Broken Chair

Last week, one of my tennis partners and I found ourselves in a heart to heart talk about aging. Her husband recently had a stroke and can’t speak. She is his fulltime caregiver. “There are so many years behind me,” she said sadly, “and so much fewer ahead.”  So true.

 A few days later, a friend confided, “Aging is hard. I never knew it would be this hard. Sometimes I wonder if I have the strength for it.” She just got out of the hospital after what she thought was a routine bronchitis, which she’d had before. This time, she couldn’t shake it alone.

 Another emailed after taking a cruise to say that he had, “really wanted to hike through Europe” but feared his legs might not hold him up. Instead, he “saw it mostly through my cabin window.” Still another told me that she is, “terrified of falling.   I’ve put night-lights every six feet in my house. If I fall again, I’m dead. That’s it.” She recently had a hip replaced and the recovery took almost a year.

 I could chalk my friends off as being ‘alarmists’ or ‘overly pessimistic,’ but they echo my own sentiments. I, too, have set myself a daily routine to maximize safety and minimize stress. I swim, but only so far, so as not to overtax my shoulders. I walk, but avoid hills, so as not to overstress my knees. I eat healthy, nap, meditate, do mild yoga, read enlightening books and practice music daily to keep my synapses sharp.

 However, all of this moderation only carries one so far. There is no accounting for the surprises that life can throw your way. This afternoon, I made a salad and went outside to enjoy it in the sunshine. As I sat down on the chair, the seat underneath me gave way. Not only did I jolt my joints but my lovely salad spread itself all over the pavement.

 Apparently, there’s good reason for all of us to take extra precautions. Right now, the accidental death rate is up 12% in the US. Why? Falls among the elderly and drug overdoses. Shakespeare, describing impending death in Hamlet said this: “And by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” For now, I’ve decided to appreciate those ‘shocks.’ It means that I’m still here to tell you about them.  









9 thoughts on “SURPRISE!!!

  1. Helen, I will set up a Go Fund Me page to buy a new chair for you !! ! Kidding aside…..again a great column. Getting old ain’t for sissies….. and it stinks.


  2. I’m finding that aging is like having a baby; you can’t back out, you have no choice but to move forward, and do the best that you can without causing too much damage!


  3. I have read with great interest your blog and I do agree it is not easy to get older but I would like to add something that I am a great believer in: Whatever it is that happens to us our mental attitude can make all the difference. Oh, I know it is not always easy to stay positive while facing these hurdles, but our mental attitude is so important!
    I wrote a book last year hoping to encourage others of my age to stay positive: Living Longer Living Well – How To Embrace the Challenges Of a Long Life. No I am not writing this to pluck my book, but to share my belief that staying positive is life saving and certainly will improve the time that we are still here.
    PS I would be happy to send you a copy – or to any of your followers by sending me their information in an email to
    I think your blog is very helpful to the older generation – thank you


  4. Yes. I think aging is the final frontier, sorta like Star Trek. It’s the unknown; how will we negotiate it and make our final exit? I think it requires everything we’ve learned or should have learned all these years, plus a good dose of luck. We’re clearly better off with a plan, and if we’re lucky we might get to use it.
    Good plan, Helen, and good post too!


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