Ruminations at 70

Blog#11- 1/1/20

By Richard Davis

As I move into my 70’s there is a part of me that still feels like a small child who refuses to become an adult. I think there are many people who hold on to that part of themselves throughout their lives. If we do not keep some part of that past life alive in us we run the risk of losing an essential attitude toward daily life that makes sure we do not take things too seriously.

As we age we try to learn things that allow us to cultivate some degree of wisdom. Some of us do a better job than others, but we all have the potential for becoming wise. I’m not really sure what wisdom is, but when you can learn from your mistakes and figure out how to do things better as the years progress that is some kind of wisdom.

These positive aspects of aging sometimes make it a little easier to deal with the more painful and difficult aspects of aging. When you greet people during daily discourse how do you answer when they say, “How are you?” What goes through your head when you try to answer that question as you deal with some of the more personal aspects of physical decay.

Most people are expecting a polite response to that meaningless question and you don’t want to engage them in a lengthy conversation about what is really going on in your life so you respond, “”Good” and you move on.

But I often imagine an unlikely conversation with acquaintances and even friends in which I respond to the “How are you”, by being too honest. That would mean I would say, “My body is falling apart and I am noticing that I am moving toward an advanced state of decay on a daily basis.” I would then go into detail about all of the reasons why I have pains in certain places and why I have had to modify my activities over the years.

Once the list of ailments was presented I would try to be a little more positive, if they haven’t walked away already, and then say that the spirit is alive and well and moving on. To me that means that if we are to deal with the inevitabilities of aging we have to accept the physical decay and not let it define who we are.

To do that requires resiliency of spirit. We lose the physical resiliency of youth but we have the potential to gain access to a reservoir of experience that can offer us a chance to move into a spiritual realm that cannot be entered when we are in our 20’s or 30’s.

That does not mean that we still cannot do stupid things that make it look like we have rejected the limitations our bodies have placed upon us. A few months ago I decided to do a minor roof repair on my house because I was having a hard time finding a roofing expert to do it.

I ignored the fact that my balance is not what it used to be and that my major joints have no memory of the flexibility of years gone by. So I got out the ladder and tried to hammer down a metal piece to cover the ridge on my slate roof.

Getting up was not too bad but I could barely reach the spot that needed repair and I knew it would have been even more foolish to haul up a second ladder to access the slate roof. I did a sloppy repair and then turned around to get off the roof.

As I looked down I had a few moments of panic. I was home alone and I figured I might end up in a heap on the ground for a few days before I was discovered.

I tried to stand but that felt uncomfortable so I slowly shuffled on my butt until I made it to the ladder. Getting off that roof was a physical and emotional ordeal.

Recognizing your limitations after making bad judgments is one way to cultivate wisdom, but there are safer ways to continue to grow older.

Comments | 6

  • Balancing

    “I tried to stand but that felt uncomfortable so I slowly shuffled on my butt until I made it to the ladder. ”

    Smart move! I say toss beauty and grace in situations like these and go for what is safest, even if it feels or looks silly. I get nervous about heights, too, and worry about falling and breaking something. Never bothered me as a kid… I wonder what changed?)

    Friends suggest using a rope when doing roof work. I may, but I may also look to hire someone a bit more practiced. A small price to pay to avoid broken leg, back, or neck surgery costs… : )

  • Aging

    Thank you for your story. It was a lovely read.

    Aging has been on my mind. I will turn 32 this year and can begin to see aging begin (I’m sure your rolling your eyes).

    When you age from a kid to a teenager to a young adult you don’t think about it because you’re so distracted with everything being a new experience.

    When you hit your early thirties though- things change. I’ve noticed the weight settling in places, I wear clothes that cover up things more than ones that reveal. I’ve noticed small lines begin to settle in my face. My fashion more and more revolves around comfort rather than style.

    I am glad for it though. I’ve replaced my vanity with wisdom. I still like to be spiffy but don’t obsess like my teenage self did. I’ve got debts now, a career, family to think of. I’ve done more growing in the last five years than in the 27 years before. I even find there are times when I’m out of touch with younger people!

    As I begin moving in to the “middle age range” I look forward to being able to excel with the hindsight I have now.

    • Has it really been that long?

      I can remember when you were just a wee lad… : )

      The aging thing that ‘got’ me first was needing reading glasses. Ugh! I had always prided myself on great eyesight, and experiencing it degrading was depressing. I blame staring at a computer screen so much for some of it. Now I have piles of reading glasses all over the place for easy reach if I need them.

      Something to look forward to in your 40’s….

  • Up on a roof?!!

    No roofs for me… crawl spaces are my nemesis.

    I am 74 years old. Several years ago I promised myself that I would leave crawl spaces for younger people, but I do not seem able to keep that resolution. Some crisis always seems to come along demanding my presence in an 18″ high crawl space.

    This winter, it was frozen pipes. Once in, I can manage to pull myself to where I need to be, but getting out is not so easy. So Richard gets on top of the house and struggles to get down; SK-B gets under the house and has a hard time getting back up!

  • It ain't for wusses

    Aging is tough stuff. And in accordance with whatever else is going on with your health, it makes it all unbearable at times. It helps to have a bleak humor; to find the ironic, the humiliating, absolutely hilarious is a gift of aging. You made me laugh, Richard. Thanks.

  • Snow shoveling

    One thing I notice is that when I see someone shoveling snow, they almost always have grey hair. Am I wrong, or has snow shoveling now become the job of the elderly?

    One exception was a couple of years ago, two boys came around with shovels looking for work. They totally threw themselves into the work, but they were only about 10 years old and the snow and ice were really too much for them.

    I ended up paying them, and finishing the job myself.

Leave a Reply