Like the first time I saw the number “2” as the first digit on our digital scale a few years back, the prospect of the first digit in my age being “7” seems equally improbable. I had planned to write a long treatise on the meaning of reaching 70 until realizing it would be just so much self-indulgence. I will therefore keep it to one subject: health.
Birth announcement (our father was a CPA)
An early death in the family (https://brulelaker.blogspot.com/2010/12/sudden-death-in-family.html) affects one’s outlook on his or her own mortality. As noted in the blog post link, my father died suddenly of a heart attack at age 55, some nine weeks after my wedding. His father died at age 57 after a short illness, also of heart disease. For years (decades really), my life was shadowed by the prospect of an early and sudden death. Some of my actions might have reflected this feeling, although it’s a stretch to say I adopted Mickey Mantle’s lament, “If I knew I was going to live this long I would’ve taken better care of myself.”
Our generation, especially as we headed toward senior citizenry, is the first to take personal health and fitness seriously. Today I’m in as good condition as ever – notwithstanding the 6-mile runs taken 30 years ago – tipping the scale at around 180. Although I have been playing full short-court 4-on-4 basketball two or three days a week during the last 21 years, I didn’t find the key to losing weight and maximizing fitness until two years ago.
We won four free session from personal trainer Rick Wemple at a silent auction for the TimeLine Theatre Company. I’d worked out in our building’s Fitness Center off and on over the years but hadn’t been up there in some time. I liked the discipline of the workouts with Rick, a former college track coach, and signed up for ten more; I’ve kept renewing ever since. To make it really effective, I work out another two days and combine that with a daily stretching routine. Rick attributed the weight loss to using several more muscle groups, not simply aerobic activities.
The stretching came out of necessity. Last August, I woke up early one morning and could barely get out of bed. I’d been suffering lower back pains during the previous days (an x-ray and CT scan the day before had shown some disc degeneration) that turned out so debilitating I took an ambulance to the Northwestern Memorial emergency room. The doctors found nothing new and released me with a scrip for physical therapy at Athletico on E. Chicago Avenue.
Even though I have come back from an angioplasty, partial nephrectomy and arthroscopic knee surgery, this time scared me. I know at least three guys younger than me who no longer play basketball because of back problems. The very next day I met with physical therapist Dr. Sally Ryan to begin three-day/week one-hour sessions. Sally asked about my goals; I responded that of course being pain-free I wanted to get back on the basketball court and resume personal training. Eleven weeks later, I was playing basketball and lifting weights again. I told Sally at least twice that she had given me back a large part of my life.
Perhaps paradoxically, I’m less concerned with my own mortality now that I was fifteen years ago. In addition to my fitness activities, I roam around the city taking photographs, which makes me quite happy to be “retired” (being self-employed since 2000 makes it hard to mark a retirement date). Janet does her best to keep after me about eating, and we are more careful about that as the year pass. We’re traveling while we still can go from morning until night, visiting Athens, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Swiss Alps, Italian Lakes country, Florence, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Madrid, Rome, Venice and Paris, among other places, since 2013. Paris and Berlin are on tap in September. Next fall it will be someplace new.
Rather than waxing philosophical, I’ll state the obvious: being 70 is much better than the alternative. I’ve lived in 8 decades; an even 10 would be nice.