Self isolation and quarantine are large but necessary pains. A tiny sliver of silver in this cloud of corona virus is that while we are idling at home we have lots of time to think. Here’s what I think. I think one’s grasp on mental health isn’t a predictable thing. It’s hard to tell when any given person is going to snap like a stick. If we all reach our threshold during the same week it’s going to be ugly. They’ll be a second pandemic, this one of rampant craziness.
Having totally destroyed the originally supplied part and being six weeks post-op with a new shoulder, I also think it’s impossible to prepare adequately for being suddenly and wretchedly one-handed. Medicare requires prospective total joint replacement patients to attend a class to enlighten them on what’s to come. The instructors did a great job. Mostly they stressed practicing dressing and going to the bathroom using one arm. This was very useful information but I find myself wishing they had at least broached the subject of opening a can of tuna. I am spending most days in stretch pants and cardigans with food stains down the front. If you are at all interested in my diet for the past week, look at my shirt.
And speaking of wearing out body parts, I think someone should write a book about aging. Not one of those groovy, feel-good tomes filled with nonsense about how your best years are ahead of you. No. What we need is a brutal, fact-based bible the essential theme of which is “Brace yourself.” The preview:
• Chapter One: What You Should Have Been Doing All This Time Instead of Eating Chili Fries and Drinking Coke
I’m the first to admit this is an ungainly title for a chapter but if we’re going to deal with the unvarnished truth we can all agree there is no better way to remove varnish than with chili fries and Coke. Apparently one thing I should have been doing all along is practicing being one-armed. The pants and the bathroom and the tuna are just the beginning. Last night I had to call my neighbor to ask him to come over and open my bottle of tonic water. I’m drinking tonic water because it’s full of quinine. Very medicinal. No malaria here. I put limes in my tonic water. No scurvy either. Plus it keeps me from drinking straight vodka. Another thing we should have done was arranged to be born to parents whose genetic legacy included low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and the instinct to find a job that paid well and had full medical and dental.
• Chapter Two: What Old People Should Have Told Us
Five words : Buy Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. We wouldn’t have listened, of course. First of all, no one listens to things older and wiser people try to tell them. I was so shatteringly knowledgeable when I was nineteen, I could hold discourse on topics I’d never heard of. I was just that smart. Then the dumbs set in. An average of ten IQ points was shaved off almost every year so that by the time I was thirty I was back to drooling. Gradually the dumbs went away and the smarts came back although I’ve never regained the unmatched brilliance I possessed in my late teens. Another reason we wouldn’t have listened was that back then Apple was just a fruit, Amazon was just a river, and no one except the people in charge of Harvard dropouts had ever heard of Bill Gates.,
• Chapter Three: What to Focus on Now (When You’re Able to Focus at All)
I used to fret ceaselessly about air pollution and the supply of clean water and over-population and stupid politicians. I’m still[MB1] [MB2] [MB3] concerned about the environment and the dopes in Washington, but now I find there is a whole other raft of things to worry about. Questions I never dreamed I’d be asking myself, much less others, crop unbidden into my consciousness and emerge, unfiltered, out loud. I listen raptly now when some nutrition guru touts a drink/food/supplement that will fight inflammation/increase immunity/prevent dementia. I have morphed from someone who was invincible into a stranger who is vitally interested in the fiber content of cereal.
This is a stereotype but like all stereotypes it has a basis in reality. There seems to be a direct correlation between a person’s age and the amount of time that person spends fixating on and unfortunately talking about their gastrointestinal tract. At any given moment I may not remember the birthdays of my siblings but I can tell you with astonishing accuracy the dates my friends had their latest colonoscopy.
• Chapter Four: The Beverly Hillbillies Conundrum
I can sing the theme song from “The Beverly Hillbillies,” but I can’t recall where I parked my car. I can recite Caesar’s “Commentaries on the Gallic Wars” in Latin, an admittedly useless accomplishment with no marketable value whatsoever, but I lose my wallet three times a week. This is a short chapter because I forgot what else I wanted to say.