22 October 2007

Aging and Illness

Last week's New Yorker* had a profile of Jacques Barzun, "the eminent historian and cultural critic" which included this bit about getting old:

A few weeks shy of his hundredth birthday, Barzun is still pressed to read manuscripts, give talks and attend affairs in his honor. He tries to accommodate everyone, but there is simply less of him to go around. He's five inches shorter than he used to be, a decrease due to aging and spinal stenosis, which causes pain and numbness in the legs. He relies on a cane or a walker to get around, and, as one might expect, he is alert to the irony of aging: when time is short, old age takes up a lot of time. There are doctors' visits, tests to be suffered, results to wait for, ailments and medications to be studied - all distractions from the work. "Old age is like learning a new profession," he noted drily. "And not one of your own choosing."

In fact, many illnesses could be looked at as similarly like entering a new profession - be it infertility, cancer, multiple sclerosis, or what have you. You're plunged into learning all there is to know and doing all there is to do, leaving less to time to just live life. Life is complicated.







*the issue dated 10/22/07

10 comments:

Awesome Mom said...

I can attest to that. One time Evan was in the hospital there was a student nurse working with Evan's nurse. We discussed his heart defect and other pertinent facts with me clarifying things that the nurse coudl not recall from her reading of his medical records. Later the student nurse asked me if I had received any specialized medical training since I was so acknowledgeable about Evan's condition. I just laughed and told her that I had picked it up as I went along.

Suz said...

By the time we finally got pregnant, I felt that I knew more about how to do IVF (for me) than anyone else. When we first were told that we couldn't conceive naturally, though, I felt completely overwhelmed.

Aliki2006 said...

I am taken by his idea that old age is similar to learning a new profession. I imagine it must be quite like that--and your point about illness is well-made.

painted maypole said...

a very interesting view on aging.

And that man! wow!

Irish Goddess said...

I love your insights.

thrice said...

Yes, and please don't forget Heart disease, the number one killer.

ozma said...

Yes, and this is what I hate most about this current bodily betrayal: The time it takes up. The mental space it occupies.

The worst sort of hobby to have.

slouching mom said...

Yes. His persepctive, and yours -- both ring true. Interesting.

niobe said...

Yes. A new profession or, as Ozma put it, a hobby. Generally an unpleasant hobby.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

What a great way to think about it. It makes dealing with old age more interesting, in a way.

My FIL is crashing -- in terrible pain and the cure for it's pretty miserable in itself. I would like to help and that's one way I can: I'll start studying up on his illness. Hmm. Well, off I go...