senescence: a biological term that basically means aging. It encompasses all of the biological processes of a living organism's approaching an advanced age (i.e., the combination of processes of deterioration which follow the period of development of an organism). The word senescence is derived from the Latin word senex, meaning "old man" or "old age" or "advanced in age".
Physical work is more difficult to do, takes longer, and hurts more now than it did just 10 years ago. How is that for a lead-off to get you to read more? Terrible. Who wants to read about senior citizens and their aches and pains. I have always been a very active person, but recent years have taken their toll. I'm a biologist, so I know this is a normal process, knew it was coming, and felt it when it started, but I hate every minute of it.
Senescence is so weird, because in your mind you still feel like you are about 30. When I walk across campus, I still gawk at long-legged coeds wearing short skirts, and I enjoy every minute of it. In fact, now that I am retired and I won't be having any of these girls as students, I can gawk even longer. Who gives a damn? It is a challenge to see if I can gawk just up to the point where they would call Campus Security, but not longer than that. It is a little game I play. I do keep my hands to myself, however, but I can't promise anything 10 years hence.
But the severity of the situation crystallized for me about two years ago. Let me set the stage for the anecdote I am about to tell. A few months prior, my wife turned her ankle in our basement. It was a really bad sprain; she heard a loud pop when it happened, and she could barely move for weeks. For about a year after that, the ankle would occasionally "lock up" for no apparent reason, making it almost impossible to walk. Then, my wife severely damaged her eye, possibly from using a commercial eye product, by chemically burning the cornea so badly that she was blind in that eye for many months. After a couple dozen visits to the optometrist, she finally had laser surgery in Syracuse to repair the damage. In my case, I have suffered from severe leg cramps since I was a teenager. Whenever I do physically exhausting work, like cutting firewood for six hours, or hike a long distance, I tend to get leg cramps so badly that I double over in pain, unable to move until the cramp relaxes. In the 1960s, I played varsity tennis for Ohio State, and leg cramps were a major issue for me during long matches.
On the day in question, Robin and I had to go to the drug store to pick up a prescription for Robin's eye problem. In fact, Robin was wearing a patch over her right eye to protect it from the sun. We pulled into the Rite Aid and parked very close to the front entrance. At that very instant, her ankle locked up and I had to help her exit the passenger side of the car. She leaned heavily on me, given that she was half-blind and lame, as we started to make our way to the entrance of the drug store. After moving only a few feet, I got tremendous cramps in my legs, which brought me to my knees. I literally could not move at all. Robin was still holding on to me and I was now holding onto her, in a mutual fight-for-life embrace that must have been pitiful to witness. We were both in pain and completely unable to progress forward. I tried to encourage us: "Robin, we are only 15 feet from the front door of the drug store. If we can just get inside, I know there is a registered pharmacist in there who can help us". She looked down at me with her good eye (still on my knees), and I looked up at her (still blind and lame), and we began to laugh so hard it incapacitated us all the more. A passer-by would certainly think we were two drunks on our way to pick up an Alka Seltzer.
We managed to get inside eventually, my cramps subsided, Robin's ankle came unlocked, and we got her eye medicine. It was as though the Rite Aid was some kind of healing temple of the gods. Almost as soon as we got inside the door, half of our ailments went away magically. If someone ever initiates Sunday morning religious services from this drug store, I will be the first to attend.
This incident was hilarious in many respects, and we have laughed about it many times. I guess we can find it humorous, in part, because it was only a temporary problem. We are not permanently disabled the way we appeared to be on that day. If we were, it would not be nearly as funny. The incident helped us to appreciate those elderly people who really are that immobile all the time, kind of like putting on a blindfold to appreciate what non-sighted people have to contend with every day. As a result, I now go out of my way to help women cross a busy street. However, it doesn't hurt if they have long legs and wear a short skirt.