Eu-logy: The Study of a Life


Posted on November 18, 2009 by Blake Leath

As I grow older, I am experiencing a number of phenomena that are new -- sometimes altogether foreign to me.  But as they accompany me for months that roll into years, like Stockholm Syndrome or the proverbial shoe-pebble or saddle-burr, they become my begrudged companions.

Amusingly, many of them have to do with my own body.  My barber seems to spend more time in and around my ears, my tummy resists its pants, my joints echo and reverberate throughout the bedroom as I make my way to the restroom each morning, and the pains in my back from years of sports, backpack carrying, weed pulling, and other sundry chores emanate further downward and upward.  (I'm not quite sure whether I have more pains than before, or if my tolerance for pain is eroding.)

On most days, my left elbow barely functions; the 'throw me, Daddy!' repetitions have left me feeling like Bjorn Borg after a lengthy Sunday with McEnroe.

When I rise too quickly after kneeling to write for long periods, the room might very well spin.  Or it might not.  It's a crapshoot...a roulette wheel, after all.

And is it just me, or do headaches accompany aging?  For several months now, I have these temporary moments of great pain in my if I can literally feel the armada of platelets making their way through my capillaries to feed those twitchy roots growing like itty bitty fronds in my ears.

I was with my daughter at The Container Store several months back and we stumbled across this absurdly large pill box.  Each day of the week was so voluminous it could assuredly house a dozen sugarcubes.  Lauren looked at it, laughed, and commented impishly, "Hey Dad, this would be perfect for you!"  "Um, yeah, sure," was all I could mutter.  Keeping track of my periodic maladies' medications feels equivalent to coordinating traffic flow through the Panama Canal.

Alas, however inconvenient or painful my nominal yet increasing afflictions of the body, they pale in comparison to life's more worthy foes.

Tragically, one of the more sobering trends that accompanies age is the increasing death rate of friends and family.  Forewarnings of this reality come in flavors as innocent, ubiquitous, and pop-cultural as The Lion King's Circle of Life, but this doesn't make acceptance any easier or more welcome.

About every month, my wife and I learn of a dear friend who has passed -- car wreck, cancer, stroke, heart attack.  In the last month alone, several moms and dads have left this world three to four decades prematurely.  There's nothing like a funeral attended by half-orphaned 3, 5, or 7-year olds to cue swelling Smell the Flowers music.

Visited, much like Scrooge by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, I too have been reminded by recent events of the primacy of life.  We only get one.  This is not, as they say, the dress rehearsal.

Pain, too, is a great prioritizer.

But regardless the source, the outcome is the same: I have chosen in the last couple years to re-balance my life.  Much less travel, more home-time, and the addition of "no" to my vocabulary have absolutely transformed my existence.  And with my daughter growing a solid foot in the last 18 months, I am certain these choices are the right ones...the only ones.

For all I know, my funeral is next Wednesday.

Far be it from me to wonder when -- better to live as if it's imminent, only to be pleasantly surprised if it's not.

Without question, I would relish the gift of a long, albeit pain-ridden or pock-marked life.  Furry ears?  Gelatinous belly?  Achey back?  Creaky knees?  Joy-robbing elbow?  Bring 'em.  Better them, friends muse, than never getting to experience them.

Better to love, live, and laugh as a stoop-shouldered grandpa at my granddaughter's high school graduation than muscularly roar out of life alone with saddlebags of money strapped to my mid-life Harley.

On the statistically possible offchance that my body or mind unexpectedly give out before my spirit or soul, promise me one thing: you'll give my wife and daughter big 'ol bearhugs and remind 'em that, while Daddy made a ton of mistakes, he always did what he believed to be right.  And he did the best he could at everything he tried.

But most importantly, that he lived a life full of love.