Vanity, Arthritis and Wildebeests: I've Become A "Senior Citizen."
I'm a well-educated and fairly intelligent person, but once in awhile, an awareness or a thought suddenly hits me that makes me feel very dense (maybe I've spent too much time in the African Bush?). Yesterday, I was running those endless errands, working on my pre-African departure checklist, when suddenly I decided I'd better grab a quick lunch. I stopped at a local fast food place, something I seldom do, and placed my order at the counter. The girl told me my bill, but then I noticed she was staring carefully at me. She suddenly re-figured my bill and gave me the new lower price. I love to save money, but asked why she did that and she mumbled something. I joked "Oh, is it because I'm elderly?" She quickly collected my money and rushed away! I realize that I have been getting older all of the time, but suddenly (or so it seems), I'm no longer asked if I qualify for the Senior discount (I even saved over $100 on a new stove at Sears this week due to my "wrinkles!").
When I was making the arrangements for my international flights, I mentioned that I'd better have wheelchair assistance in Schiphol (a HUGE airport in Amsterdam). My agent informed me that wheelchair assistance was noted already for ALL of my airports! I normally have not thought of myself as being vain, but being considered ancient seems to have crept up on me! I realize that this "problem" is better than the alternative, but it has made me suddenly re-evaluate the "me" I once knew.
I'll admit that my packing for these adventures has had to gradually change over the last few years. My surgeon advised me this time to be sure to take my ankle, knee, and wrist braces. It also seems to take longer to arrange for my prescription meds than to throw a few clothes into my duffle bag. I'm really NOT horrified by my age and my wrinkles, I just didn't realize "that" was happening.
My first warning of my impending old age was last year on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on my 65th birthday. At first, it was somewhat of a shock to me to be suddenly treated as elderly, but then I realized that the average life expectancy there is only 50. At times, I've resented being treated that way, but also have found there are advantages -- although I'm quite capable of climbing in and out of safari vehicles and managing my own gear, it can be nice to have people help with my duffle and camera gear, or give a hand to grab when climbing over something.
I realize that the medical toll on me this last year was high. I returned from Africa with the remnants of malaria (a long and exhausting illness). I fractured one of my fibulas due to a deteriorated ankle (thanks arthritis). When that was better, I had two major surgeries on my foot (again, osteoarthritis), and then my doctors decided NOT to give me an artificial ankle on that side but intensive physical therapy instead. I guess, realistically, although I'm fairly "tough," all of this would be hard on anyone, regardless of age or number of wrinkles! I've decided that I've been able to live a relatively happy and adventurous life without living in front of a mirror, so I probably won't need to take one to Africa this time either. I still try to live in a "CAN DO" world in spite of my wrinkles, my aches and pains from arthritis, and my many stainless steel and titanium joints. I may have slowed down a tiny bit, but I REFUSE TO LET OSTEOARTHRITIS CONTROL MY LIFE!