Many years ago I developed a pain in my ankle which, according to a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine, is a “dauntingly complex part of the anatomy.” In my case, braces secured by Velcro help me avoid pain and walk with a spring in my step. They’ve become a part of my daily life, like hearing aids and contact lenses.
Actually, contact lens singular, left eye only. That’s my good eye. The other one is lazy, meaning it works but not very well, and is not correctible. I’m one of 38 million Americans who wear contacts, although I don’t know how many of us are of the one-eye-only variety.
Every day, I put a lens on my left eyeball, and every night I take it off. Pesky little thing a contact lens. Try finding it if you drop it on the floor, especially if you don’t see so well, which is why you wear it in the first place. I’m in no hurry for cataract surgery, but I understand they can implant something called an intraocular lens which, I assume, would eliminate crawling around on floor trying to find the thing.
Hearing is another matter. It used to be that the Pianist and I would go to a movie and I would keep saying “What?” and complain about all the mumbling. Fortunately, she has good ears and would serve as my translator. I preferred foreign films where I could skip the dialogue and, with the help of my contact lens, read the subtitles.
So finally I went to an audiologist, and now I’m on my third set of hearing aids. I remember the time I wore my first set and went outside.
“What’s all that racket?” I asked.
“Birds,” she said.
I almost forgot about my flat feet, which heredity threw in along with the lazy eye at no extra cost. It took me a while but eventually I learned about orthotics, the low-tech miracle cure. Stick them in your shoes and your feet aren’t flat anymore.
I’ve also discovered the “Subtitles” button on the TV remote. Using it means you can watch movies in English on Netflix and read the dialogue, just like seeing a foreign language film in the movie theatre. You can even get closed captioning for regular TV programs, but figuring out how to turn it on requires an engineering degree.
I recently read Being Mortal, in which the physician-author Atul Gawande writes about problems a lot more serious than my small inconveniences. I usually avoid “self-help” books, especially those dealing with “end of life” issues, but this one left me feeling upbeat. Like it or not, a lot of us are running the risk of making it to four score years or even beyond, “by reason of strength” according to the Bible. or just by dumb luck if you ask me.
I recommend the book, and I, for one, am glad to be in the running. I have a lot of company. Today there are as nearly as many old people as there are young ones. You know who they are—the ones who still wear a wristwatch and read the newspaper.
At a time in life when I am losing friends, some younger and some not much older, I think about the randomness of life and my good fortune. I am still able to walk, to see, and to hear. I can even find my car keys … most of the time.