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Between Trapezes

January 29, 2013

So there we were, minding our own business about two weeks ago, when Ma Nature suddenly turns bitchy on our ass and starts opening fire with assault air rifles spewing endless icy rounds of brr.

Maybe by April spring will come. But my toes won’t thaw till May.

My mother used to call me a “worry wart”. But what if there really is something to worry about?

On a more personal level, I’d been feeling like I’d been cruising on an easy flight into the New Year, and then along came a flock of geese.

This is due to the fact that as I’m leaving the food co-op about ten days ago,  I feel a strange new pain in my lower abdomen on the right side. I catch the B67 bus for the ride down 7th Avenue and home, but decide it’s best to exit at Sixth Street for the Methodist Hospital Emergency Room.

I walk into the hospital, lugging my bags of food, and call Shelley to ask her if I should check into the E.R.

(Word to the wise: When considering a mate, all else being equal, choose the one with the 40 years of critical care nursing experience.)

I describe my symptoms to her. Has my appendix ruptured?

She has good news for me, and bad.

No, you’re not six to eight hours from dying; come on home.

But yes, you’ll probably need an operation.


          “As we age, we fray at the edges.” – Ken Jaffe


Over the telephone Shelley diagnoses me correctly: I have what is called an Inguinal Hernia. It occurs, I soon learn, in about 27% of men within their lifetime.

I go home, and the pain goes away. And then five days later just as suddenly returns and worsens to the point where it’s painful to walk to the corner.

Do you know how many surgeries I’ve had in my life? Put it this way — the last time I was in the hospital for any real medical procedure, was when I was taking a long, happy nap, and suddenly there was this sound of water rushing out, and she starts pushing and pushing, and this doctor comes and applies forceps to my head and hauls me out (against my will, I might add; hence the forceps), then immediately twirls me upside down and slaps my behind!

Oh, you too? Then you should get why I’m so prone to worrying.

So I’m proud I’ve never had to undergo anything since. But soon all this will change. (But what’d I do? Lift too many weights? Have too much good sex? No – I aged.)

And what disturbs me the most is not so much that I need what turns out to be a fairly common and straightforward outpatient procedure, where they pour a bit of the old Michael Jackson Special into your veins, and do a little snipping and sewing. What disturbs me is that it all happened so suddenly.

Like the weather, right?

One day we’re blithely strolling down the street remarking to a friend about what a mild winter we’re having, and the next moment The Climate sneaks up and mugs us en masse, shouting, “Remember the 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide you pumped into my face last year? Now hand over your comfort, motherfucker!”

In the end, there seems to be escape from neither climate changing nor old ageing.

Maybe I’m taking it all too seriously, especially my little medical problem. But what will I do over time when one thing, and then another, fractures and frays and I decide my life lacks all quality?

And what will we do when all the air and water we’ve been spitting into, spits back, and we decide it’s not worth going on anymore?

Balance – that’s my answer.

Balance what we’ve taken from the planet with giving back.

And personally, balance saving and planning for retirement with a healthy sustained dose of O.E.P. – Ongoing Existential Panic. Which means doing today all that tomorrow won’t allow.

That’s why I went to Venice last year, affordable or not, because it’s slowly sinking and so am I.

And that’s why I’m scared to death of letting go of the old trapeze of rapidly evaporating abilities and poss-abilities, to grab the new one, of old age. So you may see me dangling here a while, clinging and swinging, holding on to yesterday’s youth, even as it gets old.

It’s a natural human reflex, yes? To grasp on tight to what is slipping out of our hands. Though it’s a losing battle.

So to you I say, if you’re not worrying and panicking – about the rising tides of age creeping up all around you, or that other rising tide creeping up on our shores – then you simply don’t understanding the situation.

As far as my own personal climate goes, the only way to age with grace, I suppose, is to sigh and accept it. Stop trying to preserve what’s turning to dust, and take the other trapeze and swing myself out over that old man river of change and  let myself fall right into it and ride that sucker for all it’s worth until the waterfall.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2013 10:42 pm

    Just read a book by Kelsey Collins called Exit Strategy, on the need to plan the kind of death you’d like, and claiming most of us die the same way we live. Meanwhile, you’re starting to sound really old. I recommend a condo in Boca Raton.

  2. January 30, 2013 4:13 am

    Sorry to hear about your hernia, Charley, it sounds really painful. I hope the doctors give you all the pain medication you want. It is in fact common–my girlfriend’s father just had surgery for the same condition. No fun, I’m afraid, but it’s safe and the problem can be fixed. In his case, he was born with the condition, but it got worse with age.

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