Don't get me wrong as you read what follows. I am grateful for my good health which undoubtedly has less to do with smart living over the years than luck and genes. Also, I like the age I am (68), and have no desire to be younger or even to look younger.
In addition to health and appearance, I have made peace with many of the demons that haunted my youth and middle years, I continue to grow more comfortable in my skin, I have enough experience now to make fewer mistakes and I've gotten smarter – I can't be fooled as easily anymore. Getting old has been good to me.
Nevertheless, there is a mounting number of physical irritants and I've been such good little trooper on this blog in support of health care reform that I claim my right today to bitch:
My five senses have gone to hell.
Did your mother tell you to turn on a light when she caught you reading in a dim room? Mine did: “Turn on the light,” she said, “or you'll go blind.” I guess she was right. Unless a lamp is trained directly on the page or I'm sitting next to a window in daylight, the words fade and turn to mush.
It hardly works at all nowadays. Does Ollie the cat's poop stink? Not that I can tell. Is there enough garlic in the soup? I can only hope. As far as my nose knows, they've bred the fragrance out of flowers.
I opened the kitchen trash bin one day a year or so ago and even I, with my fading sense of smell, was blown over from the stench that must have permeated the kitchen before it got strong enough for me to notice. Now I've taken to sealing kitchen garbage that can rot into its own little zip bags instead dumping it in the trash bin as I had done all my life.
A large part of how we taste food is related to smell, so I hardly need to explain this one. So far, it is holding up reasonably well, but I've noticed that some foods seem not to be as richly flavored as in the past. (That could be agribusiness growing for shipping convenience over flavor.) I'm teaching myself to appreciate texture.
These still work well enough that I wince, as I always have, at noises other people seem to ignore or, at least, tolerate. Nearby fire truck and police sirens cause an actual pain in my ears, and it is not my imagination that television stations jack up the volume for local commercials over the network feed.
But when there is a lot of ambient noise – in a restaurant, for example, with the buzz of conversation or background music or both – I can't distinguish the speech of the person with me. It all blends together and to compensate, I'm becoming a fairly accomplished lip-reader.
This is my single sense that remains unaffected. As far as I can tell. But the changes above have come about slowly, so perhaps this one isn't yet advanced enough to notice.
In addition, I leak (as we discussed a couple of weeks ago), my sleep schedule is erratic and the one prescription drug I take gives me gas. Is it any wonder I bitch? At least I'm not drooling.
Barring accident or disease, we make our way through the decades of life seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling as a birthright. We hardly notice how much they do for us; they are just there, individually and in tandem, bringing the world to us, enriching our experience and warning us of danger.
Now, to my surprise, I can't rely on my senses. This is part of “what it's really like to get old,” as it says on the blog banner up there, and no one tells you it will happen one day. Not that knowing would change anything, but I would like to have been advised to expect it.
I do what I can to accommodate the losses and certainly I'll take these over cancer, stroke or heart disease any day. But damn, it is really annoying.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: She Never Loved You.