Sunday, October 25, 2009


Today, I turned 60. Son of a bitch! Why me?

Back in July, I had a foretaste of old age. I woke up in my mom's house with my leg vibrating like a tuning fork and aching like a bad tooth. I gladly would have donated my leg to science, provided they were willing to take immediate delivery. I gritted my teeth as I suffered through her recollections about the fictitious middle child she thinks she mothered, the one who apparently couldn't wait to get on the school bus each morning to face a full day of being small and nerdy with glasses. Then I happened to mention my concerns about boarding my flight home the next day and six hours of being jammed into a seat. Her reply was shut up and stop complaining.

Seriously, mothers. Okay, if it wasn’t for her, I would have been calling a cardboard box home, but really, seriously ...

It turned out my leg cramp was a pinched sciatic nerve. I managed to soldier on for about a week, then the torture started in earnest, blinding shooting pain radiating from my buttocks to the sole of my foot. For eight days, I was flat on my back on the living room couch, staring up at the ceiling fan, cursing and screaming at God. God and I have issues.

Thankfully, a buddy stocked me up on grown-up baby food - Ensure, bananas, Gator Aid - and drove me to visits to the chiropractor. One day, the pain was not as bad as the day before. I was going to come out of it. But now when I walk down the street - an endeavor I no longer take for granted - and see old men and women hobbling about as best they can without complaint, well, let's put it this way, I'm not viewing them through the same stupid eyes.

I’m entering the decade where things fall apart, what a good friend refers to as old Chevy syndrome. You know, you’re happily tooling down the freeway and - clunk! - the trannie drops out or a wheel goes flying off and suddenly things are never the same. I’ve already been through my brain quitting on me. Now a whole leg. Add in my deforested head, failing eyes, nagging aches and pains, and back teeth that resemble broken crockery, and - let’s put it this way - pretty soon I’m going to require the services of a stunt double.

Last week, I talked about this with my psychiatrist. I pay for my visits, which means I get to talk for a full half-hour about things I want, rather than be rushed out the door after a drive-by ten-minute meds check. I’m not afraid of death, I told him. If I die I die, no big deal. But to endure the rest of my life in constant pain and fatigue, with vital bits and pieces not operational, with my brain failing to boot up. Year in and year out ...

I have two choices, I told him. I can grin and bear it or I can become a grumpy old man. It’s kinda like reaching acceptance with your illness, he concurred. You acknowledge reality and learn to accept your limitations. That way, life is only a constant challenge (which I gather is normal) rather than an interminable burden.

A few months ago, in an email, I joked to my daughter Emily that age is the biggest risk factor for everything that can go wrong with you. So don’t be stupid like me, I advised her - stay young.

But age does have its compensations. Three and a bit weeks ago, I became a grandfather. On a Skype connection, my daughter in New Zealand held up little Teddy, days old, to her webcam. My beaming face, in turn, landed on her computer screen. What she couldn’t make out, of course, were my tears of joy. Today I turned 60 and life is good.


Loretta said...

Happy Birthday, John.

I think of the adage, "Old age is not for sissies." How true. I'm a few years behind you but am often aware of the number of years behind me and know there are far fewer ahead of me. Also, I provide counseling to residents of nursing homes, which is a daily lesson in courage on the battlefield of old age.

Yes, there is still a lot of joy in life, even though we struggle daily with aches and paines and angst about what's to come. I too have a grandchild, and she is the light of my life. No matter how tough things get I wouldn't miss her growing up for any reason. I'll drag my imperfect body and brain along and hopefully accept whatever is in store for me with grace and humor. Or at least a minimum of kvetching.

All the best to you, John. You have a purpose for being here, grandpa. And don't underestimate the gift you give to all of us who read your words.

megs said...

Happy B-Day !!! May your day be full of fun and frolic :)

The older we get, the better we are.

I'm ahead of you. Officially became an Old Fart this year; have a long list of meds and lots of challenges. It's a good thing to get up every day and keep going forward. We could be surprised by Joy...

Glad you have Skype and the web-cam. Teddy will know your face and the sound of your voice. Our four granddaughters make my heart sing.


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, John -

I'm glad to see that you have a great sense of humor and an attitude of gratitude . . I think those are your best tools for looking forward!

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

this is she said...

Happy Birthday John! Thanks for helping me find 'others'. Geez, I feel like I belong to a group of vampires that drink blood and live by the night. Sorry, don't mean to be offensive, but that picture just popped in my head. If I couldn't laugh at myself, I'd be in BIG trouble. Seriously, I enjoy reading your blogs. I'm in my late 20's, and after what you've been through, to hear you say life is good at 60, is VERY promising! Thanks John!

Lori~ said...

Another big HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHOUT from me as well John! I echo Loretta's words, YOU have a purpose, your words are a gift to all of us!

Keep dragging along...we'll follow. :)

John McManamy said...

Thanks, Everyone. Just got back from a day of water volleyball and celebrating with the bunch at the local eatery. Lots of very funny old man jokes in the pool every time I missed a shot. The waitress told me to make a wish, but then she wouldn't let me take her home. :)

herb said...

Dear John,

Happy Anniversary of your birth there youngster!

Every day is a good day especially if you can open your eyes and get out of bed. At least that is the beginning of a good day.

Now that you’ve mentioned you’re graceful ascent into the more mature years one of my friends happened to send the following to me that I’ll share with you and your readers.

Perks of reaching 50 or being over 60 and heading towards 70!
1. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.
2. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.
3. No one expects you to run--anywhere.
4. People call at 9 pm and ask, “Did I wake you”?
5. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.
6. There is nothing left to learn the hard way.
7. Things you buy now won't wear out.
8. You can live without sex but not your glasses.
9. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.
10. You sing along with elevator music.
11. Your eyes won't get much worse.
12. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
13. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.
14. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.
15. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.
16. You can't remember who sent you this list.
17. You’ll notice these are all in Bold Print for your convenience.
18. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Happy Birthday, once again!