GAME CHANGER, NAME CHANGER

Standard

Readers for whom new posts from this blog arrive via email may not have noticed. Between the last post and this one, “The Getting Old Blog” acquired a new name.  It was time.  How long can you go on “getting” old without eventually reaching your destination?

“The Getting Old Blog” began life nearly five years ago, in November 2013.  (This was after three weeks or so of baby-step experimentation in “Learning to Blog” — still out there in the ethernet if you’re interested, although I don’t see why anyone would be).  Despite the scary-sounding year of my birth (1931), I didn’t feel particularly old at 82, and thought a blog marking my passage into the “later years” might be a good place to park bits of memoir (old folks tend to look back), memoir disguised as fiction, and general reflections on what was happening to me as I reluctantly rolled towards becoming 83, and then 84, and so forth.

But as you’ve already read (two posts back in “So What Happened?”) last year was for a nanosecond the end of me. Having your heart stop beating, although they get it going again, really does change the rules of the game. Not to mention the months and months of medical and pharmaceutical tribulation that necessarily follow such a near-terminal event.  Who was I kidding with this “getting old” stuff?  I was old.  I am old.  In bed at night, with the lights out, I can still fantasize that a near-crazed-with-lust eighteen-year-old is pressing hard and stiff against my luscious seventeen-year-old body. It helps, of course, if I’m on my back and an eleven-pound cat is lying vertically on top of my mid-section or else pushing in rhythmically with its two front paws. You think that’s funny? With the lights on, I do too. I know what I look like undressed; I still have a full-length mirror. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but no one ever called me stupid.

One of my grandsons, who at twelve of course knows nothing of his Nana’s occasional nighttime fantasies, tried to reassure me last week that “you’re only as old as you feel.” Like many pre-adolescents he’s a sponge for grown-up expressions — even though he still lacks the life experience to know when they’re cliches. To which I immediately replied, “That’s a lot of crap!” and everyone burst out laughing, partly because it’s true, but also because 87-year-old grandmas aren’t expected to say “crap” out loud– at least not in the suburbs of Brandon, Florida.

I’ve therefore been thinking for a while of what to rename the blog. Some ideas — “While There’s Still Time” or “Near Journey’s End” — were too funereal. “What It’s Like To Be 87” was appealing; I could change the number each time I acquired another birthday. But it would be inaccurate. Each of us ages somewhat differently, and what 87 is like for me will not reflect the experience of every 87-year-old woman. I seem to be an outlier.  One example only: I know a number of near-87-year-old women who sleep with their cats but are glad — at least they say they’re glad — their sex lives are over. Hand-holding might be all right, but anything more than that: no-siree, an expression that dates them as much as anything. Bottom line: “On Being Old” seemed most descriptive without necessarily being depressing.  It’s also an accommodating title. It can encompass scraps of memoir as well as details of my life in a so-called “over-55,” but really more like “over-70” or “over-75,” community.  In fact, it will accommodate just about anything about being me at this stage of my life, whatever that stage is.

So welcome to “On Being Old.”  Don’t get hung up on the new name and go away.  It’s really just the same old same old… me.

fullsizeoutput_eab

Selfie taken in Florida last week. (Slightly retouched but only slightly.) The sunglasses do help.

 

Advertisements

NEW TRAVEL COMPANION

Standard
Bill's oxymeter, now mine

(It’s called an oximeter.)

As you may recall, in April I made a deal with the cardiologist who had brought me back from near death in a hospital procedure room the previous December — and two months later also got me out of a-fib.   He agreed to let me go off amiodorone.  Amiodorone is the med that was keeping a-fib at bay but also making me feel like a stumbling zombie. In exchange, I was to check my heart rate every morning before I got out of bed. Any number between 60 and 100 beats a minute was good to go.  Over 100 beats? The a-fib was back!  What then? Call the cardiologist and get ready for another cardioversion.  (Allegedly a day procedure the second time.)

To check your heart rate these days, you don’t have to count your pulse beats against a stop-watch the old-fashioned way.  Now there’s the oximeter, a gadget just about the size it looks in the picture (on a desk-top) and named for the first of its two functions: determining the oxygen level in your blood.  As a pulmonary fibrosis patient, Bill had two of them, one on each floor of the house. He kept sticking a finger in one or the other just about every fifteen minutes, hoping I suppose that if he did it often enough the disappointing top number on the little screen might go up. It never did. [If you’re really curious, 95-99 is excellent, 90-95 is okay, below 90 means trouble.]

My feeling about many of Bill’s medically flavored devices was that some of them might come in handy when I got older, one way or another. As the oximeter did — because it also measures heart beats per minute. You press the bottom two sides together to open the top enough to insert a forefinger. Then you press the button near the top so the oximeter lights up and goes to work. Presto! Two numbers appear in red on the lighted screen — top one for oxygen saturation, bottom one for beats per minute.

Awful as amiodorone was for me, I was nonetheless dismayed at the price of my freedom from it. “But if I have to call you and hurry to the hospital — that means I’m chained to Princeton for life!”

“Where would you go?” asked the cardiologist. He’s a dear man, and works very hard, and really cares about his patients. But he’s only 57 and perhaps feels that old-old people don’t mind rocking away their remaining years on a porch. (Especially in Princeton.)  I cast about wildly for a destination. “Well, Florida?” I began.  (Actually I dislike Florida. Heat, hurricanes, huge highways everywhere — and flat as a pancake.). “I have a son and grandchildren in Florida.”

Florida was apparently all right with the cardiologist.  I could still call him from Florida and fly home.  A day or two in a-fib might not matter too much with all the other medication I was still taking. “And suppose I want to fly to Europe?” (I think big.)  At this he looked dubious.  “Where in Europe?”

I had no immediate plans; that wasn’t the point.  I wanted him to give me back freedom, as much freedom as I could manage at my age. So I improvised: “Maybe London, Paris, the south of France?  Places where I can speak the language? (This was stretching it; my unused French has eroded badly with the years, but the cardiologist didn’t know that.)  “Or Israel!” I declared. “Bill’s favorite niece lives in Israel. I might want to go there!”

The cardiologist brightened up.  “Good hospitals in Israel,” he declared. “If you revert, have the Israeli hospital doctor call me; we’ll take it from there. But don’t forget to buy trip cancellation insurance.”

An imprimatur! I could get out of Princeton (nice as it may be) and go somewhere else.  No crossing oceans yet. First I have to learn to be an old old person in an airport. But make hay while the sun shines, say I, because who knows how long it’s going to shine? So tomorrow I’m off to (what a surprise!) Florida — for a short visit to my two pre-adolescent grandchildren who live there with their mom and dad, my younger son.  I haven’t seen these grandchildren for a year and a half.  School has begun for them already, but we’ll have afternoons and early evenings together, and there will be time with their parents during the day. Philadelphia to Tampa-St. Pete is only a three-hour flight. I fully expect to survive it.

And I’m not going alone of course. Guess what cute little black thing is coming with me? Back in about ten days.