DULUTH -- My first 60 years were kind of a glide path to the “Golden Years.” Struggling with a career, childrearing and financing the whole thing, has disappeared in the rearview mirror. Memory can be short, especially when it involves the grind, and the rewards of making it to this day.
Things didn’t seem to hurt so much continually in that time when I was younger. I’m not talking emotional ups and downs that get woven into daily life. No, the last 15 years seems to have piled on the physical insults to a “mature” frame. These offenses are a persistent reminder that I ain’t what we used to be.
The scuffs and scrapes of childhood are part of learning how to manage the wonderful carcass that hauls us around. There are a lot of starts and stops along the way, some of the more serious ones involve casts and stitches. The minor ones — sheets of Band-Aids. Through it all, we find our way toward understanding our limits and learning to accommodate them. That blows out the window as we get older.
I used to run — loved it. There’s nothing better in my mind than getting up early in the morning, throwing on a scruffy sweatshirt and beat-up pair of running pants and pounding down the road before the sun comes up. The reward comes later in the morning when the surge of endorphins hits and provides energy and focus that makes going to work enjoyable. Then the knees and feet went.
I blew out my left knee when I was in eighth grade playing touch football on the front lawn of Wilson High School in St. Paul. At the time, the remedy was ice and rest. I am to this day very grateful that the medical procedures of that period didn’t apply to my case. The way to treat it then was to cut out the damaged cartilage, which later on in life gave the gift of severe arthritis in the knee. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about that.
However, I didn’t escape a “trick” knee that let me down, sometimes literally. One time after I leaned on a podium while teaching an English class, I collapsed on the floor when the knee gave way. The kids were a bit startled; I laughed it off and continued on with our discussion of Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five.”
After that little stunt, I talked my orthopod into a brace to keep the leg in line so I could lean whenever I wanted to, especially when I was skiing — downhill, cross-country or water.
The feet — well, they just hurt too, until I had them overhauled, a process that involved a significant amount of pain. When I grabbed an early retirement opportunity, it was down to walking a couple miles in the morning with my buddies, and BSing afterward while we drank coffee at a local cafe. By that time, we all had given up running.
I could go on and on about all the stuff that many of you hear from grandparents, uncles or the geezer at the next table who talks too loud about his most recent “procedure.” No need to go there.
Yes, there is stuff that aches all the time. But it’s a good reminder, with no need to look in the rearview mirror. It hurts, but I’m still alive. The Advil is never far out of reach.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and psychologist. Write to him at email@example.com.