The golden years

By Ron M. Horvath | Jan 22, 2012

“Did you know that a month’s supply of ‘Depends’ costs $300?”

The question came at me out of the dark of a winter’s walk at dawn last February from my walking partner, Judi.  And no, I didn’t know it, but a rational and negative answer didn’t seem appropriate, anyway. The only explanation for this line of thought was our increased mutual anxiety over having both arrived in our 65th year in a time when the economy, the social safety nets, and our futures, seemed under assault.

Only a few weeks before I had been taught a lesson in my own mortality when an unseen patch of ice led to a sudden and unexpected fall.  It happened in a fraction of a second and I remember only my feet losing contact with the road, a sudden and hard impact on the right side of my back, and a discernible “crunch” in my ribs.  I lay there stunned, assessing the damage, while Judi, searching the darkness, wondered aloud where I had gone.  With much effort I rose up out of the shadows, told her what had happened, lied that I was OK, and we proceeded on.  But I knew that I was not OK and it would be only a matter of time until the real pain set in.

I was right.  A few hours later my labored movements revealed my conditioned and I was sent home from work. I spent the next two days, and nights, in my chair, and the next two weeks struggling to get into and out of bed.  I realized then that I don’t bounce, nor bounce back, as I once did.

You can imagine what an effect this had on our morning walks and if anything about my fall was permanent it was the nagging thought for us both of just how permanent it could actually have been. I might not have gotten up and walked away. I might not have been able to get up at all.

And so the more permanent injury was in the mind, a certain loss of confidence.  Life was changing, again.

I know the changes have been slow in coming.  I’m crankier than I was five years ago and I don’t last as long at any hard physical labor. I have learned to take breaks when mowing the lawn, stacking firewood, or shoveling snow.  And I have learned the value of focus when a moment’s reflection can draw me off into a reverie of memory, away from the here and now to lose myself in the distant past.  At work I constantly review what I’m doing  I always run a mental checklist when leaving the house. I write down anything that comes to mind that needs doing, or remembering. I walk with all possible vigor in the early mornings for the sake of body and mind, but move more slowly during the day. A weekend’s rest does not last till Friday as it once did.  By Thursday I am thinking the week has gone on too long.

And yet I cannot sleep through the night. Some noise in the back of the mind, audible enough to hear but not to discern eats away at my rest; a conversation — there, but not really there — that concerns me but doesn’t seem to include me, the odd man out from all my memory of myself.

This signals the end of something. With so much of our lives behind us time becomes precious and we husband it more tightly, fearful of losing it. I don’t know why that should be and my sense of reason says it should not. If time is precious then let us not waste it on fearful thought.  Why should those who have survived to this age fear for their survival, or is it that we fear survival itself?

Still, I am amazed that I have so little to complain about. Robin and I have a roof over our heads, food and clothing, and a modicum of stability and comfort. We have escaped the worst of this economic downturn. We have jobs that are stable and safe (for now).  Our kids are healthy and all working. Our aging parents don't need us (yet).  My doctor has even congratulated me for reaching my 60s without any major surgery.  Indeed, I have slipped by and into my "senior" years presumably unscathed while being only too conscious of others who have not been so lucky.

And if my walks in the predawn hours are good for anything then they're a kind of therapy, a chance to get all the noise out of my head, to just listen, reflect, and feel the wind. It's not that I get many answers to life’s “persistent questions” but at least those questions aren't so important, so pressing, when seen against all the shadows in the moonlight. Things are just what they are, and nothing more. Nothing to interpret, to unravel, no questions to answer, no plots to hatch or uncover, nothing to make sense of when your senses are all you have between you and what's really there.

And I have learned that change for the better, even at this late date, is possible.  About a month after my fall, Robin returned from her Florida visit with her parents. She took one look at the photos from the trip and declared that she was joining Weight Watchers online.  I decided to go along. That was in February. By the fall we had both lost more than 20 pounds. It had not been effortless but not difficult either. Time, patience, and a willingness to reinvent the routine of our lives had paid off. All that was required was the commitment, and to begin. We did and something of our old selves was regained.

And life has a sense of humor all its own.  Around the time of my birthday I received a "Depends" in the mail.  It was addressed to me, or “Current Resident" care of the good people at Kimberly-Clark.

"I'd laugh," Robin said, adding to my dismay and barely containing her amusement, "but I'd probably wet my pants."

Well, that says it all, doesn't it?


Ronald M. Horvath lives in Camden.


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Comments (2)
Posted by: Phil Edwards | Jan 30, 2012 09:22

Ron, a nice article. I enjoyed it.  Have yet to receive my Depends in the mail....but...I do feel my mortality when I see an ad on the boob-tube down here that tells me if I took such and such  " a drug and experienced any of the following: nausea, loss of sight, or death---I should call (attorny's name) now".

Posted by: Guy Bourrie | Jan 24, 2012 11:48

We do see eye to eye politically (mostly) and at about the same age (66) I agree; that piece was right on. Thanks Ron.

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