I consider it no mere coincidence that, on the weekend immediately following my sixty-sixth birthday, my computer crashed. Call it a sign of the times (my personal times).
I had been somewhat apathetic about birthdays of late until this one, especially in the seven years since I was diagnosed with cancer. Being told I had cancer when I had just turned 59 did a lot for me in terms of putting birthdays in perspective. After getting the news, the first one I celebrated, my sixtieth, was hardly as scary as I imagine it would have been before the bout with cancer.
The ones thereafter have been far less significant to me than the annual anniversaries of the end of my cycle of radiation therapy (February 22), the fifth of which, I was told, meant that I had been “cured,” since folks with my kind of cancer who survive five years without a recurrence don’t get it again (statistically).
But birthdays in the intervening years have been pretty much ho-hum affairs for me. Oh, it was interesting to reach 65, if only because I had to apply for my Medicare card, if not because I could now qualify for senior discounts just about everywhere in the corporate universe. (Actually, I’d been qualified at most of those establishments any number of years earlier, corporate marketing types having figured out that many folks like to frequent establishments that reward them for being old, young or somewhere in-between.)
But the actual anniversaries of my birth (which is what birthdays really are) hadn’t been all that meaningful to me, primarily because I was living well, hardly feeling my age, and mostly just glad to be able to do all the things I do to make my life worthwhile and meaningful (hopefully) for others as well as myself.
But this year was different. This year, as my birthday approached, I began, for really the first time, to feel physically “old.” And I must say: it’s a disappointing, if not depressing feeling.
Okay, so let me lay out some specifics, such as they are. I have developed osteo-arthritis in the middle finger of my left hand. I have been experiencing considerable back discomfort, especially after a round of golf, sometimes to the point of not being able to stand up straight. My right knee has also taken to barking at me occasionally. I have the early stages of cataracts in both eyes. And just last week, I learned that I most probably have chronic laryngitis (an after-effect of the radiation therapy that killed my cancer), which means my voice, not infrequently, is strained and unable to produce the volume it used to (which some may say is a blessing, but never mind).
Add to these irritations the fact that I am no longer able to withstand the same intensity of workouts I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’m neither as strong as I once was, nor do I have the aerobic capacity I once did. And I can’t go as long on minimal sleep (my chronic insomnia is still with me), as I used to, which can be a drag when you try to maintain as active a work regimen as I do.
Put it all together, and it can be somewhat oppressive, or at least a tad disconcerting. And, as I say, most of this awareness came to me in the last few months as my birthday approached.
Now I’m sure at this point that some of you are wondering who the hell I think I am. Of course, you’re feeling a few aches and pains, Ed; you’re a senior citizen. Senior citizens are supposed to have a few aches and pains. Just be happy they aren’t any worse. Be happy you survived that cancer thing and that you’re cured of it. Be thankful you still have your wits about you and aren’t showing any premature signs of mental deterioration.
Yeah. I get that. And I am thankful, believe me, that I’m still as healthy as I am and that I can still enjoy life as much as I do, and, most certainly, that I can still turn a phrase and even wax poetic on occasion. In fact, this same summer just past, while I was discovering the many physical deficits I’ve just described, I finally completed the epilogue to my novel, and I am probably more proud of that accomplishment than just about anything else I’ve done in my life (outside of my marriage). So there’s that; there is most definitely that.
But I was going to talk about my computer.
It just suddenly crashed last Sunday. I turned it on that morning and … nothing. Just a blank screen with the name of the manufacturer and one of those ridiculous codes that only mean something if you speak computerese, which I most definitely do not. I waited for several minutes, thinking that maybe it was just taking its sweet time to warm up. Still nothing. Then I turned it off and turned it back on, thinking it needed to be re-set (something a computer guy once told me was the equivalent of “kicking it,” like we used to do to the old console TVs when the picture got fuzzy).
When I still got nothing, I asked my wife to check it out. (She’s much more computer savvy than I’ll ever be.) When she threw up her hands, I knew I was in trouble.
Well, to make a long story mercifully shorter, it turns out I most likely have a bad mother board that is not letting my operating system connect with my hard drive. And, believe me, I have no idea what I just said.
In any event, I’m told this is a relatively easy fix, and that I needn’t worry that I’ll lose all of my precious files (including my just completed novel).
Computers, it turns out, get old, just like people. And their parts, just like people’s parts, wear down and conk out.
I’m cool with that. Hey, I understand that even if computers run our lives, they do need us to attend to them once in a while.
But I still regard the fact that this little breakdown of my computer occurred on the very weekend following my birthday to be a sign from on high that I need to recognize what’s happening to me and not fool myself into pretending anymore.
Bottom line: Yes, I am definitely getting older, but, no, they aren’t offering replacement parts.