Aches and Pains

I vowed long ago that I would never, in old age, bore friends with talk of my aches and pains and doctor visits. My physical condition is important to me, but methinks not to others.

Aging zaps the life out of you. Your systems shut down and you slow down even more. Your hearing fades; your eyesight fails; your teeth rot and your skin grows scales.

So I have glasses to see; hearing aids to hear, and false teeth to eat.

But I have my own hair.

Years ago my late wife and I ran a tour company and took passengers to destinations around the world. One of the first things we did was facilitate an evening when people would introduce themselves.

We were in the recreation room of our first hotel on one tour as our passengers presented their best. One gentleman made curling rocks. His wife was along, blind with a seeing eye dog that made this trip most interesting later on. He was from a small town in western Manitoba.

Others came from other towns, and so the group began functioning together for three weeks of life on the road.

Then came time for a spry lady from Brandon to talk.

“My name is Eva. I never married and I have no children. I’m eighty years old, and I have my own teeth!” she said.

Everyone laughed.

A penetrating self-introduction. Most of our passengers were in their sixties and seventies. On hearing Eva’s words they realized eighty would come all too soon for them.

So I’m eighty-three this summer, too old to be a tour leader anymore. I have pains that send me to the doctor, and I ache to be young again. But that’s all very private. I talk instead about politics and privileges that come with ageing.

Yesterday I counted the medical appointments I have had in half a year – twenty-five in all. Can you imagine the cost if I did not live in Canada with its Medicare program. I am grateful to be living here.

My doctor is a Punjab woman, smart, sophisticated and compassionate. She has found a life better than in India here in Canada where she raises her kids with her husband, a beneficiary of the recruitment side of Medicare. She sends me to specialists for advanced treatments, being part of a good professional community of medics.

Next time I see her we are going to go through the details of dying with dignity. I will leave myself in her hands to usher me through death’s door.

I could have gone into great detail about the condition of my heart and lungs, but I won’t do that. I must keep my vow.

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