for that. It's one thing to try to touch people with my truth--which in some ways is everyone's truth--and quite another to want them to look at me and say, "Oh, poor you."

"Ultimately, you are the one calling the shots in your life and I know you're capable of making the best decisions possible for you and your loved ones."

Thank you, Stephen. Peggy is forever wanting me to pull back on what I do, and I have done that to a large extent, but I'm determined to do everything I can short of putting myself in grave danger.

"I'm often amazed at those who seem to be doing just fine despite a variety of ills and infirmity and those who have to fight to deal with it all."

I think a main determinant is disposition, and I think our disposition is largely beyond our control. That said, if you live with significant pain, you're almost certainly going to live with depression if not despair.

"Your youth was a physically fit and healthy one and I'm so pleased it was. That may make the fall harder, but the ride up to the top must have been good too."

I don't know that anyone appreciates vitality until they lose it. It's like being born wealthy in that people tend to give themselves credit for what they have instead of seeing that it's a matter of luck who gets it and who doesn't.

"Only instead of strength and abilities I must admit that I focus more on my looks."

I wonder if this more a gender difference or more a result of still being in relatively good shape. If the latter, it will no doubt change as you continue to age.

"I, too, look at all these cheeky young girls and think to myself....you too will look like me someday."

No fellow marries a girl thinking that someday she will look much like her mother. I used to think that there were three categories of people, young, old, and regular with the first being where everyone starts, the last being where they end up, and the middle being a disease state that clean living can largely prevent, but in any case, certainly not something that happened to strong men, beautiful women--or to myself. The strength of obvious delusions is a wonder to behold.

"People love tragedy, I think, like to know others feel what they feel, but cannot or won't express it."

That's what I try to give, but one has to have it first, and I had rather not have it in regard to age and pain.

"Each day sees me farther and farther behind with all my "Need 2s" and "Want 2s" and it scares me hopeless at times."

This is another reason to stay busy. It's bad enough to have to deal with despair in the wee hours without sitting idle and dealing with it all day too.

Helen said...

You will never scare us away with honesty, candor and wit! Approaching 73, I get totally frustrated with what I can no longer do ... that 43 year old ME was graceful, flexible and supple. That 43 year old me could not have resisted you! Don't tell Peggy.

Charles Gramlich said...

Age trumps it all it seems. So I am finding

Joe Todd said...

Good morning Snow.. Just got news this morning a good friend of mine was taken to hosp last night and is in I.C.U. so will be going to hosp for a visit.. My friend is about 15 years younger than I am.. I am just trying to be grateful for what I have.. Probably going to be able to view this computer screen and click a mouse for awhile longer LOL

possum said...

Cute butt!*
That said, getting to the point of this post... I can identify completely. Currently dealing with a joint mouse, I feel the urge to scream with pain each time I get up and try to walk, yet I force myself to keep going - as you might say, otherwise, what is the point? Even tho it is a major struggle, I can still be grateful I managed to dress myself, feed the cats, get a cup of coffee for myself - and on the days when I rendezvous with Johnnie Deere out in the yard (and cut 2 acres of weeds and a little grass) then I am really proud of myself. Now if I could figure out how to get the kitchen floor washed, I'd be good to go!
Yeah, its a (Technical term for a female dog) but it ain't going away, so I must accept it and try to keep going - just like you are doing. And the cobwebs gather on my wheelchair.
*or was the point of the post to get compliments on your cute butt? LOL!

Snowbrush said...

"Currently dealing with a joint mouse"

Do you mean an arthritic joint, perhaps?

"I feel the urge to scream with pain each time I get up and try to walk, yet I force myself to keep going - as you might say, otherwise, what is the point?"

Indeed. By the way, do people tell you to "just pace yourself" and "not try to do so much"? God but I hate that because it comes from complete ignorance of how hard it is to know what will help versus what will hurt, and it ignores the fact that if I don't do what needs to be done, it won't get done. People often seem to think that I can either afford to hire a lot of help, or that my friends are amendable to doing my chores and keeping up my house and yard.

"its a (Technical term for a female dog)"

If you don't like "bitch," I guess you could move on to "bastard." Ha.

"I am just trying to be grateful for what I have."

Yeah, me too. I'm a tenth as fit as what I would like to be, but a thousand times better off than I could be. I hope your friend comes out okay.

possum said...

My joint mouse is a bone spur that broke loose and floats inside the knee joint, stabbing me as I move my knee. Eventually it will be disintegrated as I slowly grind it down to dust by forcing myself to keep walking. I do use the wheelchair at the Train Station when we have visitors so people don't hear me scream, cuss or cry when I try to get up and do things. But I leave the chair at the Station so I don't get dependent on it here at home.
I have a friend who says "Life barks" as her version of Life's a bitch! Woof!

Snowbrush said...

"My joint mouse is a bone spur that broke loose and floats inside the knee joint, stabbing me as I move my knee. Eventually it will be disintegrated as I slowly grind it down..."

Thank you. I hadn't heard the term, so now I'm wondering if it's your invention or if I'm just no longer a member of the cool clic. Anyway, let me guess. Either you can't afford to have it removed, or it scares you more to do that than to keep it. I'm just thinking about how grinding it down will be hell on your cartilage.

Sissy said...

Gordon was correct; old age isn't for sissies. Each day sees me farther and
farther behind with all my "Need 2s" and "Want 2s" and it scares me
hopeless at times.

kylie said...

your posts frustrate me enormously because i have such a strong belief that there MUST be something someone is missing here. you were so healthy, you seem to eat really well and do all the right things, it just doesnt make sense to me that you are suffering the way you are.
obviously i am naive.

i know a little of how you feel, i was never very able, physically, but as my disease progresses i lose more ability, lose stamina and my body acts way way older than i feel. i know a 90 year old who is probably more able than i am which is maddening.

such is life......

possum said...

Joint Mouse

A fanciful term for a free body in a synovial space, especially of the knee. Joint mice are composed of fibrous tissue covered by cartilage and measure 0.5–1.5 cm in diameter, classically seen in degenerative joint disease
DiffDx Joint mice are a relatively nonspecific finding; they may also be seen in synovial osteochondromatosis, chondrometaplasia, neuropathic arthropathy, osteoarthritis dissecans, pigmented villonodular synovitis, or gout

Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.

Furry Bottoms said...

Ah, look at that butt!!! Nice arse, very very nice!!! And there is no "pity me" sounding words or phrases in your post. I didn't hear it. Aside from being deaf, I mean. I didn't get that impression. You're just stating what is fact and true for yourself.

You said something about a law that narcotics can suddenly stop working one day. True. It can also GIVE you pain. I take narcotics for migraines... and saw the neurologist and he commented that the more often you take narcotics, the more likely you will GET a migraine. I scoffed at him. Until I paid more attention and damn, it was true. It really was true. I wonder what other kind of pain that law also applies to.

I moved up the opiates ladder. And I too dread the day it stops working. I don't care if it shortens my life. My quality of life sucks as it is, I would prefer to live my life in the best way possible, PAIN FREE, for however long I have than to suffer just to live longer.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

As someone who's had her fair share of debilitating accidents... I get it. And I miss the strength I once had!

Snowbrush said...

Well, damn, I had to put my response to Kylie in two parts, and I got them backwards, so I deleted my response and am starting over.


"i have such a strong belief that there MUST be something someone is missing here."

I well remember the day when I thought that if I could find the right doctor and get the right tests, my problems would be over. I've since given up hope in that because I've seen so many doctors over so many years and had every available test (and most of the treatments, including multiple surgeries) that any of them could think of, or that I could find on the Internet. As to the pain, it comes from two sources, and which source is emphasized depends upon whether the doctor I'm talking to is an orthopedist or a neurologist. The orthopedist would emphasize arthritis and, in the case of my knees, chondromalacia. The neurologist would blame the problem primarily on pinched nerves due to an osteonecrotic C5 vertebra and/or a crushed L1, and would treat me accordingly with surgery, and fluroscopically-guided steroid shots, and steroid pills, and pain killers, and vitamin and mineral supplements, and physical therapy, and Cymbalta, etc. I've also picked up other diagnoses, most notably syringomyelia and complex regional pain syndrome. The latter is one of the most dreaded diseases known, and the former isn't much better, but it appears that the internist who said I had complex regional pain syndrome was wrong, as was the pain specialist/neuroglogist who diagnosed syringomyelia. As you'll recall, on November 30, I tipped over a ladder and crushed my L1, an injury from which I will never heal, although I'm told that improvement is possible for up to year. One neurologist wanted to do surgery on me for that, but another didn't, and I agreed with the one who didn't based upon my own research into the problem.

continued

Snowbrush said...

I am currently more concerned about sleep apnea than pain. I bought a new CPAP in December, and was told in February that what I really needed was a more advanced machine called a BiPAP. Now, according to my respiratory therapist, it looks like I might need one more advanced than that. These damn things cost $3-$5-thousand each, and the more complex the machine, the higher the air pressures, and the harder it is to find a mask that doesn't leak too much to be effective. It's not unusual for me to have to adjust the mask scores of times in a single night, so to get enough sleep with that problem plus the pain is truly a...pain. Right now, I'm running up to 18 apneas an hour with a 25% drop in oxygen saturation, so that alone makes me feel like shit.

Two months ago, my doggone vitreous in my left eye came loose, so I can't see too good anymore out of that eye, but I can't get new glasses until the damage "evens out." The ophthalmologist said that when one eye goes, the other tends to follow, and that sometimes the retina goes with it making the threat of blindness a possibility even with surgery. If I were to put my mind to it, I could come up with a few more diagnoses (osteopenia and nocturnal bruxism immediately come to mind), but these are the main ones at this point.

"it just doesnt make sense to me that you are suffering the way you are."

Yeah, it's scary, isn't it, because I have lived a pretty healthy life, but I've also overstressed my joints. You wouldn't know this to look at me because I look so fit, but there are parts of me that are a mess. For example, I've been getting massages for my back pain, and on three occasions, the therapist ever so gently took each upper arm in turn and bent it once across my chest in the direction of the opposite shoulder. Just that little bit of motion in the wrong direction left me in increased pain for 2-3 nights. When I was finally sure it was her that was causing it, I naturally told her, and she stopped. On the one hand, I can do quite a lot of work, but on the other, even a little of the "wrong" movement can give me fits, so I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to avoid as well as how much work I can hope to get away with without my pain level going through the roof. As a consequence, I know more about what works and doesn't work for me than the best doctor or physical therapist out there, which is why I stopped going to physical therapists. The downside is that the more I "get away with" work-wise the harder I tend to go at it until my pain level hits me like a truck and forces me to stop working, sometimes for months. This always puts me into an emotional tailspin, as you might imagine.

Snowbrush said...

"A fanciful term for a free body in a synovial space, especially of the knee."

Probably I had heard the term at some point. I should think it would feel more like a jagged rock than a soft little mouse.

"Ah, look at that butt!!! Nice arse, very very nice!!!"

And here I thought it wouldn't be furry enough to please you!

"I take narcotics for migraines..."

Peggy gets one to three migraines a week, so I've studied them enough to know that narcotics are not a preferred treatment. Have you tried Zomig or Maxalt, and done what you can to eliminate triggers? Peggy thinks that Ambien might be one of the triggers for her, chocolate and fragrances being another. I've asked people who have come here to go to the bathroom and wash off their perfume. Peggy is too embarrassed to do it, but I'm not going to stand aside silently knowing that she will have a three-day-long headache if they don't.

"As someone who's had her fair share of debilitating accidents..."

A lot of people share the pain, as it were.

lotta joy said...

I was aghast that a blogger (not a friend of mine) commented on her post that I was old and fat. Those are two unforgivable failings.

Either one makes us fair game for those who will one day be one, if not both. But those who are younger have the belief it will never happen to them.

I knew the secret of youth when I was in my 20's was flexibility and practiced my yoga, knowing I'd NEVER have rigid limbs or muscles.

Now...I am what I once loathed. And I WILL be what I've always feared: WORSE, then dead.

All Consuming said...

I only come here for the laughs.


Dana - I'd like to kick the merry shit out of that absolute cow, verbally most likely, unless she was right here. It makes me so angry. She is a certain type pf person and will fall from a height one day, I only hope it's into a pit full of spikes and hungry alligators.