It Takes A Huge Amount Of Stamina To Grow Old


I’ve been speaking with more and more 65-year-old people who are off to visit their parents on the weekend. This means there are a lot of 80- and 90-year-old folks out there. For this, we can thank recent medical advances, along with good, clean living and lots of pluck. It takes moxie to face the day when the day is so uncertain.

You start by reading the obituaries to see if you’ve lost any high school pals. You continue by ingesting a boatload of pills on pure faith. After all, the doctor said do it, so you do it. And you end by turning on the news to watch the nation you helped build undergo change after change until it is a far different place than what you had meant to pass on to your children’s children’s children. Then you sigh, go to bed, and prepare to do it all again tomorrow.

Not only that, but these octogenarians and nonagenarians are the true Bionic Men and Bionic Women of TV show fame. If a part breaks, they just replace it. One 96-year-old, wobbling as she stood up from a chair, apologized to me by saying, “I’ve got to get my hip replacement replaced.”

“How long do they last?” I asked.

“Only about 20 years,” she ruefully replied.

The next day, my next door neighbor was explaining to her neighbor why she hadn’t been seen outside last week. “I had a pacemaker put in,” she said. “I had to stay in the hospital overnight.”

I was in the hospital overnight when I had my first child, and this woman is released the day after having electrodes attached to her heart muscle? Not only that, but the second neighbor, a former nurse, replied, “Well, that’s not such a big deal, is it?”

If you told these people, when they were 12 years old, that they were going to lose all their friends, have to take medicine every day, watch everything they ever worked for go to ruin, and frequently be cut open to have metal plates and pieces of plastic and battery wires put into their bodies because their own natural parts were breaking down, those kids would’ve run away screaming.

Instead, they’re plugging along day to day, sometimes thanking surgeons for implanting replacement aortas where their own aortas used to be.

I mean, you have to give these people credit. What fortitude! What stamina! What bravery! These people are the Energizer bunnies of the shuffleboard set, not that any of them play a game as outdated as shuffleboard. And I’m especially in awe of the mental strength.

What do you tell yourself the day before they cut you open to take out your original hip and put in a new one? For most of them, it’s “I’m so lucky.” That just boggles my mind.

And I hope to be just like them when I grow up.