ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Los Angeles
The Losses of Age

The Wit and Wisdom of TGB Readers – Part 1

My hospital stay last week was due to another – this time, huge – internal bleed caused by a clot situated on my new stent resulting in a swollen blood vessel.

The clot was removed via a small incision and then a large number of physicians from several disciplines – gastro-intestinal, surgical, interventional radiology, internal medicine, hematology – spent three days working together to figure out what to do to prevent a repeat.

There are established protocols but most of the drugs have not been tested much on past or present cancer patients so the debate went on. And on.

Here is a clue for all of us: when medical care is in question, try not to have a unique condition. If something must go wrong, a common affliction doctors have treated millions of times over many years is a good thing.

The solution, in my case, is a certain blood thinner which, for the next three months or so, I will inject into myself twice a day. For me, it begs the question of how junkies ever get started. Shooting up is a simple procedure but hardly a pleasant routine to which I am only slowly adapting.


Out of fatigue last Friday, instead of a usual one-topic post I asked you, dear readers, to talk among yourselves about anything related to “what it's like to grow old.”

The result is an astonishing collection of wisdom, thoughtfulness, advice, resilience, inspiration, wit and humor from TGB readers like I've never seen all in one place in a single day. You have left me gaping in admiration.

We should not lose this knowledge and experience so beginning today, from time to time I will choose one or more of your comments to expand or expound upon and we'll see what we can learn from one another.

One theme that emerged is limitation.

Lola Sorenson commented on one of my favorite books, Helen Luke's Old Age, published in 1987, in which, writes Sorenson, “...she uses literature (King Lear, The Odyssey, etc.) to illustrate the point that one cannot continue to do and be the same person one was in midlife.”

”She says old age is about something other than being and doing big things. It is about assimilation and reflection and reconciliation, it is a more internal process.

“Helen Luke's admonitions are foremost, are telling me I haven't come to terms with the limitations of age as well as I think I have. I still have the same ideas about accomplishing things, and it is painfully clear to me those ideas need to change...

“But also the crab apple tree is in beautiful bloom, and the sun is shining, and I am ultimately grateful.”

Adaptation, say several readers, is a strong companion to limitation.

”If there's one thing I have learned in old age, is that it is necessary to adapt!,” wrote Sflichen. “Adapt is my new favorite word, and mantra.”

Anne follows on:

”In some ways, I'm able to settle into being an old woman and enjoy a relaxation of demands on myself. I don't know how to elaborate on this except to say I've stopped excoriating myself for not being as disciplined as I think I should be.

“Dammit! I get tired. Having just turned 78, maybe I should accept this and live at the tempo I can manage.”

Oh, the importance of people, face-to-face people. While those doctors took their own sweet time deciding how to treat me, there were moments when I wept silent tears from long hours of boredom hitched up to four IVs and eight or so monitors that confined me to bed.

(Hint: Always bring a BIG book to read to the hospital or a Kindle full of many; I brought only one small book that I finished the first day.)

One afternoon, a 30-year-old surgical intern who had been among a gaggle of physicians who stopped by regularly, knocked on my door. “I hear you're from New York City,” he said as he plopped down in the chair.

He had studied medicine there and for an hour we regaled one another with stories about our mutual love of and enchantment with the town. We smiled and laughed a lot and it was great medicine for me.

Darlene Costner said it more succinctly:

”I had a pleasant visitor over the weekend and, much to my surprise, I felt better then than when I am alone. Is there a message there? I find that I have more energy when I am doing something enjoyable.

Charlene Drewry hit on the importance of attitude and sense of humor which, she noted,

”...are more important than appearances or what other people think or do. Remarkably, I have a choice every day what that attitude will be. I cannot change the past nor the inevitable, so I attempt to play my tune on the one string I have, my own attitude.

Speaking of sense of humor, listen to Odette Brinton:

”I have COPD and trail around my house with 25 feet of oxygen tubing following me around. So far, I haven't hanged the cat, or got my feet tangled.

“For the past year or so I've been in subconscious denial and just KNEW this would go away! Until finally it has sunk in that it will NOT go anywhere and I really do need to do as I am told by the therapists if I want to add some more years to my life. I want to see my son with his teenage daughter, she is 9 and he thinks he is in control. Hah.

“Well, folks, there's my elder life. I hope many if not all of you are as content with life as I (usually) am.”

My god, you are a bunch of resilient, funny, lively, smart people – great examples for too many elders I have met who refuse to adapt to the changes this time of life brings.

Every comment from Friday is worth exploring further and I'll be doing that over time. I don't want to lose this wisdom. It is worth dwelling on.

We won't get out of this alive but we can laugh, cry and learn together while we make these late years a whole lot better for ourselves than the culture at large believes they can be.


Lovely post and I can see I need to back-track to what I missed seeing on Friday. Thank you!

So good to hear things are moving along reasonably well for you despite the "burps.". I've been following the comments and can relate to so many of them. I learned after breast cancer surgery that any number of things can surprise a person. I was in the Recovery Room breathing a sigh of relief that this long awaited surgery was now over. Whew! Although the surgical site had been anesthetized, I could feel something odd at the area. I called the nurse over and was told I would have to return to the O.R. As she wheeled me out of the Recovery Rm., tears flowed uncontrollably down my face. So tired! Turned out I'd had a blood clot. There have always been problems post surgeries for me and I think that probably is more the norm. On days I wake up now at the age of 78, if I'm feeling a bit tired and grouchy, I look in the mirror and think, "Enjoy this day. It's better to be free at home than completely immersed in some medical treatment or other." I'm grateful. Hugs to you.

When you are looking for a new house the real estate mantra is: location, location, location. When you are growing old (or are already there) the mantra is: attitude, attitude, attitude.

That means you need to accept that which you cannot change and, as other readers have noted, adapt,adapt,adapt.

If you become an ancient as I have you must find new ways of doing old things and just ignore those things that you can no longer do. Pollyanna may have been the eternal optimist, and I am not suggesting that you become like her. But for your mental health and happiness you need to be grateful for the good things that remain and that isn't easy.

And sometimes a good therapeutic is in order.

Thank you Ronni, and all your commentors as well, for your hard won wisdom. It really helps. Even on a hard day, when, just before sleep, it comes time to go back over it in my mind, letting those moments of delight bubble up, they are always there. Perhaps as small as a glance from my little dog, the way the sun lit up the kitchen wall, a new flower in the garden, a hawk's call.
I remind myself to stay aware for those moments, to not let them be lost, unnoticed.

It buoys me up that other elders are doing this, or something similar. Most of our lives we've been trained for, and looking for the big pleasures of work, travel, love. Now we're learning to take joy in the quotidian, the daily round.

I do so hope that the attention of many doctors found the solution to those nasty bl00d clots that mess up a successful surgery. And being on blood thinners creates a different kind of problems in addition to those painful injections.. I hope they gave you a list of foods to avoid and foods to eat plenty of.

Thanks to an inoperable clot in my daughter's carotid artery, she has been on blood thinners for several years and she must be careful to avoid injuries that might result in bleeding. I guess that means becoming very aware of your surroundings.

As if you didn't have enough to deal with, Ronni, this latest set back is just plain unfair. I am so sorry.

Your Open Forum day produced rather exciting observations from this community. Naturally, I also read with great interest the resulting comments. We are truly a diverse cohort gathered here.

Now, I hope it is permitted to give one 'shout out' to another Friday commenter, Dee Ready, who mentioned her recently published memoir, "Prayer Wasn't Enough" .

Memoirs are catnip to me, and after downloading it from that ubiquitous seller of e-books that some of us know all too well, I read it in one gulp. It was articulate and fascinating. I didn't know this author before, but I do now.

I think Darlene said it all - When dealing with a realtor it's - location, location, location. When growing older it's attitude, attitude, attitude and adapt, adapt, adapt!

The wisest words about the aging process I have ever heard. I've thought it, tried to practice it but hearing it put that way really tell's it the way it is!

Thanks Darlene!

There's always acceptance. LOL

Gentle hugs from afar..
and per a discussion with my mother at the weekend, we returned to the classic ‘shame youth is wasted on the young’. Harsh maybe, but even at not quite 47 I think it’s fair!! :o)))

Top of your form today, Ronni!!

Oops ! Just re-read my first post and discovered the word "cry" has gone missing from my last sentence and it should read - therapeutic CRY -

I would love to (and am trying to) adapt & settle gently into old age (slow down, not stress about how clean the house is, etc.) but am constantly butting heads with my husband (who's a few yrs older than I) who thinks if we just try hard enuff, we can carry on like we're 20 again. (I get so tired of trying to convince him that it's ok for us to be tired once in a while; but he won't have it, sigh. Plus we need to downsize out of our big house & property; too much for us to take care of & no kids to help. But he's deadset against that too.)

I’ve turned 61 this year. Which, for me, seems to be a pivotal year. More aches and pains, less stamina. It was helpful to read all the comments from the previous post. You do have such wonderful, articulate commenters. I love coming here and learning something!
Happy to know you are well and getting better, Ronni! I’ve never been a great patient so i’ve Learned a great deal from you, too! (Attitude, attitude, attitude! So true!)

A friend is turning 80 this weekend. As I’m 2 years older he expects suggestions from me. How to put this aging into words? Aha! Your fans did it for me! I copied most of the gems that were shared and sent them off. I retyped ‘em, cut them into strips and rolled them. Cute?

This is a fine source of joy and laughter ... and a great way for us Elders to hear from others who are experiencing what we are. It's a good thing to know you are not alone in this adventure. It's like reaching out and touching another warm hand.

I'm behind in reading posts and look forward to reading all the Friday comments. You mention fatigue, yet I think of you, Ronni, as our infatigable navigatrix of the world of aging.

Humor, yes! When at all possible, in difficult situations, go for the joke. And gratitude -- those are the two big ones for me. And, yes, always, always have reading material to hand.

I hope things stay on an even keel for you henceforth!

I live in an assisted living facility surrounded by 200 other old people.
Now, one would think that there would be a lot of lamenting and bemoaning old age. Not so. Most of us have taken the wrinkles, the sagging, the thinning hair, the poor vision and marginal hearing in stride. However, what mostly disturbs a good number of the residents here is the lack of mobility that many are experiencing.
Living in NYC all of our lives means that most of us were avid walkers.
New Yorker's walk everywhere, in all kinds of weather. And now, that we are older and our ability to get around is limited, it makes many of us grouchy, lonely and introverted.
We need more research done on how to improve the ways older folks move from on place to another.

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