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Three score and ten or more

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Oldness and the Approach of Coothood

Oldness and the Approach of Coothood.

I have been getting some comment from friends about using the term “old” to describe myself. Actually seventy plus is not so old if you are living in the time of Methuselah, but seventy plus is pretty dang old if you are living in the 1960s or 70s, and it makes me older in years than most of the people I know. But old and older are not words that get me bothered in any subtle ways. I know people who have less age than me who are “older” and I mentioned in an earlier blog when I was whining about age that I know a guy a year older in age than me who is running half marathons twice a year. It is not just the number of years that makes one old, nor is age a mental or psychological state. Old is when your body tells you that you are old. This doesn’t necessarily mean that appearance is the key. I have people react with surprise all the time when they discover my age. Only this afternoon, the technologist at my cardiologist’s office who was giving me a cardiogram note that I didn’t “seem” as old as my chart said I am.

Infirmity in itself doesn’t equate with old. I first was examined in the tests that finally diagnosed a peripheral neuropathy in 1991. I felt terrible, and I was depressed, and, based on my physical condition and what the doctors were telling me, I thought that I would die pretty soon. I had ischemia (white spots) in my brain. I had plantar fasciitis (I can’t spell it) in my feet that made every step an agony. They tested my heart, my brain, (and for awhile treated me for bi-polar syndrome), my lungs, my eyes, (ended up with two laser surgery sessions on my left eye and one on my right), and with all this crap, I felt miserable but I didn’t feel old

I managed (with a cane, and sometimes a four wheeled walker that looks like, if you put pedals on it, it would be some kind of bike) to walk-jog two or more miles in twenty minutes every day, did multiple crunches each day and did an intense stretch routine (which, as an actor I had done every day for forty years), and fought this with all my energy. Only four years ago, I had a quadrupal bypass, and except for the two or so months of therapy, even then, though I had already retired, I didn’t feel old.

I no longer suffer from much of this. My peripheral neuropathy is an irritation that required constant medication and I have lousy balance and my cardiologist and I are on a first name basis, but my body is telling me that I am old. There is no way that I could walk-jog for twenty minutes. (I do manage a session of intense water aerobics three times a week, and when I quit that, I will probably be dead). I am now exhausted by walking from one end of the house to the other. I cook some of our meals, but I can’t stand at the kitchen counter to do it, I have to sit on a stool. I am a sculptor (one of a kind dolls, mostly Santa’s ) and I haven’t sculpted much for a long while, in part because my studio is in the back yard and it is too much of an effort to go out there, as well as the fact that my concentration level is so low that I can hardly read a book anymore, let alone create figures.

One of the bloggers whose work I follow has been building (on the blog) a case for identifying our current government as fascist. I read the posts, and quickly identified the fact that this blogger has recognized one of the first elements that I used to teach my debate teams- the person who defines the terms usually wins the debate. The definitions, however, used in this argument come from really biased sources, I would almost say spurious sources, (the term “rights” is defined from the dictionary of Marxism) – I was agitated enough to consult the Oxford English Dictionary, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language and others with the thought that I would jump in and refute the whole thing. I then became aware that I had not the energy to spend a couple of hours refuting the material. I have also reached the age that I pick my fights carefully, saving them for a time when they might do some good. This blogger (whose work, generally I enjoy and read all the time, though I disagree most of the time) is so set in the feelings of antagonism toward Bush, toward the government and toward that “fascist” sense, that the argument would be useless. I could spend a day chopping down every argument in a true debater fashion and nothing would change except the length of the comment pages on that blog. I will save my energy for something more useful, something where I could make a difference. Five years ago, I would have dedicated hours and hours to this, just for the fun of it. My inability to convince my self to do it is evidence that I am not just “older”, but I am old.

I love Davo’s blog, and Mahndisa’s (I can’t get these internal links to work, so, if you want to check them out, click on them at right) but occasionally Davo comes up with stuff that really makes you concentrate and think about it, the same with Mahndisa (though lately she’s been ticked off enough that I just read her stuff and enjoy the peppery sense of it.) When I get into deep stuff any more, it’s all I can do to read it carefully, let alone generate a coherent comment on it. That’s the kind of stuff that always generated interest, anger, enthusiasm and energy in me before. Davo quotes Josephus and scholars comments on Josephus, and my first thought was to go into my books about Josephus (for those who don’t know, he is one of the few historians that were contemporary or close to contemporary with Jesus, and the scholarship about him is intense and interesting) then I realized that I had donated all of that stuff to either the University Library or the Library of the local Charter School. Books have always been a major part of my life, and parting with a good one was like parting with and arm or leg. Getting rid of them is a sign that I am reaching coothood.

I have done some workshops in puppetry and drama in the past year that made me younger. This was also true of my adventure into Dickens and Scrooge in December.
Maybe if I get back into that kind of activity more of the time, I can work my way back to being “older” instead of just “old”. I am dickering about directing a play next spring, maybe I can get back to being, as Gayle would say, “older”. We’ll see.


At 11:45 PM, Blogger Davo said...

Thanks for the "plug", 35+ ;-)

(have found an easier way to make "words" into "links". If you'd like to email me [via link in my profile] could try to explain it.)

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

You don't make the golden years sound to golden. Who came up with that term anyway?

I always thought life got the order of things mixed up. It should be more like...

Ages (0 - 20): go to school
Ages (20 - 40): retirement
Ages (40 - 70): work
Ages (70 - ?): sleep and eat like an infant.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

Ed, I wouldn't want you to think that my life is "hell". The trouble with the category ages 70- sleep and eat like and infant has two problems: 1. It is boring (I did a lot of that after my bypass), and 2. If you don't keep your body and mind functioning at the highest leve possible, they shut down. Who wants to shut down completely?

Besides coothood has some advantages: 1. parking, thanks to handicapped slots one gets closer to the door. 2. Discounts at restaurants, movies, and occasionally at a store. 3. When coots do something stupid, they are forgiven on the basis of age.
4. You can turn people down when they ask you to do things that you don't want to do.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger t_cole said...

i really enjoyed this entry. found it to be an insight into something i had not given a lot of thought in the past.
thanks for sharing this part of you.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

There is no denying that the body deteriorates with age. Thank God the spirit is willing even when the flesh is weak.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

You are probably right with the 70+ catagory but I still like the idea of spending my retirement years before my work years and while I am still able to do everything.

You have a great attitude on old age and hopefully your body continues to follow for years to come.

At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Kathleen said...

A wonderful post . . . for an old coot! *laughing* I love your stories. You are a gifted writer and age has been kind to you. Selfishly I say, don't stop. I would miss you.

Regarding the fascist blog, I am about twenty years younger than you and I came to the same conclusion.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Fish said...

Life is upside down. We should have all our aches, pains and infirmities when we're young and have parents to care for us, then just get healthier until we die some day in perfect health.

At 8:39 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

You said: " Five years ago, I would have dedicated hours and hours to this, just for the fun of it. My inability to convince my self to do it is evidence that I am not just “older”, but I am old."

And I disagree because I don't think it's as much a "lack of energy" as it is the fact that you are smarter. Time is more precious as we grow older, so why waste it in futile effort. I'll bet if you thought you had one chance in 100 of changing his mind you would go for it. What say you? :)

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

By the way, the term "Coothood" that you coined is very good! I know many people who have reached it and they aren't out of their fifties yet!

At 4:55 AM, Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

01 13 06

Hey there Richard: Thx for the plug! This was a funny and telling post! Coothood is a term I will now integrate into my vocabulary. The current post on the blog isn't peppery (ha ha ha ha ha), it is more reflective. I have decided to stay away from politics for now because I just get too irritated and that isn't the point of blogging is it? I like the example of reading the paranoid person's blog and whether or not you shd take the time to draft up a response. Yeah picking ones own battles makes sense. Ironically I have been feeling a bit paranoid and anarchist, so I probably can relate to the blogger you are referring to:) Cool post:)

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Mo'a said...

Great post.....as you know I believe in the word, older and not old....the primary reason is thatI believe people buy into their own labels :)Artist, Old, Beautiful, Ugly, Smart, Dumb I will not even go into the other labels, that make the hair on my neck stand up,.... *cringe* We should as human being be evolved enough to know that we are what we believe we are.....or the labels we attach to ourselves

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

Another thought (hope you don't mind). I have a friend who is 76 years old. She and I go shopping together. She thinks of herself as "old." She is exactly 11 years older than I, but people constantly refer to her as my "mother." Mo'a Romig-Boyles' statement is right on. And your statement that one must keep their minds active is right on too.

At any rate, I admire you. You are an excellent writer.

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Kathleen said...

Richard, you've gone missing again. What, you have better things to do other than communicate with us? *laughing* Hope you have the carpet for the floor. I has gotten much colder the last day or two.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Norma said...

I think it is good you started to fall apart early--leaves more time for blogging now. For all the energy you say you lack to plumb the depths of the marxist meanings of words, you still get a hefty load of comments.


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