Wayne Hinshaw: The trouble with aging

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 27, 2015

I have thought about writing a column on aging for ages, but aging is not one of those things that we want to face. Most folks would rather confront aging in a back alley in the dark of the night than on Main Street on a sunny day. We are going to age if we are lucky enough to live a long, fruitful life, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that it is scary. When you are starting as a youngster, you grow into a teenager, then a young adult, then a married adult, then a parent, then middle age, and then elderly. It is the,“what’s after elderly” that scares everyone. At some point, the elderly’s clock runs out and your time is up.

I hear regularly: “I thought your were retired. You are still working. You work more than you did when you were working.”

Yes, I am retired. Yes I am still working, and no, I am not working more now than I did before I retired. It does take longer for my body to rebound from a hard day’s work now than years ago. I can feel the changes in my body, but I think my mind is still young with a great deal more to experience. I never could remember people’s names, and now remembering is worse.

Think about the characteristics of aging. Some are facts and some are myths. Some elderly characteristics are funny, until you put on the robe yourself. Years ago, I made some comment about an elderly person and Post photographer James Barringer told me, “You better watch out. If you are lucky, someday you will be that elderly person, and someone will make comments about you.” He was correct, and I am there.

Longtime Salisbury Post writer Rose Post always kept her gray hair colored darker when she was working. Out on an assignment one day, she told me that people treated her differently if her hair was dark than if her hair was gray. She felt she was taken more seriously as a reporter when her hair was darker and people thought she was younger.

Having said all the above, now I will have some fun with being an aging man with some funny, some serious changes I have experienced.

I watched an elderly couple get in their very big, long green car in Granite Quarry recently. It was one of those 15- to 20-year-old cars that is so long the weather can change between rain at the front hood to sunshine at the back bumper. The car was as long as a truck.

The wife was driving, and her husband was the passenger. She started the car and moved forward about 4 feet, then backward about 4 feet, then stopped again looking all around. Being safe, I assume. She drove to her left about 2 mph across the parking lot. In this lot, there is a big drop down into a storm drain. Moving at 2 mph, that lady dropped that right front wheel into that drain hole. Both she and husband bounced around in there, nearly hitting their heads together. She stopped in the drain hole and looked around again. She drove forward again at 2 mph and her rear right wheel dropped into that drain hole. Both she and husband bounced around in there, nearly hitting their heads together. She stopped again, looking around. She then drove out of the lot at 2 mph, exiting onto Highway 52. I silently wished them a safe trip home.

See, some things elderly do are funny to others, but not to them.

I have notice that my belly has rounded out like a soccer ball just above my waist. It is not like the deflated footballs the New England Patriots used last year. It is more like a big knot on an inner tube that is about to pop.

Now, this is a problem for my pants to fit correctly. Do I get 44-inch pants and cinch my belt just below my belly, or do I go with 46ers and pull those pants up over that soccer-ball-shaped belly? The 46er wouldn’t stay up over my belly, so I cinch the belt even more. That doesn’t work either.

I got a nice pair of navy blue suspenders. Blue goes with most of my clothes. I hooked my pants to the suspenders, but I kept on the belt and went to church. A friend at church asked me, the man wearing both belt and suspenders, “Which one do you not trust, the belt or the suspenders?” I was just trying to not wear the sag-and-drag pants.

I was trying not to be one of those men who pulls his pants up nearly under his arms to get over the belly. You know the look. There is his head, neck, arms, top of the pants under his arms, and belt, belly, and then the waist. You don’t need a GPS system to locate the problem with this outfit.

I still have a couple of shirts that I had in college. I’m waiting for them to come back in style. Aside from the paisley and tie-dyed design, when am I ever going to be able to wear a small size again in anything? Oh, yes, what about my stripped dull rust and green bellbottomed pants? I can’t toss them out either.

Men’s leisure suits might even come back. Watching the Southern 500 NASCAR race, the announcers wore terrible leisure suits for a short while as part of the “throw back days,” of the race. Maybe skip “throw back” and “throw away” those suits.

If you are elderly, have you noticed that you can now grow hair places that it never used to grow? I now have to shave the tops of my ears and inside my nose. I didn’t have hair there before. It’s hard to explain a bloody nick while shaving your ears.

I still have a good head of gray hair, unlike some men, but the hair on my legs is disappearing. I suppose it is moving to my ears.

I have notice that some women have thinning hair on their heads, but they are now growing beards and mustaches. The hair must be moving.

I saw a 70-year old-lady the other day with a newly dyed head of hair. It was bright orange, the color of a brand new copper penny. She was with a lady who had bright blue hair. Most likely she had gray hair and was trying to brighten it up with a little blue color and it came out a blue thunderstorm.

I learned a new word a couple of years back. I didn’t know what incontinence meant. I won’t describe it, but if you are elderly you know. According to statistics, 53 percent of you men and women know the word.

More new words for the elderly to learn concern the eyes. Now you have cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration — all good words to learn, but not good effects on the eyes.

Have you ever visited in an elderly person’s home and noticed that they had a candy bowl filled with old, melted candy. Maybe it was Christmas or Halloween candy all melted together in the bowl, creating one of those new Picasso creations of bright red and orange colors all stirred together in one big glob. Think about it, orange candy corn and melted Santa Clauses all melted together.

What about those big, brown age spots on my hands and arms? The skin pigment starts changing, making polka-dot patterns on my arms. It is suggested that soaking the brown spots in vinegar might lighten the spots. Elderly have enough trouble with body smells, and surely we don’t want to smell like dill pickles.

Moles and “growths” appear on my back and chest. Some are red. Some are brown. Some hang down, and some stick up like those limestone stalagmites and stalactites in the Endless Caverns.

Have you ever had underwear where the elastic band wears out and lets your drawers hang? Well, that is what has happened to the skin under my eyes. The skin has lost its elastic pull and the bags of skin just hang under my eyes. Putting slices of cucumbers on my eyes didn’t work either for the skin, but it did feel good.

Your bones and joints hurt. Your teeth decay. Your ears stop hearing. Wait, where am I going with the destruction of the elderly body?

Enough is enough. You get the message.

Time for a joke: Three old guys are out walking. First one says, “Windy, isn’t it?” Second one says, “No, it’s Thursday!” Third one says, “So am I. Let’s go get a beer.”

This could get depressing, but don’t let it get you down. It is all part of life. I found this quote about aging. I don’t know who said it, but it sums up the process of growing old.

“Aging is a continuous, complex, and dynamic process that begins with birth and ends with death. And unless we die in our early years, each of us will grow old and experience the effects of the aging process.”

Did I tell you that my memory is not as sharp as it used to be? I can’t remember names.

Oh, yes, did I tell you that my memory is not as sharp as it used to be? I can’t remember names.