Husbands are fragile, especially at our age. I have received several reminders of this fact during the past few weeks. Within days of each other, the husbands of two friends began chemotherapy for advanced cancer. Their families are determined and upbeat, but terrified nonetheless. Then just this week, another friend suddenly lost her husband to a heart attack at age sixty-three. OG is sixty-four and reminds me daily that he's a delicate flower. That was funny when neither of us believed it; it's not so funny now.
The hardest lesson of aging is coming to grips with your own mortality. I think this is especially difficult for men. For the first few decades, they live as if there's no tomorrow, as if they're immortal. When youth and strength begin to fade sometime in mid-life, the process can be slow at first and easily ignored or discredited by excuses, but by sixty it's impossible to deny. That piece of furniture or machinery they once lifted with ease seems to have doubled in weight. They can no longer run that extra mile without gasping for breath. Aches and pains show up with increasing regularity.
I don't know about your husband, but OG is not going gently into that good night. He's resisting with every fiber of his being. As a result, he's racking up injuries that will likely be with him for the rest of his life, and that's hard to accept. Last spring, we bought him a new (very heavy) barbecue. Instead of asking a neighbor or waiting for me to help, he unloaded it from the back of his truck alone and dragged it up the sidewalk to the patio by himself. The result was bilateral rotator cuff tears that have resisted physical therapy and my not be amenable to surgery. Last month, he replaced the glass door in our shower. To get it to fit properly, he had to reduce the width of one of the long, metal pieces with his grinder. He was too angry and impatient to wear hearing protection, despite my pleas, and now he has relentless tinnitus that may never improve.
I'm frustrated because he refuses to take care of himself, but I understand. It's very hard for a man to admit he's no longer young, strong, and immortal. All I can do is love him and do my best to make the transition to this new phase of life easier and more palatable. It isn't easy and is only likely to get worse. Maybe that's why the stereotype of grumpy old men continues to ring true.
What about you? Have you got any secrets to aging gracefully?