When I moved from Virginia to New Jersey one of the things I needed to do was find a new doctor. Dr. Klassett in Richmond had been my doctor since I was in my early 40’s. So when I went searching for a doctor in New Jersey, I had to fill out all new paperwork.
During the Roman Empire life expectancy at birth was 25 years. By the Middle Ages it had reached 33 years. By the early 1900’s, 55 years.
Thanks to advances in medicine, healthier eating, exercise, and gene research, I’ll probably live longer than my mom and dad did. My children will live longer than I will. Their children will live longer than they will. And so forth. If you’re a parent, that is the most comforting news you will ever hear.
Yes, even in a worldwide pandemic, it’s a good time to be alive.
And with every milestone birthday, the same platitudes are heartily given and received.
“Hey, Steve, don’t worry. 50 is the new 30.”
“Hey, Steve, don’t worry. 60 is the new 40.”
“Hey, Steve, don’t worry, 100 is the new 97. I said 100 is the new 97!!! I said!!!…never mind.”
I could just as easily have titled this post, “News flash! We’re all going to die.” But there’s more at work here than the inevitable. Let’s get back to the paperwork I’m filling out to find a new doctor.
Dear Stephen Bassett, your Annual Checkup is designed to focus on the health problems seniors are more likely to face. Please answer the attached questions.
Because of any health problems, do you need the help of another person with eating, bathing, dressing, or getting around the house?
Can you go shopping for groceries or clothes without someone’s help?
Can you prepare your own meals?
Can you handle your own money without help?
Can you safely travel alone on a bus, taxi, or in your own car?
Have you fallen in the past year? How many times?
How often do you feel that you lack companionship?
The list of questions goes on and on for pages. I started thinking, how would my mom and dad have answered these questions as they were gripped by failing health?
The very first blog I wrote, The Power to Unsell, was about how my mom and dad suffered and died from COPD. My younger sister was their live-in caregiver and added at least five years on to their lives. Bless you, Pat. No more precious gift could ever be given.
In one of my last conversations with my dad, he said, “Your mom and I have gotten ourselves into a bad place.”
I am in relatively good health for a man my age. I never smoked. I exercise three or four times a week. I’m not overweight. Thanks to Fari, I eat healthier than ever.
On the other hand, it’s clear that I no longer have the strength or stamina of a 40-year-old man
Last weekend, Fari’s son, Jimmy, and I tackled the remains of a huge tree stump buried underground. He wanted to plant some smaller bushes in that exact spot. I could still swing an ax, but I obviously didn’t have the range of motion or the strength that Jimmy had. Not even close. In other words, I swung the ax like a 70 year old man. In other words, I spent a lot more time leaning on the ax than I did swinging it.
The Ghost Of Christmas Future is already visiting each of us, whether we’re one or 71 and whether we like it or not. He showed Scrooge a dismal future unless Scrooge changed his ways. The Ghost of Christmas Future is delivering the exact same message to you and to me.
If you want to see what the Ghost of Christmas Future looks like, take a look at my dad in my very first post.
The photo I’m using for this post is from a Christmas Past. My mom and dad have everything in front of them except any thoughts of dying. Compare the two pictures. Like it or not, we’re all traveling down the same road.
“Your mom and I have gotten ourselves into a bad place.”
Here’s my early Christmas wish to everyone. No matter what your age, no matter what health cards life has dealt you, don’t get yourself into a bad place. Live the best you can with what you have for as long as you can. You decide how you’ll live the Christmases to come however many that may be.
Okay, now back to my senior questionnaire.
During the past four weeks, how much bodily pain have you generally had?
I checked the box that said No Pain.
Hmm? But what about the day after Jimmy and I chopped away at that huge tree stump? In the end, I stuck to my answer. No Pain.
Sure, I could barely get my ass out of bed the next morning. But that wasn’t the question, was it?