Guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukelele from the Gretsch Roots Collection
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Post Title: The Joy of Aging

Post Date: June 4, 2014

Yesterday I got an email message from my newly retired brother Jim. He attached a photo of my niece setting a school record in the high jump. As a school record holder a half century ago in the pole vault, I envied her youthful ability to defy gravity. Several years ago I realized I could no longer leave the ground under my own power without injury.

The last time my body took flight against my will, I was literally swept off my feet by a South Dakota dust devil. My wife Karen and I were on an Elderhostel trip in the Black Hills. One blustery afternoon, while walking along a gravel road, we encountered the tiny tornado. It lifted the two of us into the air and dropped us in a roadside ditch. She landed first. I tried to avoid falling on her by keeping my arms outstretched in my descent. She later called my midair gyrations a vision of Superman in flight. We didn’t reach the height of our niece’s record-setting leap, but I like to think we captured some of the thrill she must have felt in clearing the bar.    

This week I’m scheduling surgery to repair my Little Buddy, the name I’ve given the irritating hernia that found a home beneath my unmentionables. Then I’ll schedule my cataract surgery.

The good news about aging is the wealth of opportunities for personal development, for exploring things set aside or undiscovered amid the distractions of youth. I’ve discovered a passion that came as a complete surprise: a quest to conquer calculus. I work at this about three hours a day. For another hour each day, I play one of my four instruments: guitar, ukulele, banjo, and mandolin, singing my favorite folk songs and golden oldies, picturing an adoring audience of septuagenarians raising their glowing cell phones in appreciation. Karen got me a balalaika for my birthday, so I’ve begun learning finger positions on that strange, three-string Russian instrument.

Next week Karen and I begin a six-week class on San Diego history, offered through Cal State San Marcos extended learning. So, despite the relentless march toward physical incapacity, there can be joy in aging — especially if you’re lucky enough to do it with someone you love.

Post Title: Top Ten Reasons to be Grateful the Day After My Hernia Operation [Abridged]

Post Date: June 23, 2015

10) Obamacare, for my free annual checkup that led to the diagnosis.

9) The wealth of information online about Inguinal Hernia Repair. I liked the interactive decision-maker at one website: it helped me understand my personal priorities: balancing fear of the knife vs. fixing a problem that won’t fix itself. Painful daily reminders from My Little Buddy, throbbing in my groin, tipped the balance.

6) Nurse Cheryl, who skillfully and discretely shaved the site of my operation. Putting me at ease with her sense of humor, she chuckled, “Now you know what women have to go through.” I stifled the impulse to reply, “Be careful down there, Nurse Cheryl. Don’t nick me, bro.”  

5) Nurse Mari, who cheerfully wheeled me down to the operating room. She was the third nurse, along with my surgeon, to ask me what I was there for and what side of my groin would be cut. I knew it was just their way of gaining my confidence: there would be no accidental slices in the operating room.

4) Anesthesiology, for making my three-hour, outpatient surgery entirely pain-free.

3) Modern medicine. It wasn’t that long ago, measured by this septuagenarian’s sense of time, that living with an unrepaired hernia was a life sentence. I’d have had to make a life with My Little Buddy.

2) Dr. Elliot. I wasn’t there to see him, but lying naked on the gurney with my arms outstretched, I pictured a masked man in whom I’d placed all my trust, younger than my children, leaning over me with a knife. I thanked God, Allah, or whatever other power of the universe there is, for his expertise.

1) My life-partner, Karen, who has filled my prescription for health and happiness with her daily dose of love and laughter for 29 years. 

Title: The Riehl World | Address: theriehlworld2.blogspot.com

Author: Richard Riehl | From: Carlsbad | Blogging since: 2011

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