We all have to cope with aging however we best can

When I was growing up, my family would often visit relatives or host relatives. It was always the same, like in every Italian household: The grownups sat at the big table, and the kids sat at the card table that was brought out for these occasions.

After a huge meal finished off with delicious pastries, the adults would then just sit there and talk over coffee. At that point, my brothers and whatever cousins were around would always leave the room to do something — anything — else.

Why? Because all the grownups would talk about were doctors and medicines and aches and pains and things like that. Kids don’t want to hear that; they want to play. You know where this is going, I’m sure.

The insufferable COVID-19 virus has prevented my family from entertaining and visiting friends and relatives. Thankfully, we still communicate in other ways.

In fact, being able to see my grandson on video calls has been a lifesaver. What we would have done without that I don’t know.

So we do keep in touch, and because we are now of That Age, we do talk about our various illnesses and whatnot. You can’t not. If someone has cancer, you want to know about it, period.

I’m in my early sixties. I feel great, yet I just had my fourth surgery in the last six years. This time it was rotator-cuff surgery on my right shoulder.

I had a nasty ground-bee infestation by my garage where I spent the better part of two weeks swatting at them. They’re gone now but they got the last laugh, as I think that’s what screwed up my shoulder. I know, I wouldn’t have believed it either, but it is what it is.

Never mind the surgeries. I’m at the age now where, when I look at the obituaries, there is a very real chance a relative, friend, neighbor, or co-worker will be in there. If you live long enough, that’s what happens. In fact, I’ve collected so many of those little plastic-coated prayer cards that they hand out at the funeral homes that pretty soon I’ll have a full deck.

Imagine there was no COVID and we were able to gather together for birthdays and other events. Surely, talk would turn to our various aches and pains, like it did in my family when I was growing up.

While it’s good to know what others are going through, you can’t extrapolate it to your own situation. That’s why you go to a doctor. Just because your buddy got this drug or that surgery doesn’t mean that will work for you.

As with cancer. Some get chemotherapy. Some get radiation. Some get chemo and radiation. Some live 20 years after diagnosis and are still going strong. Some die in a week.

The best we can do is offer encouragement and support. Each of us has our own unique physiology shaped by our genes and our lifestyles. While it may be kind of cool that your buddy goes around with a pig valve in his heart, you might need a pacemaker. That’s just how it is.

I’ve been using a CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] machine to sleep for the last few years. Though it works well, it’s just very cumbersome and not something I’ve ever actually gotten comfortable with.

There is a new thing now where they implant a battery-powered device in your chest. When you go to bed, you click what looks like a TV remote-control to activate it, causing your tongue to move forward periodically and keep your airway open.

People who have this say it’s way more convenient than CPAP and a lot less intrusive. Downsides are it’s yet another surgery and you can no longer get a chest MRI [magnetic resonance imaging], but I’m looking into it anyway. I’ve always liked robots, so maybe I can become partly like one.

I think we have to realize that getting older involves the body breaking down, no matter what we do. Walking and exercising, eating well, having a good social support system, and keeping active with interesting activities can add years to your life and keep you mentally fit. It’s getting that to mesh with the aching joints, diminished endurance, and potentially awful diseases like cancer and diabetes that takes getting used to.

We all read about athletes having surgeries and then coming back to play again. In fact, it happens so often that we take it for granted.

Let me tell you, I for one don’t take it for granted. For my rotator-cuff surgery, I was told not to lift anything heavier than a cup of coffee with my right arm for a month, and then to start physical therapy. It will take at least six months from that point to get back to normal.

That means I had to miss the fall motorcycle riding season, the best time of the year to ride, but what can you do? It’s for the best.

We all have to cope with aging however we best can. I know for me, as long as I have access to a library and all the wonders within — books, movies, newspapers, clubs, and so much more — I’ll be OK.

I don’t care if I won a million dollars; that aspect wouldn’t change for me in the least. If I can start the day with a good newspaper like this one and end it with a good book, I’ll be happy as a flea in a doghouse.

My relatives used to sit and talk about their doctors, medications, and aches and pains all night, and it drove me crazy. I wish they were around now so I could tell them that I finally understand.