Category Archives: Health

Gimme Some Skin!

This post reflects two basic “discoveries” I’ve made within the past couple of years. The first is the magnification my iPhone is capable of providing through its camera. I have been able to take some fairly spectacular pics of various items seen extremely close up and in sharp focus. I find the pictures I can take with it are (or can be) interesting and, at times, beautiful and ornate.

The second thing I discovered is that, although I come from a family whose elderly members weren’t very wrinkly as they aged, I recently began noticing I was developing “chicken skin” on parts of my body, most notably my arms. At nearly 74, I expect I can accurately be described as elderly, so I was a bit taken aback at first. I don’t recall exactly how I took the first magnified photo of the inside of my elbow or my forearm closely adjacent to it, but I found the contours and texture of my aging skin to be quite fascinating, if not at times somewhat freaky.

Here are four pictures—extreme closeups—of either the inside of my elbow or of my forearm just below it. I find the patterns both pleasing to look at and a bit mind-blowing to think of how evolution has developed this envelope for us to live in and be protected by. Its construction and flexibility are truly a wonder, especially when viewed up real close. We humans will no doubt one day be able to replicate human skin (we’re already getting there) and it’s fascinating to me to contemplate how we, in a matter of decades (centuries at the most, depending on how you define progress and accumulated knowledge) we’re creating analogues to naturally occurring physical elements that took millions of years to evolve. Don’t know about all y’all, but I’m fairly gobsmacked by the whole thing.


On The Cusp!

There are two books that have had an inordinately large effect on my life. One of them I can remember large parts of and can offer reasonably intelligent analyses of what the author was trying to say. The other one I can hardly recall one thing about, save for the overall message the author was trying to convey. The reason these two come to mind—and have affected me so greatly—is that they’re closely related conceptually and their messages resonate and overlap, at least as I see them and I’m pretty sure that’s about all that counts.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The first of these two books is “The Wisdom of Insecurity,” by Alan Watts. The second of these books is “Passages,” by Gail Sheehy. Without going into any detail, I’ll merely note that each of them speaks to the inexorable rhythms of life and the inevitability of change. They also offer a philosophical approach to dealing with those rhythms and changes that offers one a chance to navigate them with as little friction and pain as possible. I read the book by Watts in my early twenties. At the time I was head-over-heels in love with a young woman, but the relationship wasn’t to be and she broke up with me. I was young, impetuous, and prone to bouts of manic happiness and deep, dark depression.

I somehow found the book; how is lost in the mists of my slowly calcifying synapses. Perhaps it found me. It wasn’t the first book by Watts I had read. That was “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,” which I found quite helpful in navigating the changes I was going through shortly after high school, a short stint in the U.S. Navy, a slightly longer stint as a businessman, a somewhat shorter flirtation with Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of ’67, and a steadily growing antipathy toward the nation’s conduct of the war in Vietnam.

Another thing I thought interesting, and somewhat serendipitous, was the juxtaposition of the release of two Beatles records that coincided with my reading of these two books by Watts. When I read “The Book: …” the Beatles had just released “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.” The book was kind of my introduction to Zen Buddhist philosophy and the concept of the dialectic as represented by the Yin-Yang symbol. I was beginning to understand the duality of nature and the essence of all forms of evolution. Some of the lyrics in the song point out that same kind of duality, e.g. “Your inside is out when your outside is in. Your outside is in when your inside is out,” and the title of the song seemed to resonate with Watts’s message that we needed to get in touch with our actual selves (our “inner monkey”) if we were to understand our place in the world and not color it with the expectations of others.

The second song, which coincided with my reading of “The Wisdom of Insecurity,” was “Let It Be” which, as I understood it was the message Watts was conveying about the reality there is no such thing as security, that all things are in a constant state of flux, and the only way to (paradoxically, a very Zen concept) achieve any semblance of security—no matter how ephemeral and transient it may be—was to stop seeking it.

Sheehy’s book, as I recall it (and I only read it once, whereas I’ve read The Wisdom of Insecurity three times) had a similar message, but it was less on a spiritual and philosophical level and more on a practical, everyday “here’s what to expect” kind of approach. She wrote of what she referred to as the “passages” we all go through as we age and gain experience, while everything around us is changing and moving forward.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I have reached a point (a passage, if you will) in my life where I find far too many reasons to prepare myself for the end. I’ll be 74 years old three months from today. Next month I will be fourteen years older than my father was when he died. I realize I’ve reached an age where I could, conceivably, live another decade or more, but I could also drop dead tomorrow. There sure are a lot of people doing it who are younger than me.

Throw in the reality that I still have two daughters at home, one of whom is a Junior in High School, the other a Freshman in College, and it’s producing a bit of a tension arc that I’m struggling to put behind me.

I’m not trying to be morose, or overly glum. I am, however, attempting to approach what is definitely the autumn (more likely winter) of my life with as much spring in my step and lightness in my heart as I can muster. I need to understand what this passage I’m experiencing is all about (Sheehy did not write about septuagenarians) and position myself to take advantage of all it might offer. If there’s one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that there’s always benefit to be found in nearly every situation, at least until there isn’t (if that makes sense.) I am an optimist, so even when I get deeply (perhaps depressingly) introspective, I usually snap out of it within a few hours or now more than a day or two.

I’m looking forward to what the next stage of my life is going to offer. Both of my girls will be on their own in a few years, God (or whoever’s in charge of these things) willing and the creek don’t rise, and Linda and I will be on our own again. The difference for us, is we won’t be in our early to late fifties, like most people who have their families when they’re no older than their thirties. As long as I know my girls are doing well and taking care of themselves (which is an entirely different story) I’ll be OK with whatever happens. I will say this. Not having to help with high school homework will be deeply enjoyable!

If I live that long. 🙂


Becoming a Switch Hitter

I am a southpaw, a left-hander. Big time! So much so that when my father tried to get me to golf right-handed (he said golf courses were built to favor righties) I just wasn’t able to do it. I played a little—he even bought me a beginner’s set of left-handed clubs—when I was 15, but came to the conclusion surfing was more my speed and gave up golf.

I actually have no plan to become a right-handed golfer, assuming I can ever golf again (that’s another story.)

When I took it up again at the tender age of 46, I still played left-handed, though I realized it would be helpful to my game if I spent a little time strengthening my right side, as well as improving my right-handed coordination. I set about doing some exercises and using my right hand more frequently. It was a bit haphazard, but I managed to become a bit more comfortable with it as time went by.

Last night I believe I came to the conclusion I need to change my handedness from left to right. The reason for this has nothing to do with golf, however. Sometime around a decade ago, I began to experience the effects of what is known as essential tremors. Also called familial tremors, the malady is genetic and generally affects one or more of three areas: the neck muscles, the hands and fingers, and vocal chords. My mother had them in her neck; she was, in her last years, a bobble-head.

My tremors show up in my hands and, ironically, they are worst in my left (dominant) hand. I am almost certain sometime in the next few years, I will experience them in my neck muscles as well. I can feel it coming on when I’m drinking any liquid I don’t sip. Not all the time; my hands don’t shake all the time either. When they do, though, it can be pretty had to do certain things. For instance, typing becomes next to impossible when they’re shaking, as is eating with a fork or a spoon.

Ironically, eating with hashi (chopsticks, in Japanese; my wife is Sansei) is much easier than eating with a fork. It might present a bit of a problem if grabbing whatever it is I wish to lift to my lips, but once I’ve got it grasped I can hang onto it because they shake in the same amount and same direction, and the food is securely pinched between the two pieces. This does not work with a fork or a spoon unless whatever it is I’m eating can be stabbed with the fork. Spoons are even worse because one eats things that are liquid and can spray all over the place when shaken as thoroughly as my left hand is capable of when it gets going.

For example, when I was in the midst of my battle with Covid-19, at the beginning of the year, I didn’t eat for a couple of days. Even though I could neither smell nor taste, I finally got hungry and my wife brought me a bowl of homemade chicken soup. She served it with one of the large, Chinese soup spoons we have, which are reasonably deep. As I raised a spoonful to my mouth, my hand began to shake violently and I sprayed hot soup all over myself and the bed. It was frustrating.

Last night I was eating some canned pears and cottage cheese; one of my favorite comfort foods (actually pineapple is my real fave, mixed with cottage cheese) and I was having a difficult time getting the spoon to my mouth without dropping or flinging the food hither and yon. Having done it once or twice before, I decided to try eating right-handed. It went much better than I had hoped for. So now, difficult as it may be at 73 years old, I’m going to start re-training myself to be right-handed. It won’t help with my typing, but I’m pretty sure it will improve my dining satisfaction … and that’s important. I may even begin eating with hashi right-handed as well. I’ve done it before and I know I can.

PS – Did you know that all the synonyms for “southpaw” are negative? According to thesaurus.com, these words are: ambilevous; awkward; clumsy; dubious; gauche; insincere; maladroit; sinister; and sinistral.


My Battle With COVID-19

On Christmas Eve, not quite three weeks ago, I felt I was becoming ill. I initiated an e-visit with Kaiser, and was able to get tested the following Monday. The following day, results showed I was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus best known as COVID-19. I had to quarantine (meaning stay in my bedroom the entire time) for ten days. During that time I got pretty sick … almost going to the ER on (I believe) the 30th. I attempted to share my experience, as best I could given how sick I was, with my friends on Facebook. What follows is a concatenation of each of my posts as I struggled to ride this illness out. I’m happy to report, with the exception of some residual weakness and light-headedness, I seem to have recovered. Given my age and numerous comorbidities (especially COPD) I expected to become far sicker than I did, and am both relieved and grateful I seem to have recovered rather quickly. I have contacted my doctor and requested a follow-up visit to determine if the virus has caused any damage to my heart or lungs. I will follow up when I have something to report.

Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

12/24 at 14:37:

Out of an abundance of caution, I initiated an e-visit with Kaiser to determine if I’ve got COVID. I don’t have any of the worst symptoms, but I definitely have some of them. I’m scheduled for a test this coming Monday.

12/28 at 09:48:

Getting my COVID-19 test in the parking lot.

12/29 at 09:12:

Well … Now if someone asks if I personally know anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19, I can answer “Yes.”

Me!

So … the illness I really didn’t want to test my immune system and my overall health on finally got me. Now I have to isolate for 10 days. I think I’ve already been through the worst over the weekend.

I’m taking MucinexDM once every 12 hours, an occasional Aleve, and vitamin C. I can’t taste a damned thing and I wasn’t terribly hungry for the past four or five days; I’ve lost eight pounds in the last six days.

I’m feeling good today. No fever this morning and SpO2 is staying around 95%. No congestion, hardly a cough.

I know this thing can offer some surprises, so I’m monitoring myself carefully, but it looks like I won’t suffer as much as I thought I might, which is a pleasant surprise. Still, being cautious seems prudent.

12/29 at 20:08:

Have I mentioned I feel like shit. I have a mid-grade fever and I’m sweating under the blanket, but I get the chills if I get out. Typing this is difficult. Stomach is sour and SpO2 has dropped as low as 91%. I’m dizzy, weak, tire easily, and can’t take a deep breath without bronchial pain.

Other than that, I’m feeling just peachy.

12/30 at 10:02:

Sitrep:

As of this morning, I am feeling better. No fever, but that’s how yesterday started. SpO2 is 96. I think the low reading I got yesterday was an anomaly. I have never felt as though I was having trouble getting enough oxygen. Still taking MucinexDM every 12 hours, which seems to be working quite well as a cough suppressant and expectorant. Also taking vitamin C. Still hurts to take too deep a breath, but doesn’t cause spasmodic coughing. Kaiser and many, many people have sent me lots of instructions, many of which I will choose to ignore, because that’s the kind of asshole I am. Haven’t left the bedroom.

Bottom line. This sucks, but I don’t think it’s going to kill me. Then again, this virus has proven to be treacherous and I have waaay too many comorbidities to let my guard down. Stay safe y’all. At least try … that’s what I did.

12/31 at 17:31:

The battle continues. My normal temperature is 97.6. This morning it was 98.7. Since then it’s been as high as 102.5 and everywhere in-between. Currently, it’s 101.1.

Linda went out and got me some vitamin D, Zinc, & NAC, all of which are said to be efficacious in combating this fucking virus.

Happy God damned New Year, reprobates.

01/01 at 12:21:

Happy New Year everybody. Well, these last few days have been trying and difficult, to say the least. I can finally taste again; not completely but it’s getting there. I no longer have to pay as close attention to my breathing as I have for the last couple days, as my bronchial tubes are opening up and taking deep breaths is far easier than it’s been up ’til now.

I still have another five full days before I can even leave the bedroom really, at least without wearing a mask and worrying about what I touch. I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s daylight, not an oncoming train. I’m very grateful.

Temperature continues to be normal. Still dizzy and weak, but a bit more aware. Onward and upward.

01/01 at 15:47:

Man! This virus doesn’t give up. Temp is back to 102.3° F.

01/02 at 10:26:

OK – Health update. I can’t recall the last time I had the flu, or anything for that matter, that caused me to have a fever, so I’m not sure if what’s been happening to me is the normal progression of dealing with a virus. As noted over the past few days, I wake up feeling reasonably well, with no fever, and by mid-afternoon I’m burning up.

Last night it got up to 102.5, the highest it’s been since last weekend. I feel as though my fever broke last night. I finally had to take my t-shirt off. It was soaking wet. I put another one on and it was pretty soaked by 9pm, so I took it off as well and, for the first time since this started, I was comfortable sleeping without a t-shirt, which is how I normally sleep.

I had taken two Aleve, since my fever seemed to be climbing and within about an hour it was down to 98.3, which is still nearly a degree above my normal temperature of 97.6, but a good sign.

So . . . the signs are all good, but I’ve heard too many stories of people seeming to be on the mend then, boom, they’re in the hospital being intubated. No victory lap for me yet. Eight more days of quarantine. Hopefully, by next weekend I’ll be chomping at the bit to leave the bedroom. I haven’t really cared this past week.

ADDENDUM – I should add my breathing has improved considerably. I can take pretty deep breaths without pain or the need to cough and I have no congestion at all. I almost didn’t take a MucinexDM this morning, but decided not to tempt fate.

01/02 at 15:58:

Yesterday at almost exactly the same time, my temperature was 102.3. Just now it was 99.1. I would call that an improvement. So there.

01/03 at 19:12:

FYI – No news is good news.

01/04 at 13:14:

Update: While I believe I’m pretty much out-of-the-woods wrt the possibility of being hospitalized, recovery is clearly going to take some time. I just took a shower for the first time in a week and I almost couldn’t finish. I had to stop and rest halfway thru drying myself. This virus really takes a lot out of you. I can only imagine how much more difficult it might be for people who are really overweight. I feel so much better being clean (I was too sick to care for a week) but I’m beat from the effort.

Be careful out there, folks. There’s a far-too-large contingent of obstinate assholes out there whose selfishness is making it harder to avoid becoming infected.

01/09 at 12:51:

While it may be effective, I’m here to report that being infected with COVID-19 is far from an optimum weight loss strategy. I just dropped to a weight I haven’t seen since high school … and I’m 73. Think I need to eat something, stat.


A Well-Deserved BuhBye

I think we all can agree this year (2020) has been a real pain in the ass. So many things that dismayed, disappointed, and disgusted the majority of us. I just came across this short video with a Holiday Message for the past year. It conveys my sentiments exactly. Quite likely yours too.


History Repeats Itself

As I have mentioned in other posts, I have been working at understanding Photoshop well enough to create my own memes, to touch up photos new and old, and to generally be able to utilize most of the power it provides to those patient enough to work on the skills. This is my latest, though the overlay of Trump’s fugliness on what is likely a painting of Marie Antoinette I stole from the Intertubes. I actually had a piece I did with Donald’s face on Marie, but I would have had to pull off some kind of mighty effort to have a plate and raised hand available to showcase to CORONA virus.

This story is disturbing. President Trump and nearly every one of the Republicans in Congress have failed to protect the American public from both this virus and from the economic effects of efforts to mitigate its destructiveness. That they will rush to vaccinate themselves before essential workers disgusts and appalls me. It doesn’t, however, surprise me. The Republican party is stuffed to the gills with pompous preeners who care little for the people they purport to represent. I suspect quite a few Democrats, especially the old guard, have similar propensities. We need to elect people who care about their constituents.


How Long?

Dinosaur bones and desert mountain background
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

There’s a “tripwire” somewhere
Out there, downstream
Where . . . I’m not sure

Some discover its presence early
For some the revelation is a surprise
Everyone’s waiting for it
Our entire lives
Some wait with dread and trepidation
Some with simple resignation
Many in anticipation
Of what lies on the other side

Are there any who give it no thought?
Like our animal brethren
Who live their lives on a daily basis,
Not as an ongoing saga

Many of us prepare
In numerous ways
Some useful
Some not
I know I’ve been waiting
For as long as I can remember
Now, however, I’m beginning to
Sense its presence more acutely
I feel its approach
Though it’s still amorphous and indistinct

And each time someone younger than me passes
I swear I can feel its hot breath on the back of my neck


Cramps For Gramps

OK, so I’m not actually a grandfather though, at 73, I believe I’m old enough to be a great grandfather. Alas, I am but a father . . . and an adoptive one at that. My children are 19 and 16 and, although they are growing more and more independent, my youngest still has two years of high school remaining and my oldest wasn’t ready to attend college the past year and is only now taking six units at our local junior college. She kinda had to be coerced into doing that.

I bring this up in part because I’m feeling the inexorable acceleration of my physical and mental decline as I age. I’m thankful I notice it and, truth to tell, there are times I’m not sure I know what’s truly happening. I often say I’m unclear as to whether my memory is going, or I just don’t give a shit anymore, which means I find it far more difficult to pay attention to those things I don’t give a shit about.

Being stuck almost exclusively in the house during this pandemic presents its own challenges as well, and I’m pretty sure it’s adding to the pressure I feel to keep up with my kids and help them as best I can. At the same time, I have come to realize we really don’t have enough retirement savings to generate the income we require . . . at least not while the kids are here consuming large quantities of food, etc.

My oldest was working part-time for a while and she would have been able to reduce the burden somewhat, but when they decided she could no longer work remotely, she knew that wouldn’t fly at the time due to my and my wife’s ages, as well as our underlying conditions. This was especially true at the time it happened because there was a great deal of uncertainty then regarding how COVID-19 was transmitted, as well as resistance to the actions that would mitigate some of the risk, e.g. social distancing, wearing of masks, etc.

Truth to tell, there are times when I find myself understanding, somewhat viscerally, why some men “give up” and die after retirement. My situation is considerably different than most men who have reached my age, and the need to be there for my girls is a powerful motivator. Still, the angst and conflict sometimes wear me down.

Ouch!

To top it off, there are lots of physical consequences to aging I don’t believe most people even consider until they’re older. One of those is leg cramps. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the majority of adults over the age of 60 experience leg cramps at least once every two months. I’ve been experiencing them for years and have found that increasing the amount of potassium in my diet seems to keep them partially at bay. The easiest way for me to get that supplemental potassium is by eating bananas.

Unfortunately, the night before last reminded me I must not be eating enough of them. Normal leg craps—at least for me—happen mostly in the anterior muscles of my lower leg (looking at an anatomy chart, I believe the muscle involved is the Tibialis anterior, but don’t hold me to it.) This time was very different.

I awoke to the realization I was having a cramp, but it manifested itself by pulling my left big toe completely back so it was nearly vertical with relationship to the plane of my foot. It was painful and took nearly five minutes to slowly push it back to horizontal, where it belonged. I hope to never experience that particular form of cramp again as long as I live, though I have no confidence that will be the case.

One of the things I wanted to accomplish with my blogging was to share my experiences of aging. I haven’t checked the stats lately, but a decade ago there were very few bloggers as old as I am and it seemed I had the opportunity to share something that is both universal (in that we all age, unless we die young) and specific (in that it’s happening to me.) I hope I’ve done that, regardless of whether or not many people read what I write. I’ll continue doing so because it’s somewhat cathartic for me, it’s a way to leave behind some proof I actually existed, and it’s helping me in writing my memoirs, which I hope to finish sometime next year (though it may have to wait until my youngest finishes high school.)


R.I.P. Zacky

Our Beloved Zacky

Linda and I just said our final goodbye to Zacky, our beloved boy of about 14 years. His body was shutting down and we didn’t want him to suffer any longer. We brought him home on Friday in the hope he might improve, but he didn’t, so we took him to the Vet this morning and they recommended saying goodbye.

I know it was the right thing to do, but I’m beside myself with grief. I’ve never known a cat quite as attached to humans as Zacky was, and I have had the good fortune of knowing quite a few of them in my life. He was especially bonded with Linda and frequently slept in her arms or under the blankets, in a little cave she would make for him.

I would have gladly put up with a few more bloody rats on the bedroom floor to have had a couple more years with him. We’ll be grieving for a while, but we’ll move on. Lots of good memories of this guy.

2020 most definitely sucks.


Who’s The Virus?

The number and quality of videos being produced to educate the public about Trump’s many abuses and violations of the law is astounding. Between The Lincoln Project, Meidus Touch, and this one from Indivisible, he’s being hammered regularly. Only time will tell if it’s enough to ensure he is resoundingly repudiated this November 3, but I’m glad to see all the energy working for his political demise. This is my feeble attempt to spread the word as well. Please consider sharing. It doesn’t have to be my post; get the URL from YouTube and share that . . . on Twitter, FB, and wherever else your little ol’ pea-pickin’ heart desires. Thank you kindly.


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