Adventures in Writing: Part 7 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Old
Old is such a relative term. I don’t mean that in terms of Great Aunt Lucy or Grandpa Zachary, although that’s how I thought when I was a kid. Old is those people you see once or twice a year at a birthday party or on a holiday — the people who tell you how big, not how old, you’ve gotten.

sweetagelofdeathI don’t know at what point in life I crossed into old. The milestone number has been continually pushed forward.

When I was a teenager, they were saying “never trust anyone over 30.” When I hit 30, I didn’t feel particularly untrustworthy; but I was more than a little suspicious of the 50-something crowd. Now well over 50, I have accepted the remote possibility that I might very well be old — or am I just a Baby Boomer?

A lot of wiser (and maybe even younger) people have had their say on old. Let’s take a look.

I don’t know but I’ve been told, if you keep on dancing you’ll never grow old.
Steve Miller, I’ve got to say, this just doesn’t play right in my world. First, if you literally keep on dancing, you’ll soon be exhausted. Exhaustion, numerous scientific studies have shown, does not contribute to longevity. Second, if you grow old when you’re not dancing, I should have been pushing up daisies decades ago.

The only time I dance is when my wife drags me away from the bar at a wedding reception. Even then, the understanding is “slow dances only.” No point in getting too lively.

You’re only as old as you feel.
I don’t know who came up with this saying, but he or she clearly has never gotten up in the morning with my right foot. The damn thing goes missing nearly every night.

By day, it snaps, crackles and pops; it twitches, throbs and burns. I once thought I spotted wisps of smoke coming from the offending appendage, but I have since dismissed that as an agony-induced hallucination.

The foot eventually begins to function, but never without a long start-up process.

The doctor told me my arch has collapsed, and a tendon is about ready to let loose. Now, I’m wearing arch supports and experiencing a whole new kind of pain. It’s the kind of pain I might expect to experience if two red-hot marbles were parked in my shoes directly under my arches — if I had arches.

My feet have always been so flat they could be mistaken for unleavened bread, but the foot situation only kicked in a year or two ago. Nothing but advancing age can account for that deterioration.

You’re only as old as your weakest body part feels. In my case, that makes me about 95. I’m at that awkward ambulatory age: too old to walk without a limp; too young to need a walker.

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.
Leave it to a poet, in this case Robert Browning, to take a merry view of aging. If I may be so bold, allow me to add a few lines of my own about becoming old.

I’m freakin’ full of glee. If only I could see.
The words have grown so small, I cannot read at all.
I’m grateful still to hear, but now sounds must be near.
I’ve kept my sense of feel, although it hurts to kneel.
No, Bob, you must be wrong! The best has come and gone.

Youth is wasted on the young.
George Bernard Shaw left a sizable legacy of quotable quotes. While this one may be pithily clever, it’s really just another way of saying “If only I could be (insert much younger age here) again and know what I know now.”

While both expressions ring true, you can’t accomplish much by condemning everything you did when you still had a little spring in your step. Let’s say, just for fun, that you could travel back in time to give your 20-year-old self the benefit of all you’ve learned.

I know your failing memory may be a problem here, but I’ll wager that your more youthful self totally ignored any sage advice given by your parents as well as anyone else in that age bracket. What would make you treat counseling from your future self any differently? Beyond that, you probably would be hard-pressed to recognize the you-to-be, much less accept the whole time travel explanation.

Nope, as much of a disadvantage as it is, we all seem to have a universal need to learn things for ourselves.

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and it’s the youngest you’ll ever be again.
Thank Eleanor Roosevelt (and Google) for this variation on “today is the first day in the rest of your life.”

This is just more wishful messing with the concept of time. Sure, it puts a positive spin on getting older; but like most spins, the best you’re going to get from it is a cheap, temporary high.

This may have given you the impression that I don’t find a lot of value in the sayings of others. You’re right.

I am getting better, though. Back in my younger days, I thought of each birthday as being another year closer to death. Now I see these annual anniversaries as another year of staying one step ahead of the Grim Reaper.

Call me Old Man Optimism.

Adventures in Writing: Part 5 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Memory
Back in the day, I was inclined to use the phrase, “if memory serves,” which was a polite way to say “my memory is better than yours, so here’s what really happened.”

I no longer use that phrase for one reason. Memory no longer serves. I can’t even get memory to return my calls, much less produce what I need at a moment’s notice.

It’s a little disturbing. I chalk it up to age, but does that mean I’m on a fast track to Alzheimer’s? Not necessarily, from what I’ve read. Being unable to recall simple words or names every now and then is normal, some experts say, even among those relatively young, like 40-somethings. Still, that knowledge does not rule out developing a completely blank mind down the road.

I continued to fret until yesterday, when I saw a television commercial for Prevagen. This over-the-counter miracle medication, according to the manufacturer’s web site, can improve absentmindedness and memory, plus helps with “mild memory problems associated with aging.” Check, double-check and triple-check. My worries were over.

I read more. The magic ingredient in Prevagen is apoaequorin (say that three times fast, or even once), a protein that makes certain jelly fish (specifically, Aequorea victoria) glow.

Eh? Not to worry, the web site reassures potential Prevagen customers, “glowing is not a side-effect.” Hmm. That was a little disappointing. As side-effects go, that would have been a pretty neat one.

Anyway, among the other facts provided on the site, apoaequorin was discovered by a Nobel Prize winner, so you know it’s got to be good. Furthermore, vast numbers of jellyfish are not being killed to make Prevagen, as apoaequorin is now grown in a safe and controlled manufacturing process.” The site proudly displays the “Made in the USA” flag logo.

Well, as promising as all of this sounded, I was still not convinced that swallowing jellyfish protein even the “extra-strength” version, every 24 hours for 30 to 90 days, was my path to memory salvation. The site notes that the benefits of Prevagen are backed by a 90-day study done by Quincy Bioscience, a Madison, Wisconsin, company which also happens to be the “official retailer” of Prevagen.

Hmm. Seemed like the results of that study might have something of a conflict of interest involved, so I decided to do a little investigating of my own. As luck would have it, several Aequorea victorias, including one I had met, Alfred, just happened to live in my neighborhood, so I dropped in on him for a little chat.

Keeping in mind that Al was under water, behind glass and English was not his first language, our conversation went something like this:

“Hi, Al,” I began. “Sorry to show up without calling ahead, but I’m doing a little research into Prevagen, and I thought you might be in unique position to give me some answers.”

Al glowed bashfully. “Excuse me,” he replied. “Have we met?”

“Sure. We talked sushi for a few minutes at the Fourth of July party here last month, remember?”

“No. Please forgive me, but my memory isn’t what is used to be. I’m already four months old. That’s 85 in human years. I get more absentminded every week.”

“But, aren’t you mostly made of the protein used in Prevagen to aid human memory. In fact, isn’t that the very thing that makes you glow?”

“I think that’s what somebody one said, but I’m not sure. The days all seem to run together. I can’t even say for sure what I ate for breakfast, although I’m told it’s the same, soft-bodied organisms every meal.”

“That really makes me question the value of your magic memory protein. Hello?”

Al seemed to be drifting aimlessly in his tank, apparently dozing until I rapped on the glass.

“Huh? Hi,” Al said with a waking snort. “Do I know you?”

“Yes, we’ve talked.”

“I take your word on that. Have we talked about anything interesting?”

“No, just sushi and memories.”

“Memories are nice. I wish I had some.”

Well, I guess I can cancel that order for a lifetime supply of Prevagen. For now, I’ll continue to rely on salmon, whole grains and Cheetos to keep me sharp.