So commonly does disease, decline and debility catch up with people in old age that for a majority of those who are younger, they are the only definition of being old.
That belief is so prevalent in the general population that after the half dozen years of research into aging I conducted that led me to create this blog a decade ago, it became my goal to refute it – we oldies are more than our aches and pains. Much more.
That doesn't mean I am in denial. After five or six decades of steady use, our bodies wear down. Stuff happens. Things go wrong. And there is an impressively large variety of ailments that can afflict us – from the deadly serious to just annoying.
Today I am concerned with the latter category.
Generally, I am remarkably healthy. (I say that in a whisper while knocking on wood.) Now, however, for the better part of a month, I have been off my feed, as it were, and for some periods of time in a lot of pain.
The first was abdominal cramps, the kind that cause screaming into a pillow, deep misery and pleas for a quick death.
After two days it began to subside, though my innards felt sore for a few more days, like they had been bruised, but I was grateful in the end that the gods had ignored my death requests.
The doctor has no explanation (a not uncommon diagnosis for me over the years) and it took another week before full energy returned.
No sooner was I almost mended than the entire length of gum on one side of my mouth swelled to a gargantuan size. The dentist supplied two kinds of antibiotics for the infection and after a week, it is nearly cleared up.
Nearly is the operative word. The pain, even with medication, makes it impossible (still) to wear my denture. This led to a few issues that I should have anticipated but did not.
One: It is amazingly difficult to talk without teeth. TH, F and V sounds don't work right at all. S and soft C take a lot of effort to sound as they should – or as close as possible – so talking for more than a few minutes is more tiring than I would have believed until it happened.
Also, attempting S's and soft C's too forcefully causes spitting if you're not careful and that's in addition to the ongoing drool. (These two side effects have almost – I said ALMOST – given me a newfound appreciation for unkind old age jokes some comedians tell.)
There were several misunderstandings in a phone conversation and I giggle now when I see that guy in the fraud/frog protection TV commercial.
I'm pretty sure, too, this explains why babies wait so long before they speak real words; no teeth yet.
Two: As I mentioned a couple of days ago, no way will I allow anyone – anyone at all – to see me without my denture but staying home for more than a week is not possible so I developed a few ruses that, if they didn't work, people were kind enough not to tell me.
For grocery shopping, I wrote the list on a larger piece of paper than usual and used it to tap my upper lip as though I were deep in thought. When I needed to speak to anyone directly, I covered my mouth with my hand and just made a joke of it: “Sorry, my denture's out for repairs and you don't get to see me without it.”
They usually laughed – with me (I think). In one case, to be sure the person understood I was kidding about something, I said, “I'm smiling behind my hand” and that seemed to work.
It's hard to shop with only one hand free so now I have obtained some face masks and I'll just let people wonder whether I'm contagious or I'm afraid of their germs.
Three: Last but hardly least, have you ever tried to eat with no teeth? For a week I've been subsisting on mashed potatoes, apple sauce and soup and I'm damned tired of it.
A few days ago, thinking that I was probably lacking enough green stuff and protein, I checked out the baby food aisle at the market. I'm here to report that Gerber's mashed peas are remarkably fresh tasting and their mixture of carrots, zucchini and broccoli is delicious too.
But look out for the chicken and noodles. Now I know why babies spit out so much food.
None of this stuff is a big deal. If these are the worst health issues I ever have, I win and I will be grateful. Meanwhile, I've managed some small amount of fun figuring out how to work around the no teeth problem.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: A Change in Perception or Just What the Doctor Ordered