As she has in past years, Judy has invited me to report on how things are going. The bottom line: They’re going well, but not as well as they used to.
In my eighties, life is becoming a bit more difficult. Probably my biggest problem is my balance. I can’t go down a flight of stairs without holding onto a banister. I’ve fallen a few times recently and, as a result, I’m much more cautious when I walk. One of these days, I’ll probably start using a cane.
I have a hearing aid. I use reading glasses. I’m losing my sense of smell. I don’t see well at night, and I can’t drive after dark. I find it hard to park the car and, when I talked with my doctor recently, she suggested that it might be time to have Judy watch my driving to see if I should stop.
It all sounds rather grim, but it’s not.
Although my mind is not what it used to be, it’s still working reasonably well and that’s a big plus. My remarkable young wife has taken over a lot of my tasks and that helps me (but not her).
But it’s hard for me to ignore the fact that I’m going downhill. When you’re young, you gain new capabilities as you age. You get old enough to drive, to have your own phone, and buy a beer. When you’re in your eighties, you lose capabilities as you age. Fortunately, the losses aren’t so noticeable as long as they’re gradual. I feel like the proverbial frog that jumps out of the pot if it’s full of hot water but sits there if the water starts off cold and is gradually brought to a boil.
Like frogs, we humans are designed to notice differences rather than absolute amounts. So, when you walk into a house in which somebody has been frying onions, you notice the smell because it’s change from what you’ve been smelling outside. But after you’ve been in the house for a while, you no longer notice the smell because it hasn’t changed.
So I may have woken up this morning a little stiffer than I was yesterday, but it was a small change. So I didn’t notice it. What I did notice was the taste of my breakfast. That was a big change from the empty mouth I woke up with. So I noticed it and I enjoyed it.
Luckily my life still has lots of noticeable sudden improvements that I enjoy. And the worsenings have been gradual. But I’m not a frog. I need more than good breakfasts to keep me happy and luckily, I’m getting those things. Some of them I’m making for myself. Lots of them are provided by friends and family (particularly my wife, who I won’t name for fear of embarrassing her).
I know that I’m lucky that the good times have lasted as long as they have and I know that they won’t last forever. The changes for the worse may become more noticeable as they become more abrupt. And, one day, the water will come to a boil.
But today, I’m happy as a frog. Actually, happier.