Forever Young

I’m going to be 60 in 2022, and I’m already falling apart a bit.

Until recently, most of my problems have been self-inflicted: a broken jaw here, a nearly broken neck there, double pneumonia from a brush with a coronavirus, etc. In the last few years, however, the type and tone of my occasional problems has shifted. That’s odd, and unexpected, because I continue to do more or less the same kind of dangerous things at the same rate – risk assessment would tell me that I am more likely to experience setting myself on fire, than a kidney-stone, or some other ageing-and-falling-apart thing. But instead, I am achy every day, sometimes hobble about, and my joints and nerves are beginning to fail. My memory used to be ridiculously good* and now I make basic mistakes like confusing Jugurtha and Mithradates as I did in a post the other day. The problem is I still have the self-confidence of the great memory, but the memory is not there any more – so I haven’t developed the habit of back-stopping myself.

In the last decade, I’ve begun to lose friends, mostly to cancers of various sorts. I mentioned that to my father, who is a chipper 87, and he said, “that happens and it gets more and more frequent unless you’re one of the ones that drops by the wayside.” He is also (I checked) not comforted by seeing his former enemies fall, he says that out-living people makes you look over your shoulder and not feel smug. I just checked, and none of my enemies have died, so the loss ratio is 10:0 – which probably says more about that I try to go through life making friends rather than foes.

The kidney stone is tied to metabolic problems that I apparently developed during the massive weight-swings I had after my broken jaw in 2014. Having the jaw wired shut 1) made me food-obsessed and 2) made me lose a lot of weight; about 30lb in 4 months. That screwed things up somewhere, and I started having problems with gout and that’s also tied to the kidney stone. Those problems put me in close contact with the American medical establishment, and I have to say I was more or less horrified. I remain horrified. I simply do not trust them to be able to help me, unless it’s something basic like sewing up the edges of a hole.  Just for example: when I presented at Clearfield General with a broken jaw (and a good dose of shock) they didn’t do any check for other cranial damage. They sent me home with 2 oxycodone and told me to go to a specialist on monday and I woke up with my pillow crusted with yellow goo that had leaked out of my ear. Yeah, good job guys. I hauled ass to a real hospital, grateful that I had good insurance and money.

Anyhow, I am thinking about these things because I’m having a shitty day right now. A couple days ago I started to get a gout flare-up in my ankle and handled it the way I usually do: lace my boot up tight and carry on. And, that used to work except apparently this time I was limping in a way that made me roll my foot along the edge (instead of the painful part) and that has given me killer repetitive stress injury to my Peroneus Brevis tendon that made it swell so now it’s pushing on the gout and a good time is being had by all. I had to crawl down the stairs to get to the ibuprofen and I’m trying to flush as much urea out of my system as possible by gulping down watery stuff (sugar free kool-ade, very dilute) (I hate water) it’s ridiculous that such a little thing hurts so much.

It’s also illustrating a systemic problem with living alone in the middle of nowhere. If I needed help, I could crawl out on my porch and scream but nobody’d hear me. My data communications are good but if I was dealing with an emergency and Verizon’s LTE network went down, I’d have to crawl to my truck or just wait. I think I may need a Plan C.

Of course it’s no news to me that this gets worse. Which means that the gout will be worse and I’ll be older and weaker. The whole trajectory of this thing does not look good.

------ divider ------* No, really. One of my great strengths as a programmer was that I could hold the entire piece of software I was working on in my memory, which meant that I never had to check some other module to make sure I had the correct calling parameters of a function, and I never had to check a data structure. When I started coding in C on UNIX V6, I simply memorized all of the header files defining the system call and utility libraries. Since my code didn’t crash very often even under testing, my memory must have been pretty accurate.


  1. says


    I think I may need a Plan C.

    I suggest you get a CB radio as backup, and get to know the contacts in your area.

  2. StonedRanger says

    You are probably better off getting a no code tech ham license. Then you wont have to deal with all the kids cussing, yelling and playing music just so they can bug people on the CB. Cost is about the same.
    My older brother (I am nearly 66) started saying about the time he hit 60 that growing old aint for pussies. After having 3 cervical vertebrae fused, kidney stones 3 times, and type 2 diabetes I have to say that I concur. Although getting here was no picnic either with 1 amputated finger, 1 burst eardrum with reconstructive surgery, and an untold number of dislocated knees, I really think we need to be taking better care of ourselves. Hindsight may be 20/20 but its a little late to be of much help.

  3. kestrel says

    Oh blah, sorry to hear you’re having a crappy day. That just sucks.

    Yeah, even young people and babies are getting older. That’s just how it works: we’re trapped in time like flies in amber. We’re all in the same glob of amber, no escaping it.

    Sympathies on the memory thing. The contrast would be stark, if you once could memorize a lot of stuff without too much trouble and then all of a sudden you can’t remember stuff that should be easy.

  4. chigau (違う) says

    Have you tested your hearing?
    Along with the sacroiliac, hips, knees, ankles, arches, toes, etc on the lower body,
    I hear(sometimes) that there are problems above the hips.

  5. Ridana says

    I’m starting to lose some vocabulary, but mostly what’s driving me batty is not being able to remember anyone’s name. After reading Marcus’ post about his grandfather, I found myself trying to recall my parents’ siblings (I remember 7 for each – though I keep thinking my father was youngest of 8, and my mother oldest of 9, so I don’t know who I’m missing). I can remember what they looked like, where they lived, who they married, who their kids are, but I was really struggling to name any of the aforementioned people. After some effort, I think I got about 75%, which oddly includes the 3 uncles who died before I was born. But the same goes for political, historical, entertainment, and other famous people, and people I went to school or worked with. It’s like someone went through my memory banks and selectively wiped almost all of the name fields, while leaving everything else alone. It’s really frustrating.

  6. derferick says

    Old age begins and middle age ends,
    The day your descendants
    Outnumber your friends

    As Ogden Nash has it.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    @3 kestrel #3: Yeah, even young people and babies are getting older. That’s just how it works: we’re trapped in time like flies in amber.

    I prefer to think that we are all time travelers, traveling forward in time at a rate of one second per second.

  8. says

    Have you tested your hearing?

    Yes, and it’s bad. I’ve had tinnitus my whole life (I thought it was normal!) and then I suffered bad damage firing anti-tank missiles without ear protection. It was only a few years ago that I realized that the reason I like some kinds of music is because that’s what I can hear.

    I change the ring-tone on my phone fairly often because my brain starts to confabulate it in the hiss of tinnitus but I can filter it out cognitively. I do wear hearing protection when I’m grinding but it’s mostly because I have ear-buds in and I can hear the podcasts that way.

  9. says

    I’m starting to lose some vocabulary, but mostly what’s driving me batty is not being able to remember anyone’s name.

    I suck at names, too, but mostly because I don’t try to learn them unless it’s someone I will be dealing with a lot. Instead, I try to remember how I bumped up against them, and why. That was a deliberate strategy, though – as a consultant it’s much more valuable, when you bump into someone at a conference who you talked to 3 years ago, and you can say, “how’s that ${whatever} problem you were working going?” It’s interesting; it seems as if people infer that you remember a tremendous amount about them if you remember a few critical nuggets. That is a trick I learned from Napoleon Bonaparte, by the way. He used to remember line troops’ faces and where he saw them and the context of the time. So he wouldn’t know the guy’s name, but he could say, “Last time I saw you, you were at the bridge at Arcola; that was a hell of a fight. How are you?” Everyone ate it up.

  10. says

    Old age begins and middle age ends,
    The day your descendants
    Outnumber your friends

    Descendants is set permanently on zero and friends is large but vague. Does that mean I will be stuck in middle age for the rest of my life?

  11. Ridana says

    “I suck at names, too, but mostly because I don’t try to learn them unless it’s someone I will be dealing with a lot.”
    I’ve never been good with new names, but I didn’t used to have a problem with names I already know (like relatives!) or famous folk. Now if “Jaywalking” came up to me on the sidewalk and showed me a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker to identify, I’d probably say she’s an actress from Square Pegs and Sex and the City, and she’s married to that guy from Torchsong Trilogy (because I wouldn’t be able to remember his more famous movie, as it’s a name) whose dad played Alice’s husband in Alice’s Restaurant along with that union folksinger’s kid, but I probably couldn’t pull up her name (like I had to for this). Ten or fifteen years ago, I wouldn’t have had to think for a second to name all those people. Some of them I’ll need to look up after I post this. :/

  12. dangerousbeans says

    Old age begins and middle age ends,
    The day your descendants
    Outnumber your friends

    Fuck yeah! #ChildFree

    There’s a thing i have called a ‘find me spot’ for motorcycling. It’s a GPS tracker and emergency beacon/signal. That could work for your problem of what to do if the phones are down?

Leave a Reply