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Opinionated Octogenarian, 3

October 12, 2014

Opinionated Octogenarian
Health, Mind and Body

Facing the Years
Whose face this is I do not know.
It was not with me long ago.
The skin is pale and wrinkled.
The cheeks are gaunt and lean.
The eyes don’t have that twinkle
That glimpsed the joke unseen.
The hair is white and sparcer.
What happened to the blonde,
Those golden streaked tresses
That swung merrily along?
I know the years do age one,
And time has passed me by,
But when I look into the mirror,
I think, “This must be a lie.”

I have added five years since I wrote this verse in 2009, and the lie is piled higher and deeper. I am not the same person I was, and compared to what I was in my youth, I am a miscast version of my former self, but somehow, still me. I can blame Father Time, for he is relentless and never skips a beat. But now he pursues me with an avidity I have not noticed before, and September disappears before October is ready. Thus, the days dwindle down to a precious few, and soon will be December. Gird me O, Lord, and ready me for the curtain call.

It has been ages since I began, but I am still me. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, and from the acorn grows the mighty oak, or the spindly tree. It’s all in the DNA, the chemical substance of our cells that makes us who or what we are. My genes are probably some combination of my parents and grandparents. I know this is true because I am told my sister and I look alike, at least from a distance. I inherited my father’s nose (no thanks dad) and my mother’s eyes. Sister has grandmother’s nose (much better) and mother’s eyes. It’s all in the genes, and I can’t trade them.

I believe what I sow, I will reap. The seeds I plant in youth become gnarled and tangled vines as I age. The Bible reminds me to sow seeds of kindness. What have I sown? My misdeeds come back to haunt me, but I prefer not to dwell there. Apologize and move on. My friend and fellow writer, Mary, writes that her mother often told her, “All you need in life is a loving family and your health.” I agree that little else matters, but days were different then. Families stayed close, at least for a while.

My elderly neighbors have two daughters. One lives in Long Island and the other a short drive away. The closer one checks in on her aging mom and dad regularly to be sure they are well, and the daughter comes three thousand miles two or three time a year, bringing her little pet dog to spend months caring for them. Both in their nineties, their health declines rapidly. Family matters, and my neighbors have stitched together, planted and sewn, a good family. My neighbors seem to enjoy their harvest. I, too, have been blessed with family.

Does my health depend on my attitude? I have a friend who was born with spinal-bifada. Now in his eighties, he has innumerable health problems, but when I ask him how he is today, he replies with a grin, “Superior, superior.” Some mornings when I wake up with an ache or pain I must remind myself that I feel superior. Superior to what I am not sure, but my attitude affects my health.

Other people can affect my health. Some people have more problems than I can bear to hear. I can refrain from asking about the wellness of those people who continuously report bad news of their declining health. One acquaintance, whom I’ve known for years, always depicts a health issue if I ask how she is. Sometimes the ailments are as simple as a small pimple, but everyone needs a listener, not necessarily a doctor. At the age of 80, one can expect some aches and pains, and I have friends who listen attentively to my complaints, or at least pretend to listen. To maintain a healthy life, friends are needed as well as family.

Some physical activity is necessary to maintain health. Tennis and golf have become spectator sports for these aging joints. But there are some things I can do to exercise the stiffness from my body. There’s a walk to take on a sunny morning, an obnoxious weed to pull, a few household chores to finish, and some Spa and Curves time to enjoy. I exercise my mind with a book or writing stories. Meditation and prayer are good for the soul and relieve stress, and if I fall asleep, God will not fault me.

Health is a combination of circumstances. Some are controllable, others beyond my authority. I must take what I get and make the best of it all. That’s life.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
I’m not the fairest, not at all.
But I have health, some friends, a family,
And that is all there needs to be,
And I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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