There’s nothing serious in mortality

Now that I’m a bit older, I’ve begun to reappraise some of my earlier indiscretions. There was a time, if memory serves, when I used to scoff at the idea of healthy eating. When I was young, I was pretty sure I was immortal as long as I didn’t find myself in an accident or anything; I used to tell anybody who cared to listen that my arteries were built on the scaffolding of fast foods and wanton snacks. I don’t really know why I said that; I think I just liked the words.

Anyway, in those halcyon days, I was thin, and healthy, and I assumed that the Grim Reaper was somebody I wouldn’t have to deal with until my hair grizzled. As the years began to make my leaves change colour, though, only my beard turned grey and confused thoughts of mortality began wandering through my head whenever I brushed my teeth in front of the bathroom mirror. Stuff like that really makes you think.

Still, it’s not as if I suddenly started to arm-wrestle with ephemera, or anything -I’d already written my will, and spoken to my kids about the disposition of my ashes, and apart from a few stumbles on my jogs -okay, and a concussion with retrograde amnesia- I’ve had no particularly loud death scares. I suppose now it’s more a matter of shuffling around the edges of my mortal coil to make it more comfortable. Smoothing the edges.

I eat a more healthy diet now -mainly because I can’t wolf down as much as in the old days, so there’s less in there to gum up the works, I guess. I eat fewer cookies, and if I’m up at 3 A.M. I have developed an almost palpable guilt if I finish off whatever ice cream I find left over from dinner. Anyway, Age is disciplining me with heartburn and bloating, and if it weren’t for my bladder, I might not even think of the fridge in the middle of the night.

I suppose there is a question about how often I should be eating, though. I mean, should I (shudder) fast to allow my digestive system to get on with more important business? There’s some evidence that fasting, allows some mysterious part of the body to fold proteins more properly than I fold my clothes from the drier.[i] I have no idea why that would matter, but I guess, even proteins work better in neat carefully laundered piles. Actually, I think I’ve always considered proteins as the backstage theatre workers who set up props and make sure the paint is dry for the next act of the play; I have to admit that I’ve never really looked into their welfare, but apparently rumpled sets can get you into a lot of trouble. I don’t go to many plays, though.

Anyway, I soon realized that even my less intensive eating needed to be done earlier in the evening so I wouldn’t have to take as many antacids before I went to bed. No fasting, though… Of course if I can’t find anything more tempting in the 3 AM fridge than milk, maybe it really is a prolonged fast until breakfast, eh? I mean that’s a good… uhmm… well, let’s see: 9 PM (if there’s nothing on TV) to 7 AM (counting the pre-dawn search for the toilet in the dark) is 10 hours… give or take.

Still, there’s another thing that I should add to the equation, perhaps: alcohol. I don’t drink very much -I never have, because I never get invited to parties, and rarely to dinners. I’m told I talk a lot, even with half a glass of wine. Besides, I have been known to knock things over reaching for second helpings and especially, any unclaimed desserts. And I don’t like to drink much when I’m alone, either, because then I fall asleep before the TV show ends and wake up both curious and hungry in the middle of the night.

I don’t drink beer because it seems to inflate my sinuses for some reason. It also makes me cranky and gaseous. There was a time in my youth when I pretended though. Ginger Ale looks a lot like beer (if you wait till all the fizz disappears) and it gave me a way to hang with the big guys without their demeaning glares… Okay, there were still a lot of those but I used to head for a dark corner to avoid small talk about cars or hockey anyway.

At any rate, there would seem to be some evidence that, unlike beer or hard liquor which are apparently linked to elevated levels of visceral fat that is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome (whatever that is), white wine seems to have little or no association with those bad fellows. In fact, in moderation, white wine may even offer a bonus to older survivors like me: increased bone density.[ii]

It made me wonder if my nightly half glass of 8% alc/vol. white wine was putting me at an undue risk of weak bones, though; I suspect it’s a much weaker version of whatever the scientists were drinking. To tell the truth, I don’t think anybody really knows how much you’re alcohol you’re supposed to drink. When I asked a true wine aficionado, an oenophile that I have known since my childhood, he compared my preferred wine to the beverage offered at Communion in the United Church my parents attended in 1950ies Winnipeg. In those days you only got Communion juice -and no wafted incense to help you to swallow it either.

But, at any rate, Age has helped me see things differently; and that which should accompany old age, as honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have; but, in their stead, weak wine, small meals, and nightly pilgrimages to a dark room with no fridge.

And yet, I can’t complain: my overly thin mother would just shrug at me and mutter “No dessert until you finish what’s on your plate, G.” I can do that now…




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