I am becoming an old woman. I often joke about being an old lady but I never really thought so. It just seemed hilarious to me that younger people might classify me that way based on a meaningless number or a wrinkly wattle.

Me? Old? Ha!

But recent health problems have reminded me of the inexorable truth: I am getting old. As Jerry Seinfeld might say, there’s nothing wrong with that; it sure beats the alternative. It’s just that I grew up in our culture of youth worship. I am having a hard time letting go of the negative connotation most of us have about aging. I would rather be young.

I don’t want to be one of those “senior citizens” — the Boomers we think of as warehoused in assisted living facilities or senior communities, or the snowbirds who live in huge RVs parked cheek-by-jowl in asphalt-covered RV parks and call it camping. Their hair is short and neat, and they dress like there never was a 60s.

Please God, don’t let me turn into one of them

I laugh when my son gets embarrassed if I awkwardly high-five him or try to lift my chin in a properly cool way of greeting, but he makes me feel old and out of touch.

When younger people think I’m adorable for saying “fucking motherfuckers” to describe a certain political party, I wish they would just agree with me.

When I’m told how remarkable I am for living/traveling in a van at my age, I feel condescension.

But the truth is, I have reached my own psychological line between Not-Old and Old. I am 70.

I am there

When I was 29, I spent the entire year in dread of turning 30. The birthday came and went, I didn’t feel or look any different, and I realized how silly I’d been.

On my 40th birthday I got married, in part to avoid facing my fear of getting older alone–a mistake, to be sure.

On my 50th I moved to California, a sure sign of age denial.

I don’t remember my 60th or 70th birthdays, which might be a sign of something I’d rather not think about.

Now, I have had what may or may not have been a mild stroke–test results pending–but I appear to have a permanent, if slight, brain injury in the form of double vision that stubbornly refuses to improve.

A new pair of glasses will likely solve the problem but the word “stroke” makes me feel very old indeed.

I’ve slowed down when I walk because I’m afraid of losing my balance. Driving with one eye closed (until I get those glasses) is stressful to say the least. The same with shopping for groceries. I find myself holing up in the van more and more because it’s the only place where I can focus. I know others, old and young, suffer from much worse but this sucks.

I worry that I may become unable to take care of myself sooner rather than later. That I will wind up in another nursing home like the one where I spent two miserable weeks after my surgery last year.

What will happen to my dog? And the van?

I need to get my ducks in a row: write a will (with a DNR–Do Not Resuscitate), find someone willing to take Scout, take out a small insurance policy to pay off my debts, clean house.

Also: write that damn book before it’s too late.

The clock is ticking

On the plus side: during my high blood pressure episode three weeks ago, EKGs uncovered a previously undetected heart condition, one that I’ve apparently had since birth.

I know, you’re wondering what is “plus” about that. Well, I think of it as a get-out-of-jail-free card: Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome has the happy worst-case scenario of the heart simply stopping. The patient just drops dead one day–no pain, no long illness, no suffering (or very little). Don’t we all hope for something like that in the end?

No worries, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. But I find the idea comforting.

So: Ducks. Row.

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Showing 11 comments
  • Teresa

    You make me laugh and think of my future. I can’t think of a better place to spend my old age than in nature. Give me messy hair and dirt under my nails anytime over parking lot camping.

  • Claudia

    You speak for a whole bunch of us 😉

    • LaVonne Ellis

      Yeah, the one thing I swore I wouldn’t do was blather on about my ailments, yet here I am, lol.

  • Linda Buie

    I love this, LaVonne. Sorry for your worries, but I am right there beside you worrying about the same things.

  • BFG

    Seventy huh? well you old fart you. I think there will be no problem with Scout as you will surely out live him, by many years.

    You could write a book “Old farts guide to…I forget”

    Followed up with “Old farts guide to…out living your dog, or cat, but not your hampsters”

    And even “Just because I’m old don’t make me stupid”

    Old wine is sweeter, worth more, and does not give you a headache the next day.

    You my dear LaVonne are not yet OLD, just saying 90 is old, 70 is young..ish.

    Hell I’m 60 this year, and I’ve got way more medical issues than you, thats in our family genes.

    It seems to me your van dwelling is the best thing for your continued health once you find some nice places to visit that you’ve never been before.

    This weekend my wife just completed a triathalon, she had open heart surgery last October.

    “Never give up, Never surrender, Just remember who you are. My Dear LaVonne”

  • Sandra

    You speak for all of us that worry about getting older and our health deteriorating. I am glad you are making a plan to take care of things just in case. Doing this is not a sign of giving in but rather easing your mind in the dark hours of the night. FYI My mother found out she had a heart condition in her early sixties. She is still kicking it after two valve replacements. Please reach out if you need anything. xs

    • LaVonne Ellis

      Thanks, Sandra! I’m glad your mom is still kicking it. I have a cardiologist appointment later this month, so we’ll see. The one thing I don’t want is heart surgery for something that has never been a problem.

  • BFG

    My wife did a 15Km bike ride, a week back, and swims 400m every morning while I snore.

    Just remember its not the body that fails its remembering where you put your teeth, that counts.

    Anyway we did not get summer this year and now autumn is here with a vengence, winter is expected to be nasty cold. so I guess that means you are having spring and heading to walmer weather.

    So hope your appointments go well. My doctors won’t let me work and as the pills I’m on are “dangerous” I have to get a batch each week, so that gets me out of the house once a week.

    All I can wish for you is that you do all of the things you ever wanted to do and enjoy.

    All my Love.

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