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Friday, 21 October 2011

Bionic Geriatrics - The Brave Old Age

By Barbara Sloan

It had been five years since our last reunion in a small midwestern town in Michigan. The event began with the announcement that three of our 24 classmates had died. The group agreed that perhaps we should meet every year instead of every five years.

Most of us were now 70 years old, slightly more, slightly less. Three deaths in five years brought us all closer to the reality that was waiting in the shadows.

On the way home from our reunion, Bob and I did our usual review of who was still looking good and who wasn't. I asked Bob, "Do you remember what we used to talk about when we were all in our 30's?"

"We talked about our jobs and kids."

"How about our 40's and 50's?" I replied.

"Well about then we were checking to see what all our kids were doing after they graduated and some of us were already grandparents."

"Our 60's?"

"I think most of us were talking about if we would have enough put away for retirement. I remember a couple of the fellows had figured out how much longer they would have to work before drawing Social Security."

"How about when we were 65?"

"Definitely, what we were doing in retirement. Like, where had we been traveling. Had we gone south in the winter. A few aches and pains because we were 'getting old.' Things like that."

"Do you believe that three out of our 24 classmates died since our last class reunion five years ago?"

"Not only that," Bob countered, "half of us have had major surgery. Did you talk to Max? He said the end of last summer they cut a big X in his stomach to reach in and remove a growth the size of a grapefruit. It wasn't cancerous but could be dangerous to his health. I don't believe that he rode his BMW motorcycle to Michigan from South Carolina for this get together."

"That's nothing,” I said. “Joyce had a complete hip replacement. She had suffered really bad pain because the ball of her bone was grating on the socket bone without any cushioning cartilage. She had been having this difficulty for several years. It finally got so bad that she decided to have surgery.

“She was in and out of the hospital five times during the six months prior to the actual surgery. They sent her home each time because of a recurring blood condition.

“Five months ago, the surgery was finally completed. She walked up the driveway with a cane and says the pain is nearly gone. But get this. Since she had that surgery, just after the last reunion, they diagnosed her with breast cancer. She didn't look too good since she is still recovering from the chemo and radiation treatments."

Bob shook his head and said, "Did you hear that Norm had a stroke a year ago? He fully recovered from that but was involved in an auto accident this past year. He said he had four ruptured discs in his back.

“He was taken to the emergency room where experts were called in. They inflated balloons between each of the vertebrae to force them back apart, then inserted glue in the spaces to hold them open. They sent him home that night and told him if the glue did not leak, he would be okay. Otherwise he would need more surgery."

"I can top that. Marlene survived major surgery because of cancer this past year and had a rod inserted in her spine. It was nearly disintegrated from osteoporosis. She said that the doctors had used 28 screws and bolts on each side to hold the rod in place. She is now preparing for a complete hip replacement this winter, 'when she has to be in the house anyway,' not much to look forward to."

Bob asked, "Don't you think Art is walking and looking better since his stroke three years ago? He said this past year they cleaned out his carotid artery and he gave up his job as county supervisor."

"It makes the rod in my leg when I broke my hip and your five heart stents look like peanuts next to these stories," I said.

After exchanging information about our various conversations, Bob and I agreed. We were all in our early seventies. We were quickly becoming part of the Bionic Gereration - I mean Bionic Geriatrics.

Who would have suspected, five decades and six years after graduation in 1953, we would be able to identify with that mythical bionic man we used to read about in comic books?

Somewhere during the passing years, someone coined the phrase, Brave New World. We think instead that we have reached the BRAVE OLD AGE.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Somehow I feel talking about our health problems too much equates with old age. So I listen a bit, but then shift to more upbeat, fun topics. Not everyone likes this, and they try hard to pull back to their favorite "can you top this game." How do others feel about this? Good story, however.

I think what the story points out--well, I might add--is that this IS the picture of most of our older lives, whether we like it or not, and that is why old people talk about health. If you are lucky, like I am, you also have younger friends who aren't yet dealing with this scourge of old age, and friends of all ages who talk about music, art, writing, photography and other joyful topics.

Barbara - When I got up this morning, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, a light warm breeze was moving through the air. I was young and happy.

Then, I read your wonderful "Bionic Geriatrics." I find it bad enough to be in my mid-70's, let alone being reminded of all those parts of me that can and do break, deteriorate, need to be replaced, become diseased - HELP!

What a reality check! - Sandy

Cheer up, Sandy. Not everybody breaks. You and I and lots of others have been lucky so far....

Nice writing, Barbara......

Loved your story - through the time line, through the stages of life and through reality. I've come to realize that each stage has its difficulties. May we enter this Brave Old Age with strength and determination.

Some of the coolest peope I know in their seventies ride around in white convertibles, redwing motorcycles, and mentor young people changing lives all around them.... You are my hero!!!

In my 80's I find the favorite topic of conversation is health issues. It goes with the territory.

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