Getting Old is Not For Weak-hearted

Whenever I picture myself in my head, it’s always somewhere in the general age range of when this photo (below) was taken — 1987.

The writer Tim Forkes in 1987, photographer unknown (provided Tim Forkes)

Not so ironically I will be 68-years-old in less than 20 days. I’m remarking on it here because I have been feeling myself slowing down, like going to bed earlier and wanting to do nothing except sit or lay around all day binging on TV shows and movies.

On second thought, maybe that’s a byproduct of having about five streaming services.  We can even watch live pro and college sports through the streaming networks , although I’m not inclined to watch the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Chargers blow their chances of making the playoffs. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco. were fired after the team’s 47 point loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. We didn’t need a streaming service to get that news. We can just dial it up on our smart phone web browsers.

If all that lazy attitude isn’t enough proof I’m getting old, I love going to Denny’s — before 7 p.m. for dinner and any earlier time for breakfast — so I can take advantage of my AARP 15% discount. That’s about $3 off my usual bill, which often includes a friend. I don’t order off the 55+ menu, but I’m sure that will happen soon enough.

There are a lot of reasons to like AARP and a few things they do that are annoying. But I’m okay with those because the benefits outweigh the bothersome stuff. You know who is the focus of the AARP The Magazine (ATM) cover story? Ringo Starr.

AARP The Magazine cover
(Photo by Tim Forkes)

Since March of 2022 I have been trying to lose weight, spurred on when I started taking Semaglutide — Ozempic in commercial parlance — and lost 15 pounds in a few short weeks. My weight before the Ozempic had been 215 pounds. Now, I’m plateaued at 179 pounds, bouncing up and down by a pound or less. Once a day I weigh myself, at the direction of my doctors who want to see if the meds I’m taking are causing water retention. They aren’t.

At any rate my target weight is 135 pounds, which is roughly where it was at when I graduated Marine Corps Boot Camp. “Ooh-rah Motherf*****s” There’s a little voice in my mind that believes if I get down to that weight I will once again be a lean, green fighting machine. Once again, “Ooh-rah Motherf*****s.”

The reality is, my boot camp days were 50 years ago and I haven’t taken a USMC Physical Fitness Test (PFT) in 46 years, let alone run 10 miles per day. Just to answer the question some might have: Many Marines, not just myself, would run 10 or more miles five to six days per week. We liked it. Many of us also engaged in other physical fitness related activity, like weight lifting, team sports (like basketball) and occasionally scuba diving and for a couple years  martial arts; Ken Po and for a time, boxing.

Another Marine was my very good trainer for boxing, he having been a Golden Gloves pugilist for several years. We would work out in the base gym, pounding on the heavy bag and speed bag, tossing the medicine ball and just sparring with guys who were my weight — which means they were several inches taller and they had longer arms, their reach. Since I was always 15-20 pounds over my ideal weight of 126 pounds in my boxing days I always sparred with taller guys. That’s a disadvantage, but the only way I knew of to counter that reach was to get in close and deliver body shots until it was feasible to aim for the opponent’s jaw.

Getting back to the point, I don’t do any of those activities anymore, although I walk the dogs at least once a day for 30-45 minutes and occasionally I get in the pool for an additional 30-45 minutes of cardio.

So it is highly unlikely I will resemble that 18-year-old Marine if and when I get down to my target weight. But it is still a wise goal, even if some of my fantasies are ridiculous.  It’s all about better health.

Aging comes with many indignities, like … personal shit in the real and metaphorical sense. Folks of a certain age will understand. Currently I’m wearing a heart monitor on my chest to see how often my heart misfires and fibrillates. That means making a quivering movement due to uncoordinated contraction of the individual fibrils — tissue.

In 1996 I sustained severe damage to my heart when I had a massive myocardial infarction, a massive heart attack. I feel a need to be particular about the kind of heart attack because, as I found out, there are three types: The STEMI, which is what I had. An NSTEMI and a CAS, also called the silent heart attack cause by coronary spasm, unstable angina. This is a tricky one because it can be mistaken for indigestion or muscle pain or …? I have acid reflux. Makes me wonder if my symptoms of acid reflux, i.e. intense heartburn, could be mistaken for CAS, a silent heart attack. Jeez …

The joys of having heart disease.

Getting back to reality, when I take a selfie of myself these days I look like this (below):

The writer Tim Forkes in December 2023 (Tim Forkes)

There is an annoying commercial making the rounds on all of the for-profit TV channels I watch. An older woman says, with a sly smile, “Age is just a number — and mine’s unlisted!” That’s so cute! I mock it every time I see it. There are a lot of commercials on TV directed at us old people, like life insurance “What are the three Ps?” Who gives a damn? All three Ps are price and two of those price advantages are for the same purpose.

And all the pharmaceutical ads. It’s no wonder many of us take 10 or more meds twice a day. To be honest, no matter how bothersome taking those meds may be, I would rather have them than do without.

The reason I’m writing about health issues is I’m sick of all the horrible news. Sick of Putin’s war against Ukraine. Sick of Israel’s war against the Palestinians, sick of hearing the news about how far down in the polls Biden is, sick of hearing about the millions of Americans who are members of the MAGA Cult and millions of others who are toying with the idea that voting for Trump in 2024 might be a better choice than Joe Biden. Sick of people minimizing or denying the climate crisis.

So health it is.

There’s the Shohei Ohtani news. In a totally predictable move, the Los Angeles Dodgers hired the two-way sensation for 10 years at $700 million bucks. Most of the money is deferred until after the contract expires, with Ohtani getting only — ONLY — $2 mill per year. I would like to get $2 mil a year. Maybe he’s worth it.  Of course he won’t be pitching in 2024, just swinging that big bat.

Shohei Ohtani deserves to be on a team that has a shot at going to the playoffs and possibly winning a World Series. The Dodgers have a very good record of getting into the playoffs.

Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani with the Dodgers
(Claudia Gestro)

Another phenomenal player with the Angels who deserves a shot at the postseason and the World Series: Mike Trout. If the Angels management has any heart they will trade the outfielder to a team that is going to play in October.

Back to my health. I’m going to spend a good portion of Monday (Dec. 18) at the V.A. getting some tests. It’s okay to complain about all the time I spend at the V.A., or being in video appointments, but I’m grateful to have good health care.

What sucks is trying to get my Medicare settled. I need Part C for my teeth and my eyes. This begs the question: Why aren’t Medicare parts A,B,C. and D. covered under one part?  The for-profit health care industry has a strangle hold on us. We need universal health care in America.

This, from the Commonwealth Fund: “Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall compared with six other industrialized countries — Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — on measures of quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and the ability to lead long, healthy, and productive lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. While there is room for improvement in every country, the U.S. stands out for not getting good value for its health care dollars: it spent $7,290 per capita on health care in 2007 but ranks last among seven countries. The Netherlands, which spent $3,837 per capita on health care that year, ranks first.”

Welcome to Monday. Spending the day at the beach with the pelicans sounds like a great idea.