One of the things I figured I would be writing about in this column after I retired was retirement — the ups and downs of growing older and surviving out of the work world.
After all, that would be a lot of my life, although not all of it, I hoped. I really wasn’t figuring on writing much about heath and the ailments of older age except as passing jokes. (”I’m at an age where my back goes out more than I do.” —Phyllis Diller.)
But now that I have reached official retirement age, I seem to be coming face-to-face with some of the health problems I only flirted with before. Through the years, various doctors have helped me maintain relatively good health while battling type II diabetes, back problems, high blood pressure, bladder issues and other threats.
But there is no maintaining right now. I have a great pain in the neck.
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Since I was young, I have known I have a bad back (and not just the kind that gives you excuses not to help move furniture.) As one doctor put it to me when I was in my 50s, “You have the spine of a much older man.”
My pain in the neck is thanks to crooked vertebrae. They are headed every which way and throwing out spurs to try and stabilize themselves. Some apparently are pressing on my spine, sending unpleasant sensations to various places in my body and wreaking havoc with my shoulders, my balance and my stomach. I fall down and throw up a lot, although that has eased up lately.
“Your neck curves the wrong way,” a surgeon said after looking at the latest X-rays of my neck. “There doesn’t seem to be much right in there.” That’s the kind of encouraging news I often get at doctors’ offices.
He pointed out three vertebrae which he said had been broken at one time but healed themselves by fusing. It might have happened during my breech birth delivery. I don’t think it was from the many times my older brothers threatened to break my neck, but I’ll never know. I was a difficult child in many ways.
Meanwhile my wife has to deal with me. I’m on pain medication. I don’t walk well. I don’t drive. I’m in a terrible mood. I’m supposed to rest.
She is dealing with the frustrating medical bureaucracy, taking care of most of the other things around the house and chauffeuring around a man who gets about 20 miles a ride before throwing up.
Somehow she is bearing up and being a good sport about it all.
I think this is part of that “for better or worse” thing they put in the wedding vows that no one pays much attention to at the time. Thank heavens for that.
There must be some kind of a joke about the golden years here, but I think all the good jokes have pretty much all been used up by now.
Like so many others in similar situations, we will adjust and get through this. But I don’t think there will be much looking back and laughing later.
I doubt that I will be turning my head much anyway.