Aging Badly

Aging Badly

By Judith Castle

My broken ankle improves. With physio, and determination. But will I walk as well as I did before the pop? Last week the rheumatologist gave me a cortisone shot in my arthritic knee because it had ‘bloomed’ in sympathy with my ankle. Everything’s attached! I’m surprised my teeth didn’t sympathize, slip out of tune like a row of tenors in a choir.

Kind friends are fond of the word ‘healing.’ Meditate for healing, tone for healing, laugh for healing. They use singing bowls, and uplifting audio tapes. Thanks to them I’ve begun to avoid the word ‘healing.’ Instead, I prefer to say ‘adjustment.’ Because along with what ails me—the ankle break, or a previous hip replacement—part of my recovery is mourning the body I used to have. The body that’s gone.

Accepting loss is not so much ‘healing,’ as it is ‘adjustment’. One lives with loss; one begins to feel better. Healing, however, suggests we’ll be as we were.

These days, I reserve the right to complain more often. I love the liqueur-sweetness of the word. Might do me good to spend a whole evening complaining, sipping Ovaltine or something stronger.

Aging well means I complain to kindred souls who experience similar painful symptoms. However, I rarely complain to the young, never use my woes as a weapon by crying: “Someday you’ll go through this too! Just you wait!”  

Aging badly, on the other hand, might be a fine precursor to not going gentle into that good night as the poet suggests—a way of claiming our human right to bawl and snivel like my grandson.

Thoughts about complaint remind me how often I read, suffered bravely, or never a word of complaint, in obituaries. Sometimes I regret not reading a frank admission that the aged deceased did complain, yanked out the tubes, kicked up hell on the ward. And, eventually, used his or her final energy to take scissors to the bed curtains.

Which is what I plan to do.

 My grandson adjusting. Photo by Judith Castle

My grandson adjusting. Photo by Judith Castle

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