There really ought to be the opportunity to purchase an extended warranty on your body when you reach a certain age. The phrase, “Old age isn’t for sissies!” is more accurate than it should be. I remember a couple of years ago sitting with my brother in Texas, and talking at the table about the various pills we take, and the different things that aren’t quite working on our bodies the way they used to. We both remembered when we would wake up, and jump out of the bed – we had a triple decker bunk bed for the three brothers in our room – I mean, literally jump out and hit the floor running to face the day, especially if it was a sunny summer, no-school for two more months day. Our days were spent climbing and running and imagining, and throwing things and sweating because it was fun to do so, until the sun went down, and we would hear Dad’s whistle from the door of the house which meant to high-tail it home.
We had more energy than we knew what to do with, which is why I’m sure Mom was more than happy to transform into outdoor children, only stopping in to eat something occasionally. In fact, I am sure the worst days of summer in South Carolina were when the summer rains would hit like a monsoon, and we would be trapped inside, with the only option being to get on each other’s nerves and make messes. Yep – Mom loved the sunshine.
We rode our bikes miles to the pool, being sure not to catch our towels in the bike chain. We usually wore something on our feet when we left the yard, since the Dad decree was given to make sure we didn’t end up stepping on something we shouldn’t. We threw magnolia pods at each other like they were hand grenades – no matter how hard you try, most every boy will find a weapon of some sort in nature to be used to conquer the world around him, or to make-believe finish off his friends. I can’t even recall the sheer number of sticks that became daggers or guns or some sort of vehicle of mass destruction. On the battlefield of pine trees and playgrounds, we learned to die well, and nobly, and with an enormous amount of gasping and staggering, until a couple of minutes later, we were resuscitated, and brought back into the action.
More summer nights than not, we also ended up sleeping outside in sleeping bags, as the boys around the neighborhood would congregate, sometimes even sleeping on the sidewalk so we wouldn’t get wet in the morning with the dew. It also gave us the opportunity to run in the night, so long as we didn’t create too much noise and have our revelry cut short by various dads in the area.
Sure, we sprained things, and stubbed things, and even cut ourselves and got tremendous black and blue marks, especially if a magnolia pod connected just right from a short distance away. We cracked our heads, used lots of Band-Aids and rarely went to the doctor, unless, like the time I was walking on some lumber with my flipflops, and managed to stomp a rusty nail into my heel, and bleed like stuck pig. Then it was time for the old tetanus shot, apparently so as not to get “lockjaw” or whatever else would happen… Probably as a result of drinking gallons of milk every week, no one in our family at least broke any bones, which is pretty good when you count up the number that exist in seven children! I did chip a tooth once as I attempted to jump onto a mailbox, when they used to have mailboxes, but that was probably the worst injury I suffered.
Fast forward fifty years, and those resilient, run around all day and drink water from a hose bodies are, let’s say, a bit modified today. “Rolling” out of bed is closer to what we do – there is always a quick check to see if there are any new aches or pains that arose during the night. Toes, heels, ankles, legs, knees, hips, shoulders, neck and back all seem to join in unison to remind us that we are closer than ever to the time when after we die on the battlefield of play, the next scene we will experience will include pearly gates.
Add to that the variety of other maladies that seem to inflict themselves on “older” bodies,” like blood pressure, and diabetes, and all sorts of internal organs that have decided to play their own tune, from gall bladder to thyroid to stomach and the entire digestive tract, and you find yourself wondering how the whole integrity of a body that seemed just yesterday to work so well, now is simply on the fritz.
My latest episode involves my right shoulder. I’m left-handed, so there really isn’t any reason for it to be misbehaving, but this one’s a doozy. It will go along just fine, with actually a pretty good range of motion… until I forget, and stretch my arm straight forward at about shoulder height. It’s at that moment that it truly does feel like some wingnut slipped of the bolt holding everything together, and left me with no strength, no mobility, but in its place, it dropped off searing pain and crunching sounds. Not what you hope for.
Cheri, my nurse practitioner on call, continues to advise me to “go in” and see someone about the shoulder. I know I should. I just really don’t want to add one more regimen, or x-ray, or surgery to what is already a pretty well booked list of physical junk going on. It’ll happen eventually, I’m sure, but I keep hoping with my ancient 10-year-old mind that it’ll be better tomorrow, and I can go back to playing again.
We humans are a funny creation. That we last as long as we do is really a miracle, but I guess God likes to keep us around here on earth for some reason. The challenge and charge we are given, of course, is to take care of what God has entrusted to our care, from our world, our families, and even our own bodies. I guess getting older gives us the chance to do that more regularly. Take care of yourselves, and watch out for the magnolia pods…
Word for the day: valedictorian. Pronounced val-uh-dick-TOR-ee-un. We all know that a valedictorian is the student in any class that has the highest grade point average. Often, that also means that the valedictorian is privileged to offer the valedictory speech at graduation, although just because you have the highest GPA doesn’t mean you are the best orator in the class!
Actually, the word from Latin takes us in a far different direction. “Valediction” is precisely the act of bidding farewell, not connected with any scholarly achievement. The Latin word, vale, is one of the first you learn in Latin class – it means “goodbye.” Just as the opposite, ave, means “hello.” (As in “Ave Maria,” which translates to “Howdy, Mary.”) The other Latin word, dicere, means “to speak,” so vale and dicere is simply to say goodbye.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.