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Confronting the Process of ‘Getting Old’

1189187_thinking_and_smilingI’ve never read a book about getting old. Everything I’ve learned about the process has been from hearsay, short articles, or personal experience. However, the latter is becoming more profound as I enter my 75th year and ponder the progression that has been overtaking me.

I’ve learned that becoming decrepit is a gradual process. My mother, for example, was a dynamic woman and lived to be 104. She was still walking, talking, giving advice, thinking, wondering, praying and worshiping – right to the end. But she was feeble in her last 5 years. Her logic and memory were less reliable. She had became old – gradually!

Upon reflection, I can see how gradual the process is. At 13 it’s your wisdom teeth that have to go. A few years later it’s your appendix. Then it is your knee that you leave on the football field. Your back goes out in your mid-20s and your chiropractor becomes your best friend. Later it’s your hip – between your unreliable lower back and still defective knee. In your 40s you discover the need for reading glasses. In the 50s you realize the old memory ain’t what it used to be and you become a fanatical note taker.

Soon your grandkids are teaching you how to use your computer and iPhone. By 60, you become aware that your hearing isn’t so good. You find yourself asking people to repeat themselves, especially when you are part of a group. By 70, driving at night becomes more difficult and you slow down – while the guy behind you blinks his headlights. At 74 your left eye starts giving you problems – particularly when viewing things at a distance – and your ophthalmologist says you’ve got cataracts and wants to take out another piece of your anatomy.

Of course at every step of the way, you think the way you are is the way you will continue to be. You won’t get worse. But that’s not the case. Aging is gradualism personified. Clearly, getting old and decrepit is a drip, drip, drip process.

Hey – I’m writing this not for sympathy – but simply to heighten my awareness of the process, which stretches out over 50 and more years if you’re fortunate. Most of the time, you’re not really aware of what’s happening. You pick up an ache in your left shoulder while doing calisthenics and think it will go away, but it never does.  You develop carpal tunnel and have surgery – but the hand is never the same. Again, you think you’re always going to be as good as you are now;  but you’re not.

I’m not sharing this with you to suggest you develop a negative attitude toward aging and/or become depressed. To the contrary – be positive. As my 80-year-old sister says, “Don’t worry – be happy!”  Expect the best. Enjoy life – and even the process and experience of aging – for as long as you can.  And when it’s time to go, remember you’ll be meeting the Lord, at a better time, in a better place – where the aging process is null and void – and happiness is eternal.

In God We Must Trust — but we must do our part!

William Pauwels

William A. Pauwels, Sr. was born in Jackson Michigan to a Belgian, immigrant, entrepreneurial family. Bill is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and served in executive and/or leadership positions at Thomson Industries, Inc., Dow Corning, Loctite and Sherwin-Williams. He is currently CIO of Pauwels Private Investment Practice. He's been commenting on matters political/economic/philosophical since 1980.