Senior Status

John W. Pinkerton

We spend most of our lives in youthful euphoria.  I’m not sure at what age we go into the senior group; there is no ceremony marking the occasion.  For me, it came after I retired from public education.  Within two years of retiring, I discovered I had a serious thyroid problem.  It’s under control now; it’s just a daily battle between prescription pills and my thyroid.  So far the pills are winning.  Before I finally got to a doctor, I was losing strength, weight, and trembling was occurring in my hands and legs.  Not having a friendly view of doctors, I avoided a visit as long as I could.  I just assumed that the symptoms were just those of old age.  I mark that as the moment I entered senior status.

Getting old is not all bad.  With senior status there comes a few perks.  Senior discounts are good ones.  The first senior discount came as a surprise.  I was at a golf course unfamiliar to me, and when I was registering and preparing to pay, the attendant took one look at me and said, “Of course, you get a senior discount.”  I chuckled to myself and gladly accepted my new status.  I’m not really sure why so many businesses ask my age now when it is quite apparent I’m a senior; I’ve even gotten a white beard which should be a clue.  Very few teenagers sport such beards.  I’m reminded of when I was a kid and being carded in drinking establishments.  I guess I got a head start on old age because I, unlike many of my friends, was seldom carded.

AARP, what a group of buzzards.  They start stalking the elderly when they first begin to limp.  Fortunately, I don’t need any of their “wonderful” services.  That reminds me of a friend my age who is being stalked by a funeral home.  He even got a knock on his door.  I guess they were just checking on his health.  I have to admit I’ve reached the age that I need to do two things: make out a will and make prearrangements for my funeral.  The will I’ve been putting off because I suspect that Linda will want to include a lot more folks as beneficiaries than I’ll want to.  I’ve tried to remove the kindness from her heart, but I must admit failure.  As for the funeral arrangements, I’ll take care of that when I need a good laugh.

Those of you who are in my age bracket may have noticed something of which I have taken note: young people have a tendency not to listen very attentively to folks with gray hair.  At first I was a little irritated, but I finally realized the reason for this phenomena: folks have a greater tendency to listen to you when they suspect that you might beat the crap out of them or suddenly have sex with them.  Such is the nature of youths.

I mentioned my thyroid problem.  Well, this started my visiting doctors on a regular basis.  They are an amusing lot.  A nurse practitioner was the first to pinpoint my problem: a rouge thyroid.  This diagnosis caused me to have to visit a young Vietnamese doctor.  He was very nice, but his accent was a little difficult for a Southern boy to translate.  While visiting him, along with my wife who seldom trusts me to visit a doctor alone, he said he had bad news for me and began drawing a pair of lungs with large circles inside of each one.  He told me that these were spots which had been detected by a CAT scan I had taken.  I heard him out and then calmly commented in response, “That ain’t right.”  He looked astonished and then said, “What do you mean?”  I shrugged my shoulders and answered, “That ain’t right.”  He then excused himself for a few minutes and returned with a different version of the story.  It seems that there were a couple of spots on my lungs, which didn’t surprise me, but the size of the spots had been sent to him in centimeters rather than millimeters.  Nuff said.  He said I would still have to visit with the pulmonary doctor who had sent over the erroneous information.  Thanks.

My first visit with the pulmonary doctor was a hoot.  I suppose because he smelled a possible lawsuit over the erroneous information which his office had sent to the Vietnamese doctor,  he seemed extremely nervous and admitted to questionable removal of lungs.  It did not instill great confidence in me.  Ultimately he ordered four CAT scans over a period of a few months.  Each time the report was the same: the spots haven’t changed.  Well, no joke.  I didn’t expect anything else.  Look, a CAT scan will find something which doesn’t look right no matter how healthy you might be.  I once commented to the Doc that I probably wouldn’t develop cancerous growths in my lungs if he would knock off the ding-dang CAT scans.  Over a period of months I warmed to the doc.  He is a native of Louisiana, and we share similar political views.  Each time I visit him, he asks me how my smoking is going.  I respond that it’s going fine.  End of that conversation.  After a couple of years of visiting him, one day I commented to him, “I’m never getting rid of you, am I?”  He turned smiling and shook his head no.  He’s cut it down to one chest X-ray each year, and we catch up on politics.

It took me three months to get an appointment with the expert doctor in the area of the thyroid.  He’s an Indian as in India.  One of his first comments to me was that my surname was English.  He even called me “the Englishman.”  It seems to me I recall a little dispute last century between the British and the country of India.  I assume there are no hard feelings left over from that dispute.  He did a lot of yawning during our first $300  chat.  It seems that he spent the night watching some damned soccer tournament.  I visit him every three months or so.  He always seems a little surprised that I’ve had my blood work done before my visits with him.  Hell, without the blood work, we would just be having an expensive chat.  At any rate, I’ve warmed to him also.  The most amusing thing that happened on any of our visits was the day he told me that I was diabetic.  My response was, “No, I’m not.”  His response was, “Your blood work shows that you are.”  My response, “No, I’m not.”  He didn’t seem happy that I refused his medication.  After three months we visited again, and I agreed to take his medication.  What harm could it do?  After a few months, he decides that I was right.  I’m not diabetic.  Will they ever learn?  However, he does try to take good care of me.  I guess he’s okay.

After I got out of the service, I just didn’t visit doctors.  I went for over thirty years seldom even speaking to one.  I tried a couple of times, but the visits were not very satisfactory.  One visit I recall was concerning my high heart rate which I didn’t know at the time was probably related to my undetected thyroid problem.  The young moron doctor gave me muscle relaxers: big help, Doc.  I just went on with a high heart rate.  Another time I visited with an ophthalmologist to complain to him about one of my eyes which seemed to be bulging a bit.  He concluded that it was nothing to worry about, so I went another thirty years without my thyroid problem being diagnosed.  My TSO optometrist tried to help me by suggesting that I might have a thyroid problem.  Of course, I ignored him.  For one entire summer, I ran a temperature and was exhausted, which was probably another symptom of my thyroid problem.   After a couple of months of suffering, I seemed to get over it.  Feeling confident I wouldn’t have to visit a hospital, I visited a doctor, from Peru this time, who said all he could find was that my potassium level was a little high.  I just smiled: I had been eating a lot of bananas because I had self-diagnosed myself as having a potassium shortage.  So much for Doctor John.

Young folks assume that older folks don’t keep up with current pop culture.  A youngish relative of Linda’s was speaking with me constantly interrupting herself to explain some pop culture reference that she had made.  I finally interrupted her to comment, “Dear, I live in the same world you do.”  How much energy does it take to keep up with the latest pop culture idiocy?

Men know they have left their youth behind when they seem to disappear from young women’s radar.  Middle-aged men could have contributed mightily to the stealth aircraft program.  Just paste a couple of gray hairs to the wings.  But I’ve found that as I reach senior status, I’m showing up on young women’s radar again.  Of course not in the way I did as a youth.  I call it the grandpa radar.  I can tell at times they just want to pinch my li’l old cheeks.  Oh, well, I guess it’s better than being invisible.

I’ve worn glasses since I was a senior in high school.  I’ve never complained about glasses.  Hell, they allow me to see the world with clarity.  The odd thing is that my vision has gotten better in the last year or so.  If one is nearsighted (can’t see at a distance), there is a good chance as you grow older, your eyes will flatten, thus causing an improvement in nearsightedness.  If I live long enough, I may be able to throw my glasses away.  When they came along with plastic lenses for glasses, I passed on the opportunity to have lighter glasses.  My glasses need to be tough: glass fills the requirement.  As for contact lenses, forget it; I ain’t putting my finger in my eyes intentionally.

Linda seems to think I need hearing aids.  I guess if she complains long enough, I’ll give in, but honestly I can’t tell that I’ve lost any of my hearing.  Perhaps I should tell her the following joke.

   A woman in her late 70s is at a local diner with a friend of hers, discussing their respective husbands.

  “Mine still thinks he’s a young man.”

     “If you want to know how young he is, you could

try this little trick. When you get home, ask him what he’s watching on TV from several distances. Start at 30 feet, then 25 feet, then 20, and so on. The sooner he hears you, the younger he is.”

So, an hour later, the woman arrives home and shouts, at a distance of about 30 feet from her husband: “Honey, what are you watching?”

  No answer. She goes a bit closer. “Honey, what are

you watching?” Still no answer.

  She goes closer, asks it again, no response…

  When she’s finally standing in the doorway of the

TV room, about five feet away from her husband, she yells, “Honey, what are you watching?”

  Her husband turns around briskly and says, sounding

irritated: “I’ve already told you three times now:

the evening news!”

Although there are just about a million jokes related to old age, I’ve opted not to include a great number of them, but I will share with you the following pithy quotations:

“Old is when…in a hostage situation you’re

likely to be released first.”

“Old is when …there’s nothing left to learn

the hard way.”

“Old is when…no one expects you to run

into a burning building.”

“Age is what the onlooker sees, not what

the looked upon feels.”

“Things improve with age.  I’m

approaching magnificent.”

I really haven’t noticed many changes since I entered the final glide pattern other than a lot of doctor visits, half of my breakfast is in the form of pills, my wife’s complaints about my hearing, and an improvement in my vision.


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