Livin' With It: We've Outlived AIDS!
It wasn't what I expected to hear. I went to the doctor complaining about the pain and stiffness in my knees and ankles. I was prepared to hear that it was another side effect of my meds, a progression of my neuropathy or worse yet joint deterioration.
"Sure it's a side effect ... a side effect of getting old," he said. "Accept it, you're getting older."
I wasn't ready for this. I had accepted the possibility of death. I was mentally prepared for the fight to live. But getting old, that was the last thing I expected.
Not me, I can't possibly get old. In my teens I never thought I'd make it past 30. When I was diagnosed I accepted the fact that two or three years more was all I'd have. Thirteen years later I realize now that I am getting old.
I was sitting with my friends at the Montrose last Saturday having breakfast and trying to think of a way to bring this up. I started to notice something.
Ken had to take his glasses off to read the menu. "Ken, aren't glasses supposed to be used to help you see better?" I asked.
"Oh yeah, they are. But I'm having trouble seeing smaller print in certain lighting. I just had my eyes examined and asked about it. The doctor told me that as most men get older, usually around 40 or so, they start having trouble seeing small print. It's weird. My prescription hasn't changed, but I may have to get bifocals. I guess I'm just getting old."
"You too?" Gary jumped in. "I used to love to sit on the floor with my coffee on Sunday mornings and spread out the newspaper sections."
"You're not doing your Sunday morning ritual anymore? I remember seeing you with your piles, 'must read', 'read', 'try to read', and 'if I have time.' But your first priority is always checking out the sales and clipping those coupons," I said.
"You all know that I do love a bargain. Don't get me wrong, I still do it. I just make sure I have everything I need: scissors, coffee, something to munch on, the phone. Getting down there is no problem. Getting up is now a three-step process. First I have to get on my hands and knees, then I have to put my hands on the sofa to get my feet under me. Then I can stand up."
"You guys have a few years on me but my roommate just accused me of making 'old man' sounds when I stand up from sitting at my dining room table," adds Miguel.
"Old man sounds?" we all asked.
"Yeah, it's kind of a combination of a grunt and a moan, like this." He demonstrated as he excused himself to use the restroom.
"And have you noticed how noisy it's getting at this table?" Jerome asks.
"That's because you all like to talk so much," I said with a smile.
"That's a given. But really, and not from me of course since I am the youngest, a mere child compared to the rest of you, but you 'old men' at this table are starting to make a lot more noise when you chew your food. When I first started having breakfast with you guys everyone had good table manners. Now there are crumbs and spills everywhere and all that smacking and slurping is deafening."
"Huh?" we all answer jokingly.
"Don't joke, and y'all are getting hard of hearing," Jerome answers. "Some of you are starting to talk a lot louder too."
"And get this," Joey says. "I wasn't going to say anything about this. A couple days ago I stopped for a cocktail and as I left the bar these two guys who looked to be barely 21 were coming in. I heard one of them say 'Don't leave so soon, Daddy.'"
"Mmmm, Daddy," Jerome laughs.
"Can you believe they had the nerve to call me Daddy?"
"Well, think about it," I said, "you are actually old enough to be their father and you are starting to look the part."
"I just never thought of myself as a Daddy-type."
"I am losing my hair where I want it and growing it where I don't," Joey adds while lifting his cap.
"Of course we all are losing things more often now," Ken says. "I'm getting used to forgetting where my keys or the remote are and having to call my cell phone to find where I put it down last. I just laugh them off as 'senior moments.'"
"I admit, though," Jerome says, "the other day I was looking in the mirror and noticed some lines on my face that weren't there before." He runs his fingers from his cheekbones to the corners of his mouth. "I immediately started worrying about facial wasting but I remembered that my father and my grandfather both have lines in the same place. So I guess it's happening to me too."
"This has been a great help for me, guys," I said. "My doctor just gave me the bad news that some of my aches and pains are a product of getting old. I haven't thought about it in those terms before. We kid each other about our ages but we don't think too much about aging."
"We concentrate so much on staying alive that we forget that we are alive," Ken said. "I guess getting old is one side effect of the meds that we all can live with."
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