(An insight - from Morgana de Courcy © 2011)
You get to around 70 and things start to fall apart. Bits and pieces you never even knew you had begin to hurt. You try and walk to the letter box and before you know it you’re huffing and puffing like a traction engine. Your face goes red; your varicose veins start throbbing and you’re sure you have a headache coming on.
The arthritis slows you down and before you know it, someone is suggesting that a walking stick might help, dear. There are times when I would willingly swipe someone over the head with my walking stick - they’re so damn patronising.
You have to get up almost every hour on the hour to go to the bathroom - then the Dr asks do you have interrupted sleep? What’s he talking about? I have ongoing interruptions, I hardly have any sleep! But if and when I do drop off, my damned restless legs take over and I’m throwing myself around the bed, tossing the duvet off because I’m overheated. The next minute I’m scrambling around trying to find that same duvet to pull up around me, because I’m shivering. Nobody told me that the hot flushes went on forever.
You get up early to take your morning pills, and by the time you’ve taken them you need to have another visit to the bathroom because there are so many pills that you have to drink half a gallon of water to get them down. I reckon I rattle when I walk - if not, then I hate to think what that is I hear every time I take a step.
If you’re unfortunate enough to go into hospital even for an ingrown toenail removal, they ask you what prosthetics you wear. Well to start off, there are the dentures; then the hearing aids. They tell you to remove the teeth, and you’re so gummy you can’t even make sense of what you’re saying let alone expect the nurses to understand you! Your tongue fills your mouth and you start salivating and you sound just like a baby learning to talk. Of course it doesn’t help having to remove your hearing aids either, because then you can’t hear what anyone is saying and you can’t even hear what you’re saying! They then remove your glasses and you can’t see a thing. What are you supposed to do? They ask you to sign the document and you can’t even see the flamin’ document, let alone know where to sign it.
The hospitals in Australia have limited administration staff in most departments. This means you’re expected to fill out your entire admission papers (usually anything up to 10 pages), and list (the most recent to the earliest) all the operations (big and little) you’ve had over the years. Yikes I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast, let alone the fact I had a haemorroidectomy, - oh, gosh when was that? The list of medications, including the dosage you’re on, the exact spelling of the tablet or capsule, and when you take it and how often, and more than an hour has gone by. And it doesn’t matter even if your visit to the hospital is a “repeat” visit - the same damn documents and the same damn lists.
You supply your pension card and medicare card and are told this is out of date, where’s your new one? Honestly, it’s enough to give you high blood pressure (that is, if you didn’t already have it!).
And these are only a few of the things that irritate you as you grow older. This is where things become really weird. People ask you how are you today? Do they really want to hear all about your aches and pains? Do they simply mouth the words, without ever intending to listen to you. Or are they just humouring you, giving you the impression they’re interested, when they really couldn’t care less.
It’s not only friends or neighbours who do this - it’s family too. Gosh, what is it about me that these people waste my time in even asking me? I decided some years ago that if they asked me, I’d look them in the eye and tell them “fine”. Even when I looked and felt lousy. I’m beginning to wonder if they really wanted to know how I was feeling in the first place. They didn’t notice how I looked, they just smiled and went on with what they were talking about. I started doing likewise to a lot of them, and they didn’t even notice I’d turned off and was talking about something else. They just went on raving about how they felt.
I think asking about a person’s health should be relegated to the same “don’t do” file of mentioning religion, football or politics, unless it’s made plain to you that people really do want to know. Otherwise it only gets you into an argument, and I can get myself into one of those without the help of other people - thank you very much!
If you're growing older, and know from personal experience what it's all about - those aches and pains and moans and groans, why not write about them so we can share them by reprinting them? Come on - I bet you have some interesting stories.