Getting Old is not for Sissies

At least that’s what my 95-year-old Nanny (grandmother) tells me, and after spending a little over a week with her in Illinois last week, I would whole-heartedly agree with her.

My daughter Bryn was going on vacation with her grandparents, so I flew her to St. Louis from LA, handed her off to her grandparents who were driving to Florida for a week of fun in the sun, and then drove the three hours north to my grandmother’s house in Bloomington, IL.

Upon my arrival, my grandmother burst into tears and announced how happy she was to see me.  I had just been to visit her the month before as part of our annual summer vacation, but sadly, at 95 years of age her memory is not what it used to be.  Although it had only been a month, she was unable to recall my previous visit.  This always breaks my heart.  She will say things like, “No one ever comes to visit me.”  I gently remind her that I see her every summer, and although she believes me, her reality is such that she cannot remember the visits, so for her it’s like it never happened.

10422269_10153164412434668_2062150226730818813_n[1]While my Nanny is very healthy physically, her memory loss and diminished capacity for independence grates on her self-esteem.  She hates that she can no longer stand at the stove and prepare full meals or bake the delicious cakes and desserts she always enjoyed having in the house.  Every time I came to visit she always had a cake, pie, or some amazing sugar creation waiting for whatever company happened to stop by.  She was always prepared for company.  Now, she is still able to care for her own physical needs, prepare light meals like sandwiches, and also do some very light housekeeping, but for the most part her recliner in the living room occupies most of her attention these days.

12019820_907152482686906_3905592130149668443_n[1]My Nanny is 95 and my grandfather turns 97 this week.  They don’t have computers, internet, Wi-Fi, or even a DVD player.  They have cable TV, but that’s about it for modern technology.  Their day consists of rolling out of bed around 9am, and sitting in their chairs in the living room all day long, watching baseball, Mass, Fox News, and AMC movie classics.  That’s it.  I imagine I will find that life pretty enjoyable if I make it to their advanced age, however, for a 41 year old active woman, it was enough to make me want to throw myself from a cliff.

I wanted to spend quality time with them, so that meant sitting with them in the living room.  For hours.  Every day.  For nine days.  Watching Fox News.  And Lawrence Welk.  For the love of God, Lawrence Welk.  Watching her sing along to songs she has known for fifty years was heartening, but it was also like nails on a chalkboard.  My grandmother sings beautifully, and it made me happy to see her happy, but an hour of Lawrence Welk is enough to make me want to grind my ears through a pencil sharpener.  Now imagine a week of that.  (If you are reading this and you don’t know who Lawrence Welk is, google it.  Right now.  Then drink a bottle of wine and thank your lucky stars you weren’t me last week.)  I used to watch it with her when I was in college, just because it made her happy.  I did the same thing this week, just to make her happy.  Damn, I’m a really good granddaughter.  One night I came upstairs to find them watching AMC Classics, and Animal House was on.  OMG!  Talk about awkward!  But I sat through the movie because it was two hours of something funny and relative to my age group.  At the end, my Nanny declared it to be “junk” and she stated that if people actually thought this movie was good, then she held little hope for the future of our country.  I informed her that Animal House is a cult classic and almost everyone loves this movie.  She was thoroughly disgusted with humanity and went to bed.

11870911_511767202313147_6626111183102035627_n[1]Oh, and did I mention that many people tend to lose their filter when they hit advanced ages?  Well, my Nanny is no different.  This is a Christian Catholic woman who took her responsibility as a Christian seriously, and my whole life she refrained from talking trash about others because she felt it was a horrible sin.  However, that is no longer the case.  She has become brutally honest and says whatever pops into her head.  For example, among other shocking statements, she told me one day that I was the fattest she had ever seen me, and what the hell did I think I was doing letting my body go to shit like that.  I’m totally serious, and this is a woman who never cussed.   I reminded her that I’m not 25 anymore, I’m almost 42 years old and I usually work out 3-4 days per week.  She said, “Well, whatever you’re doing, it’s not working for you.”  One day I came upstairs wearing fashionably distressed jeans.  She said, “Are those the best clothes your husband can afford to buy for you?”  So I said, “Yes Nanny, and can you believe I bought these jeans with the patches already sewed into them?”  She rolled her eyes in disgust.  I winked at her.  We both laughed.

Due to her memory loss, we also had many repeated conversations.  She would ask me the same questions every few minutes, and I would give her the same answer, every time she asked.  We did this every day.  Several hours per day.  I was kind to her.  I was gentle.  I tried to remind her that she was still pretty and valuable.  Whenever I told her she was beautiful, she would say, “Yeah, pretty ugly, and pretty apt to stay that way.”  I’m laughing as I type this because her sense of humor is awesome.

IMG_1163I had to leave the house for a little while each day to maintain my sanity.  I found myself falling asleep on the couch with them at 6:30pm.  I was sleeping until 9am in the morning.  I was becoming an old person.  One day I looked at my VivoFit and saw that in the entire day, I had only walked 892 steps.  In a whole day!  The next day I went for a four mile walk just to combat the sedentary inclination.  I also went to the local campus, Illinois State University, my alma mater, and walked the quad.  It felt good to see the buildings, the new renovations and the efforts made to beautify and modernize the campus.  I found myself thinking, “Damn, I went to a nice school.”  I relived a lot of great memories that day and refreshed my old lady soul.

One day, Nanny let me take her for a drive.  She was alive with excitement driving around this town where she had spent her entire life.  She was seeing old and new buildings, construction and modern architecture, as if she were a young child in a new and enchanting land.  She was filled with memories and emotion as we drove past homes where she lived as a young woman with my grandfather, and cried when she observed new buildings where her old favorites no longer existed.  She lamented the time when she also would no longer exist, torn down and forgotten like an old, worn out building.

The day I left we said a tearful good-bye.  We are both painfully aware that at the end of each visit there is a very real possibility that it will be our last.  Before I left she looked at me and said, “You know I may not remember you at all next year.”  I held back my tears and said, “Yes, but I will remember you.”  And I drove away watching her in my side mirror as she stood in the driveway, beautiful and proud, with her hand raised in the air.  As she always does when I leave her.

So yes, whether you are 41 or 95, getting old is most definitely not for sissies.

This is how I know I’m getting old, Part 2

Several months ago I wrote a post titled, This is how I know I’m getting old.    I talked mostly about how my attitude and perspectives about various things have changed over the years, for better or for worse.

Well, my attitude is not the only thing that’s been changing.  As my 94 year-old Nanny would say, “Getting old is not for sissies.”

Here are a few more tell-tale indicators that I am officially old.

1.  When I was younger, if I had a weird pain in my abdomen I wouldn’t think twice about it and blamed it on the pizza I ate for dinner.  Now, weird pains in any part of my body makes me worry about kidney stones, ulcers, cancer and any number of horrible diseases that seem to be an inevitable part of aging.  I’m 41, and it’s logical to think my shit is going to start falling apart.  I didn’t worry about my liver in my twenties.  Now, with every cocktail, I worry that my liver is 41 years-old and may not appreciate my love of wine and margaritas.  The same holds true for all my other organs.  I think to myself, “Damn, my lower back hurts, I hope my kidneys aren’t about to have a mid-life crisis.”

2. I have sun spots on the back of my left hand, but not on my right hand.  My left hand is my driving hand and the hand that gets the most sun exposure when I’m in the car.  Now I hate myself for not putting sunscreen on that hand before driving every day for the last 25 years.  No one thinks about sun spots or sun damage on their hands when they’re 25!

11195999_s3.  When I was eighteen, my mom warned me that as I aged the elasticity around my eyes would be one of the first things to go.  Her intention was to provoke me into a routine of good skin care.  Thankfully I listened to her, for the most part.  But she was right.  The skin on my eyelids isn’t as tight as it used to be, and I can no longer wear any type of shimmer eye-shadow because it accentuates the loose skin and makes me look like an old hooker.

4. Saggy boobs.  Sigh.  I won’t go into too much detail about this because, you know, TMI.  But I will say two things on this subject.  1. I would kill to have my 25 year-old boobies back, and 2.  Gravity combined with Age is a double whammy of a mother-fucker and I hate you both.

5. More often than I care to admit, I will walk into a room to do something and realize I’ve completely forgotten what I entered that room to do.  My short-term memory is for shit at this point, and it never fails.  I will walk all the way back downstairs and then remember what I walked upstairs to do.  So then I have to walk back up the stairs, which is hell on my knees.  And this leads me to #6…

If you're too young to get this reference, then I feel sorry for you.

If you’re too young to get this reference, then I feel sorry for you.

6. About two years ago, I noticed my knees were starting to hurt when I walked up stairs.  Then it was my ankles.  I went from being able to do jogging intervals during my workouts to low impact incline intervals because my knees and ankles couldn’t handle the impact from jogging anymore.  Also, whenever I bend at the knees or ankles, twist or pivot those joints, everything goes snap, crackle and pop.  The other night my knee popped so loudly it sounded like bone snapping and my husband looked at me and said, “Holy shit, was that you?”  Arthritis runs heavily in my family and my mom and grandmother have both had knee replacements.  After multiple workouts with my trainer that resulted in extreme pain in my knees and ankles, she insisted that I stop ignoring the problem and see an orthopedist.

About two weeks ago I had my first appointment with the orthopedist.  During the appointment I was shuttled between various techs, X-ray,  and the doctor’s physician’s assistant.  At one point, two techs got into an argument over which one of them was to assist me to an exam room.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Tech 1:  I’ll be taking you to exam room 4.

Tech 2:  No, she’s with me in room 6.

(I’m standing in between these two guys who are towering over me.  They’re young, perhaps in their mid-twenties.)

Tech 1:  Are you trying to steal my patient?  She’s with me.

Tech 2:  Dude, she’s with me.  She want’s to be with a better looking guy anyway.

Me:  Boys, settle down.  This isn’t a bar and you don’t need to fight over me.  And by the way, everyone here is good-looking, so that’s not a qualifier.  (I live in LA.  The staff in this doctor’s office all look like they stepped off the cover of some trendy health/fitness magazine.  And the fact that they were arguing over me and I was annoyed by it is further proof that I’m officially old.  It wasn’t flattering.  I wanted to knock their heads together and tell them to grow the fuck up.  See, I’m so old.)

20686060_sThankfully the physician’s assistant came to my rescue and directed me to the room she wanted me in.  When my doctor walked in my jaw almost hit the floor.  He did not look like a distinguished orthopedic surgeon.  As my husband so aptly described it, he looked like a Swedish porn star.  Tall, definitely younger than I expected, athletic, easy on the eyes.  I could imagine him more clearly in a wet suit surfing on the beach or posing in a photo shoot for a men’s health magazine before I would imagine him in an operating room. (I realize this information is completely irrelevant to the topic of my post, but when your doctor looks like he could be working in a strip club, that certainly adds an element of holy-crap-I-have-veiny-legs-and-I-have-to-let-hot-doctor-touch-them stress to the situation.  Hot doctors are not a good thing, and they add to the discomfort of the situation.  I already feel old.  Now I feel old and self-conscious about whether or not I shaved my legs good enough that day.  The struggle is real, folks.)

It's an angry needle.

It’s an angry needle.

He sent me to get an MRI and the results showed that I’ve lost most of the cartilage around my patella/knee caps.  I also have the beginning stages of arthritis in my knees.  The treatment at this point is a series of shots in my knees to replace my joint fluid and lubrication, along with physical therapy.  I almost lost my shit when he asked if I was ready for my first shot.  I’m not thrilled about letting anyone stab me in the knees with a four-inch needle!  So,  I said, “No, thank you.”  He said, “PT is going to hurt like hell if we don’t do this, and it will help alleviate the pain and inflammation in your knees.”

Rock, meet hard place.

So I sucked it up and got the first of six shots.  If you’ve never had a shot in your knee, let me say this….it was unpleasant, but it certainly wasn’t the worst thing I’ve endured.  It was fast and I didn’t scream or curse out loud.  That’s good for me considering I dropped a ‘mother-fucker’ during my mammogram.   But I had to grit my teeth and my back involuntarily arched off the table in physical response to the sensation.  For me, dental shots are worse.  An epidural is worse.  Mammograms are most definitely worse.  And considering I need three shots in each knee to complete the treatment, that’s a good thing.  My knee was sore for the rest of the night and I rewarded myself for my bravery (yes, I’m calling it that) by having wine and sushi for dinner.  It was a treat, and my old, broken-ass deserved it.

In summary…my Nanny was right, getting old is definitely not for sissies.

Wanda Says…This is how I know I’m getting old.

retro TV

I’m getting old and this is how I know it…

1.  When I was younger, I remember thinking it was very progressive when the FCC began to allow cursing on TV. I remember thinking, “What’s the big deal if someone uses a curse word on national television?  It’s not like most people haven’t heard them before.”  And then commercials began to evolve and I thought the adult humor and content infused into the marketing of different products was more humorous than dirty.  I remember one event specifically at my grandmother’s house when she tried to shield my great-grandmother from seeing a racy scene on TV, and my great-grandmother responded by saying, “It’s not like I’ve never seen boobs before, Francis.”  Fast forward twenty years, and now I’m a parent.  Thanks to all the sex and adult references on every station and every network, I’ve mastered the sport of living room gymnastics.  All parents know what this is.  It’s the sport that’s all the rage in any family living room with small children.  It’s the act of diving, jumping, tumbling, rolling, running, or hurdling furniture, small people or pets in order to get to the remote on time to either hit the mute button or change the channel when you realize that what’s happening on the television is not appropriate for your child to hear, see or imitate. (And I’d like to thank every network that showed the new SI Swimsuit cover and all the 50 Shades of Grey trailers for the extra gymnastics practice this week.  I really enjoyed trying to field my ten year old daughter’s questions about why that girl was being blindfolded, and why that other girl was practically bearing her private girly parts on the cover of a magazine.  Thanks for that).  I’ve become that crotchety old person who complains that commercials are filled with unnecessary sexual references and that there isn’t enough quality family television suitable for my kids to watch during prime time, and that just blows.

2.  When I see a pack of teenagers walking down my street and they stop to loiter in front of my house, I want to tell them to get off my lawn.  I have a nice lawn with nice bushes and flowers, and I don’t want them to litter in my yard or fuck up my grass.  Get off my lawn you lazy hooligans!  (I can’t believe I care about this).

3.  It’s difficult for me to stay up past 10pm, even on a weekend.  I force myself to stay up on weekends because it’s ridiculous and I refuse to go to bed at nine o’clock on a Saturday.  If my husband and I are out with friends or having a few drinks, I seem to be more energized and can rally to the occasion, but as soon as the action’s over my body goes into complete shut down mode.  I need my sleep like my grandmother needs to watch the Wheel of Fortune every night, or as she likes to call it, “The Wheel.”

4.  If I have more than three alcoholic drinks in one evening it takes me a week to recover.  Seriously.  A week.  Who’s got time for that shit?  I can’t feel like death for a week.  So when I do drink wine or other alcoholic beverages, I try and keep it under three drinks and I have to drink a liter of water in between.  Otherwise my skin is dehydrated and wrinkly and I get headaches that feel like they last a thousand years.  I long for the days in college when I had the energy and stamina to go out five nights a week, stayed out until 2am and was still able to make it to an 8am class.  I don’t necessarily want to engage in those activities, I just wish I still had that kind of energy.

These will make your toes feel like they're being cut off with a butter knife.

These will make your toes feel like they’re being cut off with a butter knife.

5.  I now choose function over fashion, every day.  Is it comfortable?  Stretchy?  Will those shoes make my feet hurt if I walk more than ten feet in them?  I live in yoga pants and t-shirts.  I’m with kids all day and no one gives a shit what I look like. And the last time I made an effort to wear super cute high-heeled boots to a party, I ended up losing a toenail and needing first aid by the end of the night.  My poor husband had to practically carry me to the car, and it took me six months to regrow that toenail.  When I was 30, I would have toughed it out and claimed, “beauty is pain!”  But now, I’m too old for that shit.  Give me blue jeans and tennis shoes, any day.  (I do get dressed up and fancy for dates with my man, but that’s different than my 6am to 10pm work-as-a-stay-at-home-mom dress code, and I always wear comfortable shoes).

I prefer these.

I prefer these.

6.  The music I love and came of age on is now only played on the oldies stations.  I remember being a kid and being mortified when my parents listened to ‘their music.’  I can recall my dad rocking out to the 50’s and 60’s and thinking he was the oldest man in the world.  My mom listened to Neil Diamond, Helen Reddy, James Taylor and Barry Manilow.  Now, I love all four of these artists, and I am a Fanilow. The first concert I ever went to was Barry Manilow and I was eight years old.  I will never forget those palm trees coming out of the stage when he sang Copacabana.  I loved him, and still do.  However, when I was a teenager, I remember thinking my parents were so uncool because they didn’t understand MY music.  They couldn’t understand how important Aerosmith was to me, or Foreigner.  Journey, AC/DC, Steve Miller Band, ZZ Top, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the soundtracks to both Grease 1 and 2,  and eventually Madonna and Guns N Roses.  And then I went through my New Kids On The Block stage (don’t judge me), and eventually it was all about Grunge.  Nirvana, Bush, Alanis Morissette, the Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins.  My mother would shake her head at me and tell me to turn that crap down.  And now, I find myself listening to the popular music of today and thinking, “How does anyone listen to this shit?!”

7.  According to my husband, my hearing is going.  When I ask Dan a question, if he answers by saying, “No” all I hear is, “Yeah.”  I rarely ask him to repeat himself.

8.  New appliances excite me.  You know you’re old when you get excited over buying a new dishwasher, power washer, or coffee maker.  I got a new Dyson vacuum cleaner for Christmas and I felt like I won the lottery.

domestic man9.  I get turned on watching my husband do chores.  Man flesh does nothing for me.  Pictures of hot guys bearing their chests and showcasing a six-pack leaves me feeling…meh.  But watching my husband do dishes, laundry, rescue wayward animals,  and play at the park with our kids is the equivalent of old people porn.  Confident, successful, and happily domesticated men are sexy.  Period.

10.  When my daughter asks me, “Mom, how old were you when you got your first cell phone?”  LOL!  She’s mad at me because I won’t let her have a cell phone until she’s 13.  She has classmates who have them now and she feels left out.  In my opinion, fifth graders don’t need cell phones.  So when I told her I was 25 when I had my first cell phone, it was a regular phone, there was no app for that, it was the size of a regular cordless house phone, and I kept it in my glove box and used it only for emergencies because it cost like, fifty dollars per minute, she looked at me like I smoked crack.  And she learned about crack in school, so it was a nasty look.  Also, I seem to repel technology, and watching my kids run circles around me with new devices, games and programs makes me feel like my grandmother must have felt when I showed her how to use a cassette tape deck on my new boom box when I was in high school.

So, now that we’ve established the undeniable fact that I am turning into a crabby, appliance loving, no sexy shoe wearing, chase the hooligans off my lawn kind of spinster, what makes you feel old?