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My brand-name watch battery quit after six years of service. I replaced it last week for another six years of second-by-second, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, month-by-month timeline reassurance.
It occurs to me that the battery replacement is something of a metaphor for myself in my advanced age of 83 — although mentally I feel like I’m in my mid-40s or thereabouts. In fact, 83 read counterclockwise is 38.
As many readers of BTL know, I had a stroke on Memorial Day 2019. It left me visually compromised on my left side, and for many weeks restricted in my walking mobility. I now have new glasses compensating for short-sightedness in one eye and for distant visual intake in the other.
As for walking, my walker is a godsend that allows me to stride with two-stepping ease and, if you’ll pardon the play on words, some limbic freedom of movement and mental merriment.
I spent two weeks in the Detroit Receiving Hospital following the onset of my stroke. I have no recollection of my first week’s stay there. None. The blanks have been filled in my caring friends who we’re at my bedside offering prayers, hope and their whispered messages of love, concern and recovery encouragement.
Following my stay at Detroit Receiving Hospital, I spent three weeks of focused and sustained rehabilitation at the Henry Ford Village Rehabilitation Center. I received both physical and occupational all-encompassing therapies.
Physical therapy included use of weights, pulleys and an exercising machine. I seemed to thrive on its challenging usage: the NuStep body tension push/pull monitor, with a dozen strength resistance levels — I got up to number eight.
Occupational therapy was doing standing folding of linen, clothes and picking up items laid out around the room to challenge and encourage balance and movement.
The rehabilitation staff at all times were encouraging, professional, caring, compassionate and complimentary as progress was gained and moved closer to the goal of go-home independence and self-regained respect,
Rehabilitation is, to say the least, a real challenge for those senior citizens for whom the aging process has made its demands. (Keep in mind, beloved PG readers, it happens to all of us sooner or later).
Across from my assigned room at the rehab center was a gentleman who coughed a lot. When I asked why I was told, “We do the best we can to help him out.” He’s 100.
And just down the hall from was a woman of years and years who could repeat nonstop only one word that no one could interpret exactly. HELP. HELP. HELP? Hope? Hope? HOPE? Over and over … and over yet again.
In contrast, a Henry Ford Village senior resident, where I now am spending my retirement years, came riding down the hall on her motorized chair. ‘It’s my birthday!” She happily announced. “I’m 101 today!”
It was all an ongoing adjustment for me. (Still is.) I was both a spectator and a reluctant participant. I had, so to speak, tumbled into a world that I, just weeks before, I never knew existed.
Before my stroke I had what I thought was a comfortable routine: friends, familiar places, creative timelines. Interludes of LGBTQ church and lighthearted frivolity. In rehab, I saw and learned firsthand the courage that being a senior really requires, living life one day at a time. Bravery to be sure.
I witnessed the determination of many in their 70s, 80s and 90s doing the best they could with the exercises given to aide, strengthen and to possibly bring about the functioning of seemingly useless limbs. For many, it’s a challenge that’s too difficult for them to meet. It takes courage and determination.
The truth of the matter is that for we who are LGBTQ, aging is a second coming out process that sooner or later we must all face. Indeed, since my stroke, I have learned of two friends that have had similar strokes.
I remember when I was a teenager hearing the caution, “Nobody wants you when you’re old and g(r)ay.”
Yes! I have a new battery in my brand-name watch. It should last another six years. In the meantime, I’ll make each precious minute count. I may exercise alone, but I won’t exercise in the closet. Old age is a challenge. I’ll give it my best.