34. That guy

On a recent lunch outing, we had to wait 45 minutes for a table at a popular restaurant. My legs were killing me. My wife and a friend suggested they get me a chair. “No, that’s okay. I’m fine.” After a half hour, they stopped suggesting; they got a chair and insisted I sit down. I protested once more, and then I sat down. Ahhhhhhhh…

I have a dilemma. Due to bad knees, bad back, recent hip replacement, and 50 years of tennis, I’m frequently in some pain and need to sit down. But I don’t want to be that guy who always needs to sit down. That guy someone always needs to take care of. So what do I do? I quietly make everyone uncomfortable with a painful look on my face, and constantly shifting weight on my feet.

It’s tough for people around me. When I resist their help, they think I’m not appreciative, which is not the case. The fact is I’m much more comfortable giving assistance than receiving assistance. Is that because of my innate selflessness? Not hardly. Selfless is not my middle name.

I equate needing help – a wheel chair in the airport, for example – with being vulnerable. And vulnerability sucks, even more than a bum leg. This old guy sees vulnerability as a one-way street. A slippery slope.

Heavy, huh? I warned you that I’d be writing some heavy shit in this blog.

When I was young, I remember helping old people: grandparents, aunts and uncles, people at church in wheel chairs. We kids helped them, we gave them our chair, we took their arm, no questions asked. It’s what young folks do when old folks need help.

I became middle aged, and it was my parents who needed help: arthritis, weight gain, hearing loss, withdrawal, slower thought processes. We who used to be their children became their parents, and helped manage their lives.

This is not breaking news. We all know where we’re going. We’re just not sure when we’ll arrive.

There’s another memory from my youth: I’ve always loved parties. In grade school, it was birthday parties. In junior high, it was parties with girls. In high school, parties with girls and beer. In college: girls, beer, and intellectual discussions about Vietnam, civil rights, God, and the meaning of life. I was never the first one to leave those parties. I was more than likely the last one.

So, back to standing in line for 45 minutes, and realizing I need a chair. I see things like that as signs that I’m becoming those old people I used to help. When I experience these things, it feels like the first steps toward leaving the party early. The fat lady’s standing up, getting ready to sing.

Okay, I’ve crossed the morbid metaphor line. Sorry about that. Let me bring it back.

The fact is, this party’s nowhere close to over. I know that. I’ve got more high school reunions to go to. I just have to change some things. Attitude, for example.

When I had trouble reading, I got glasses. (My new glasses make me look hot. I get cat calls as I walk past the assisted living facility.) Trouble hearing? I got hearing aids. (They don’t make me look hot.)

Trouble walking and standing? I need to fix that, too. But I can’t just buy something for it; I have to do some stuff.

Stuff I’ve never enjoyed doing: stretching, exercising, walking, physical therapy, pushing myself, working out. Sweating. Tennis included all of those bad things, but tennis provided the rush of nailing a passing shot as your opponent charged the net.

And there’s the rub. I have to learn to expend the energy, without experiencing an immediate high. That will take an attitude adjustment, but I can do it. Might even work my way back to the tennis court.

And while it looks like that fat lady is standing up, getting ready to sing, I’m not at all worried. She’ll sit right back down. I can tell her legs are killing her.

10 thoughts on “34. That guy

  1. Larry, for me the most difficult act is to ask for help, even though I know that my need will be quickly provided. During the past year I’ve had to need a wheel chair. At other times, a very powerful walker, one with many wheels and a place to sit down — I call it my Cadillac. Other times there’s a beginner’s wheel chair when I need less assistance (that’s my first car, a 1936 Plymouth). Most of the time I use a cane and sometimes I’m strong enough to walk short distances by myself. I’m frustrated by all this, never knowing what’s next; some days starting with nothing, most using a cane and other days I go from a cane, to a walker within a few hours. And then there’s the bath tub — a year ago a therapist told me I could never take a bath again; on Saturday, I took a bath for the first time in 12 months with no problem. I wonder when I’ll be strong enough to do that again. By the way, people who should know say the fat lady sings off key and offers little consolation.

  2. Waahh waahhh wahhh. We is a l l there Lar! When we get off the plane in W. Palm Beach Fl the jetway is LINED with wheelchairs! (Fl is full of old farts – driverless cars – early bird specials — shoot me if I ever say at 4:30 “honey it’s time for dinner!”) That is not us yet! And before Roger, my hip, was installed I got a cane for travel -more of a walking stick really – with a flask in it and I drank out of it in public places and people said “isn’t she cute?!” Don’t need the cane anymore but I still carry it when we travel….
    My husb has an achy back and knee which he knows will hurt so he finds a chair. No prob. And FINALLY he succumbed to hearing aids and I don’t have to repeat whatever I say 3 times!! And you know what? When some young kid on the train between terminals does NOT offer me a seat I get pissed! (Careful to not let it show…) Cancer Mart???

  3. Wow! So much to comment on here but those above/previous have done a good job. Most of us at this age do have those similar issues (I’ll spare you my personal list!) & you have done a delightful job of expressing the feelings & frustrations. I so very much enjoy you writing.
    Had I known you were SO talented when we were high school/ college friends, I might have paid more attention to you!!!😘

    1. I tried to convince you, Gents. But no… you had a thing for older men with beautiful baritone voices who sang solos in Christmas Vespers. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. Larry, as usual, you got it right! Yes, we have aches and pains, but we just keep enjoying the good life. I hope the restaurant was worth the wait. We select our restaurants with a thought to the sound level and coast through airports in wheelchairs as they help us get where we are going with minimum pain.

  5. Wonderful, cogent, and reflective thoughts. I hope you will be able to return to the tennis court and nail some passing shots in 2020. Being a new septuagenarian, I have recently had conservations with senior tennis players who swear that CBD applied topical oil took away their knee and hip pains. I didn’t believe it, until I read two peer reviewed science publications and tried it myself. Seems to help. If this doesn’t work, come January, you can always test possible remedies from a local marijuana shop, and write about those experiences….well, after your mind becomes clear!

    1. I just might do that, Milton. After January 1, I’ll just rub a joint on my joints. Cool.

  6. Hey Larry, what’s the problem? Live life! do what you have to do to live it. we are all falling apart. i have glasses, hearing aids, bad knees, bad back, beat cancer, what’s not to like?

    i ride my horse every week, i go to films i want to see, NYC is all dolled up for christmas, i am alive. i am rehabbing my faded mansion in Virginia. Im hoping to go riding horses in India this year. I have a Puerto Rican boyfriend who is 60 and all the fun in the world. I cant wait for Trump to go to jail.

    Just live it. we dont get another one. Kisses, Martha

  7. OMGosh, I love you, Old Guy.

    Try Pickle Ball.

    Take the damn chair.

    Get a really cool, funny, artsy or many canes.

    I couldn’t handle it when people on buses on subways and buses began rising and offering me their seats. Now, I smile and thank them. People in grocery stores and retail outlets keep calling me, “Ma’am” which I really equate to older women. I just ignore that now.

    Larry, y’know your a year younger but obviously were a year smarter since we graduated together. I love your sharing and I sure love your writing. Thanks, buddy….keep sharing thoughts. Have a Wonderful Holiday season…stay off of ladders and ice, please. Hugs, Suzie

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