Falling Down

In winter the very ground seems to reach up and grab the elderly, yanking them to earth as though hungry for them. Louise Penny

About eight years ago I asked my doctor if he would prescribe some sleeping pills for me. I told him that occasionally I had trouble falling asleep and thought it might be helpful to be able to take an Ambien tablet now and then. My doctor turned to me and snapped, “You’re 60 now, you might fall!”

I remember giving his comment quite a bit of thought. This was about the time when people were saying, “60 is the new 40.” Or, “50 is the new 30.” I reflected back to my youth when I and a lot of people perceived anyone over age 60 to be “elderly.” But things were different now I told myself. I’m fit. I don’t smoke. I can still run (if I have to). I might be aging, but I certainly wasn’t old.

Two weeks ago I turned 68 and once again, I took a look at myself and declared myself fit. And not really very old at all. But this week something happened to me that didn’t fit that mold. I fell down. Hard. It was about 11:00 in the morning and I was walking into the den. Baby, our 18-year-old cat saw me and scooted across the floor to get into position to have her head scratched. This is a tactic she repeats all day long and after many years of training, Terri and I often fall for it.

Anyway, Baby ran in front of me, then abruptly came to a stop. My feet became entangled in her twisting, squirming body and I wasn’t able to disengage.  I was going forward but my feet weren’t. I was falling and suddenly I was on the floor. I hurt all over but after a cursory check nothing seemed to be broken. I wanted to call out to Terri for help (well, I really just wanted sympathy) but she was at the store. My doctor had been right. His prophecy, “You might fall” had come true.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am writing this because I’m reflecting on my own mortality. Our high school yearbooks, after collecting dust for 48 and 49 years respectively have been brought out of storage. The books aren’t for nostalgia purposes. Rather, they now have a new purpose. When we learn that a former classmate is dying or has expired, we can thumb through them to help recollect who they were. I suspect that my classmates are doing the same.

I could go on and on about aging and the unwelcome frailties that I’m learning come with it. But I’ve always been an optimist and I have a 93 year-old mom who is still going strong. If I have her genes and I can avoid the cat who is plotting to kill me, I should be around for quite a bit longer. I think I’ll keep the yearbooks out though. There’s something oddly satisfying that comes with outliving people you knew long ago.

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