Friday, January 20, 2017
A PERSPECTIVE ON AGING
Birthdays, Life and Laughter
I remember when I was young and always looking forward to my January birthday. Celebrating a birthday meant bringing cupcakes and Kool-Aid to my first grade class. It meant a birthday party at home with presents, games and (of course) my favorite birthday cake. It meant turning 16 years old and being allowed to date boys. It meant getting married at 19 and at 21, being legally allowed to vote and drink a cocktail in a fancy restaurant.
Until recently, the only birthday that I really didn’t like was the year I turned 30 years old. For some reason, leaving my 20’s was scary. It meant that I was no longer young (little did I know how young that was). Of course, I survived turning 30 and I didn’t fear aging in my 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Turning 70 didn’t even bother me.
Each of life’s milestones was good. There was always a reason to be going forward—raising children from infancy to adulthood, welcoming their spouses and each new grandchild, establishing a business, volunteering, serving in the church, traveling the world, moving to a dream house and job in Oregon. I felt blessed.
It was a fall on the ice in January of 2012 and a fractured back that brought me up short and said, “You’re getting old.” Not “older” but “old. Surgery helped repair the crushed bones but the residual effect of that hard fall was chronic pain. I had lots of time on my hands that winter to think about the ramifications of aging and it was sobering.
I quickly came to the conclusion that it’s not looking older that bothers me. All this gray hair and wrinkles has its advantages. I never have to worry about opening a heavy door to enter a business or restaurant. People will stop; open the door and say, “After you.” I find that young children in strollers will smile and wave at me as I walk by. At the same time, they look at their parent, smile and say, “Grandma.”
No, the thing that bothers me the most about aging is the physical limitations. Myself, friends and family are having hips and knees replaced, heart surgeries, cancer treatments, losing spouses or downsizing houses because they can’t take care of them. Some are no longer driving because of eyesight and reflex problems. Some of us just need help getting out of bed in the morning! Oy!
My Achilles Heel is poor balance. If I fall down, I break something. No matter how much physical therapy I endure, falls and breakage keep happening. It started with a compound fracture of my left arm as a teenager. Longtime readers will remember my falling off an 8 ft. tall ladder and nearly cracking my skull open. Twice I slipped and broke bones in my right foot. The 70’s have included a fall that completely tore my ACL with complications from a fall on the ice that fractured my back.
Last year was a hard year for many of us. It is difficult to laugh and enjoy life during pain and suffering. Suddenly I felt old. My husband had serious health issues, I lost several dear friends and the world’s suffering was hard to comprehend. The appointments on our calendar were mostly to doctors or hospitals. Something had to change. Fun needed to make a comeback.
Then I read this piece of wisdom:
“You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing."—Michael Pritchard
Ah, ha! I don’t know who Michael Pritchard is but he’s a wise man. I looked up laughter as medicine and was reminded that while laughter can’t save us from getting old, it can make aging palatable. Although not all researchers agree, most believe that humor helps people of all ages cope with stress and keeps our immune system healthy.
This quote from a cancer researcher really hit home:
“Humor works like a shock absorber in a car,” he says. “You appreciate a good shock absorber when you go over bumps and cancer is a big bump in life.”
So my goal for this birthday year is to install new shock absorbers. It is said that children laugh 300 times a day. We adults laugh only a few times a day— maybe 4. I think it’s time to up the ante at our house and start looking for the funny side of everyday life. We need to exchange more jokes and less bad news. Following are a few comic one-liners from readers that started me giggling.
You know you’re older when:
*You’re startled the first time you’re asked if you’re a “senior.”
*Your children begin to look middle aged.
*Your back goes out more often than you do.
*You sit in a rocking chair and you can’t get it going.
* Your mind makes contracts your body can’t meet.
*You finally reach the top of the ladder and it’s the wrong wall.
*The little grey haired lady you help across the street is your wife.
*You have a party and the neighbors don’t even know it.
*My favorite: People call at 9 a.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”
So, dear readers, here’s the deal. We can’t stop the aging process but we can put it into perspective. Then we can offset and absorb some of life’s shocks and discomfort by laughing at a good joke long and often. It works for me. Try it and let me know how it works for you. And by all means, share the fun with friends, family and me.
P.S. Happy Birthday to my fellow Capricorns!
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.
The Cottage Grove Sentinel