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DOES THE MORE, THE MERRIER APPLY TO SENIOR MOMENTS?


More is better, I’m told, so I guess I’m getting better by the day. Only weeks shy of my 81st birthday, my senior moments seem to be multiplying.


Heading out on an errand recently, I grabbed what I thought was my water bottle. It wasn’t. It was two pork chops we had put out to thaw for dinner. I realized my mistake before I got out the door. 


(Question: If you saw an older neighbor leaving the house with two uncooked pork chops in his hand, should you call the police, mind your own business and keep quiet, or offer to come over for a barbecue?)


Waking up from a nap the other day, I reached for my water bottle to take a drink. Well, it eventually turned into a short drink because I spilled most of the water on my left leg. This was very refreshing on a hot day, and I may start doing this intentionally until cool weather arrives in November. 


(Question:  If you see an old man pouring water on his leg, should you call the police, mind your own business and keep quiet, or ask him to pour some on you?)


My wife and I say everything to each other at least twice, including “hello” when I first see her on returning from the gym. About once a week when I think Irene has said “hello,” she hasn’t. What she’s really said was “bring up some orange juice from the basement,” which, although I’m not a linguist, has a few more syllables than “hello.” Other mornings when I tell her, “I brought you a roll,” she responds, “Yes, hello.” 


(Question: Should we call the ear doctor and both make immediate appointments, investigate soundproofing the house so none of the neighbors can hear these conversations or do absolutely no talking until breakfast is over and Irene has eaten her roll and I’ve brought up the orange juice?) 


We like rice and frequently have it for dinner. One bag is too much for two people, but we seldom have any left over. That’s because while it’s cooking we’re watching the evening news, and by the time one of us remembers to go to the kitchen the bottom inch of the rice is firmly stuck to the pan. 


(Question: Should we call the fire department and ask them to recommend a home fire extinguisher, stop watching the evening news or start fixing quinoa and then learn how to pronounce it?)


There is new wallpaper in the room adjoining our bedroom. While I was with Irene when she picked it out, I didn’t pay any attention to what she was selecting. It takes a certain kind of man—frankly one with bad genes—to occupy the premises of a wallpaper store for more than three or four minutes. This wallpaper is bright blue and very cheery, the sort of thing that would go in a baby‘s room. 


(Question: Should I call the police and ask if I’m in the wrong house, start wearing sunglasses to bed or tell Irene we need to have a long talk one of these mornings about a secret she might want to let me in on?)

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(This first appeared in the September 2018 issue of the Great South Bay Magazine.)

It was first posted on this website September 8, 2018.

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It’s Hard To Know What To Ask The Doctor (or The Vet)

 

When there’s a medical emergency, you’re scared and overwhelmed and either don’t ask enough questions or the right ones. Irene, my wife, had chest pains recently and we went to a hospital and, though it didn’t seem like it at the time, things began moving quickly.


Our late Tuesday night trip to the emergency room was followed by several tests, a diagnosis that her aortic valve didn’t open properly, a transfer to another hospital and a Friday morning operation to make everything better.


The night before the operation we met the surgeon who explained what he was going to do, the potential risks and rewards. When he said Irene would be given a bovine valve, our daughter, Julie, immediately said “moo.”


I’m the trusting kind, and it was a relief to see that the doctor’s hands didn’t shake and his smock wasn’t the kind Indy 500 drivers wear with Pennzoil and Tums patches.


Within a week Irene was home, and then I began thinking of all the questions I should have asked. An internet search told me a bovine valve could be from a cow, a buffalo or a kudu. After looking up what a kudu is, I discovered there is a lesser kudu and a greater kudu. Isn’t that just swell. If the new valve does its job, are we going to find ourselves giving kudos to a kudu?


Since we didn’t ask what sort of valves the surgeon uses, let’s say the new one now in Irene’s chest is from a good old cow from the good old USA. Did it have a name, something besides Elsie? Is there an etiquette followed in valve replacements? Are you expected to write a thank you note to the owner of the cow?


When Irene is fully recovered and ready for a long car ride, should I avoid the farm areas we like in Long Island and southern Vermont because she will want me to stop the car so she can get out and graze?


During the time we lived in Germany, we bought a cow bell. It’s somewhere in a closet or our messy basement. Am I going to catch Irene sneaking around looking for the bell? Should I keep a close watch on her part of our American Express bill to see if she is secretly ordering salt blocks? (Just for the heck of it, I priced one the other day on the internet—a 25 pound block was going for $3.99. Is that a fair price?)


From now on when it’s time for shots will she need to schedule visits both to a doctor and a veterinarian? What are the chances this new valve will take control of her body and she will suddenly start walking on all fours? Who do you call in such circumstances? 911 or the SPCA?


She won’t like me saying it, but she snores a bit. If cows snore, is the “bit” bound to become a lot?


We have a follow-up appointment soon with the surgeon, and I need to figure out a way to have a private chat to run some of these questions by him. I don’t know what I’m going to do if he has a big picture of a kudu on his wall. Will I look like a real dummy if I don’t know if it is a lesser or a greater kudu?


I can joke about this because Irene is making good progress. Normally I show my essays to her. Not this one. I’ve already spent enough time lately in hospitals.

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(This appeared originally in the June, 2017 issue of Great South Bay Magazine.)

Posted on my website June 6, 2017.

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WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EIGHTY


Having turned 80 several months ago, I feel it’s my duty to pass along to younger folks what to expect when you get to be my age.


DOCTORS: Not only will you see your doctors more often, many of them will begin to look worse than you do. Their smocks have also seen better days and have smudges on them, suspicious smudges probably from chocolate.


MEDICAL BILLS: Your medical statements will get longer, sometimes 15-16 pages long with row after row of odd notations. One recent statement said that Larry McCoy was “not currently a tobacco.” I take it I may have been a tobacco in the past. I’m looking forward to my status being defined in future statements. Will they say I’m “not currently a tomato” or maybe that I am “currently a trombone”?


DENTISTS: When you go for a cleaning, your dental hygienist will declare that you are doing a terrible job in the home care department and will list all the equipment you should use daily, or even hourly, to protect your gums, teeth and, just to be safe, your tonsils. There’s dental floss, a gum stimulator, little brushes that you gouge between misbehaving teeth and bitter mouthwash. If you did everything the dental experts suggest, there would be four hours left in the day for eating, sleeping, TV watching and two bathroom breaks.


NAMES: It gets harder to remember all kinds of things, including names, and people are annoyed when you call them by the wrong name. At my gym, the regulars include a Bill and a Bob, and I make it easy on myself by simply calling both of them Bill-ob. I say it so fast neither one of them notices.


TALL TALES: All your grandkids are now old enough to talk back to you when you make up ridiculous stories about Grandma. If you claim, “You know your grandmother used to go bowling with Abraham Lincoln” one of them will say, “No she didn’t. That’s not true.” It’s not their quick response that hurts. It’s the disgusted shaking of the head.


TELEVISION: Through absolutely no fault of your own, it will be increasingly difficult to understand what is said on TV, especially those British programs on PBS. The few actors who don’t have a heavy accent are schooled in the art of mumbling. After a blur of British English whizzes by, don’t be reluctant to ask your partner, “Did you understand any of that?” Odds are she or he will say, “Maybe two words.” Take that as a comforting response.


PHONES: The decline of civilization will be underscored in your mind when you learn that a new iPhone costs four times as much as your first used car. You will conclude that the universe is upside down when teenagers would rather stare at their phones for hours than borrow mom or dad’s car and drive around aimlessly for hours.


CHORES: When the younger grandkids come into the kitchen after dinner, you will be the only one there who has ever washed and dried a pan by hand. Or has even heard of doing so. There will be no volunteers to learn this skill.


MAIL: You never get anything important in the mail, but you can’t wait to see that there is nothing. The delivery seems later every day, and occasionally there is a letter that is sort of yellow and smells of cheese. You debate whether this should be immediately reported to the local postmaster or whether to devise a plan to catch the mail carrier sitting in the van eating Cheetos.


I’ve always liked the line by country music’s Billy Joe Shaver, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m gonna be a diamond some day.” If that’s finally going to happen when you’re 80, you’d better get a move on.

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(First published in The Great South Bay Magazine February 2018 issue. Posted on this website February 8, 2018.) 

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