I have learned of late that there’s always something to say about old age -many things actually: many voices. It’s like kindergarten where a whole bunch of hands wave frantically for attention whenever the teacher asks a question. It’s an opportunity to show off, to validate a perhaps otherwise unexamined existence.
In my case, for example, there are any number of organs vying for the microphone. Organs hitherto quiet and unassuming, stand up and demand a hearing. And I, in loco parentis, am required to listen to their snivelling, and attend to their spineless capitulations. But, so be it I suppose: they are old friends, and we have shared a room together all these years; I should not be the one to point them out, or shake my fist. Who knows, I may have to suffer the same fate as my body some day.
It’s interesting isn’t it, that I should see myself as somehow different from those inside me that complain -as if I were standing on a stage looking out on a crowd of people I have known my whole life. I know their names, their habits, their failings; I even know what makes them see me as an unfeeling taskmaster, although in the old days when we were young, they knew better than to say anything. Even now I can feel them hesitate before they raise their hands.
But, in the autumn I think a tree has to listen to its leaves. We are, all of us, seasonal creatures and yet, unlike Macbeth, I don’t feel I have lived long enough, even though my way of life may well have fallen into the sere. But yes, I now wear the yellow leaf.
It all started with my knees, I think. They were the first to threaten autumn colours. Usually noticed only when they are out of sorts, knees so often are just hinges bolted in on the way to the shoes, necessary only when we need to hoist petards, or bend to pick up after the dog. But when they begin to rust, you can be in a lot of trouble. I think that if I were asked to design a leg, I would probably just use one bone and connect it to the foot. My grade 1 stick figures make that perfectly clear, but nobody in command seemed to understand how profoundly innovative that was.
At any rate, I amended my running schedule to appease my hinges, and decided to bike instead for a while. I put the seat way up in hopes of deflecting any talk of patellar harassment -I mean, they hardly had to bend at all. But, despite my critical analysis of the problem and even cleverer resolution, I failed to recognize the possibility of collateral damage. It’s not that I wasn’t painfully aware of the hills where I live, but I was thinking of them only in unidimensional terms. In real life, knees are multidimensional creatures with connections up and down the leg from where they live. They are not the only houses in the neighbourhood, and rumours must have spread to their friends all along the street.
In fairness to my gluteals, I may have over-jacked the seat height in my enthusiasm; it did result in a rather unexpected amount of friction as I slid back and forth to reach each pedal – well, actually I ended up being able to use only the tips of my toes- but I didn’t expect my Achilles tendons to hit the klaxon as soon as I got home.
I realized in an instant that I was probably just hungry -my stomach had also joined the chorus by that stage- and so I hobbled into the kitchen for a bun… And a few cookies -for my stomach, you understand. There’s nothing like a few carbs to sharpen the mind and quiet the intestines. In a sudden flash of insight, however, it all came together: what do gluteals, knees, and Achilles tendons all have in common -apart from their addresses on my leg? Correct: shoes. Shoes are where the buck stops.
For a while now, I had decided that I could no longer get by with yet another Dr. Scholl’s shoe insert because, well, I could actually feel individual members of the gravel underfoot when I ran -sort of like that Hans Christian Andersen story about the princess who could feel the pea -only without the 20 mattresses underneath… Okay, I suppose it’s nothing like the Princess’s problem: I had no mattresses beneath my feet at all.
Anyway, I could sense there was a mutiny afoot when I wandered into the shoe department of Walmart looking for bargain replacements for my aging sneakers. Nothing was on sale, though, so I was forced to agree to a more expensive $49.99 (Can) imported pair that looked exactly like the Nikes I’d seen in the window of a sports store at more than quadruple the cost. The price was actually the only thing I could read on the shoes, however -the specifications would have benefitted from subtitles- but nonetheless, I think they really tried hard to make them look like Nikes. I figured they were likely part of a well-meaning public relations attempt at diversity, but for the life of me, I couldn’t make out the ideograms, so I can’t say for sure.
You get what you pay for, I now realize. I was amazed what the extra $20 got me. First of all they were wider than my old pair, and my toes didn’t actually reach the tips so I knew my socks would likely last longer. And, although the laces in one shoe wouldn’t fit through the top holes, I realized that my old laces had never managed to reach up that far anyway. I don’t know why they put holes up there -they just make the laces shorter.
But, now that I have my new sneakers, I’ve started to run again. Just short distances for now, of course -I’m trying not to anger my knees. So far, though, I’m having more problem with balance and I’m tripping more often than I used to in the old shoes -the toes seem to snag on stuff as I run. But at least I’m not getting sores on my feet like the old days because my socks slip around inside the shoes a lot. In a way, it’s almost like skiing, I suppose, and I love it. So now I’m really looking forward to winter.
When you get old, you have to try different things, don’t you think? You have to adapt to whatever is presented. Embrace change. I can’t wait to check out the coats at Value Village.