Woster: Get to living while you still can

A regular column from Terry Woster

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For my birthday one morning last week, I took a drive in the country.

Actually, I drove to Mitchell and back for an appointment with the young guy who is helping me keep my macular degeneration under control. So, really, all I did was keep a medical appointment. That’s what passed for birthday fun when a guy turns 78.

The appointment happened at the Mabee Clinic. I have a soft spot for the name Mabee. A surgeon by that name removed a cyst from near my daughter’s eye when she was about three years old. Never left a scar. Half a century later, I still marvel at the skill that surgery required. If you’ve had a child, you know the overwhelming sense of relief Nancy and I felt when the doctor came out and said the procedure went just fine.

My own eye problems aren’t nearly so dramatic. They’re pretty much a factor of being allowed to grow old – or at least older than a lot of people are given the opportunity to grow. I read somewhere online that the average life expectancy these days for a male in the United States is, like, 76.1 years. If so, I’ve been living on borrowed time for almost two years now.

It doesn’t feel like that. For most of my adult life, I’ve felt like I was 30 years old, 35 tops. In the last two or three years, as I reached and passed the midpoint of my 70s, I’ve begun to recognize that I’m kind of an old man, even if I try to pretend otherwise.


So, I sit in the clinic waiting room, trying not to be noticed as I study the other patients and their partners or caregivers or neighbors who have agreed to give them rides home after their appointments. Most of the men and women in the room look old, to be honest. Maybe it’s because we all have eyeglasses. The wrinkles on our faces don’t help, and neither do the random dark spots on the backs of our hands. Old people in a medical clinic’s waiting room — this is what it’s come to in a country that has the ability to keep a lot of people living a long, long time.

It occurs to me – not for the first time – that we devote an inordinate amount of our medical time, attention and resources to folks in my demographic group. I recall when I’d go to the optometrist every three or four years. I’ve been seeing my current guy every three or four months. I remember a time when the only pills I took were aspirin the morning after a long night on the town. Now I need three separate day-of-the-week cases to keep my meds straight.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, of course. Well, if I had my choice, I’d live to be 100 or so with absolutely no medical issues and no pills. In the absence of that sort of miracle, I go with the miracles available in the real world. It has worked pretty well so far.

A person could look at us old folks in the clinic waiting room and decide we aren’t essential to the country. But my kids called me on my birthday. A granddaughter traded texts about a comment I had on a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald she loaned to me. Another granddaughter went to the trouble of making a new cover, with many photos, for my iPad. Somehow, I’m still essential to them.

And the great-granddaughter Nancy and I care for during work days always gets excited when she shows up in the morning and sees my face in the kitchen window. She’s 17 months old, a real spitfire. Once in a while, though, she’ll stop moving and crawl onto my lap to hug me for just a second. I can’t think of anything more essential than that.

However, Just as I’ve made myself content about my age, I see on the news that 60s super singer Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes has died. She was 78. I’d better get to living while I still can.

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