Tag Archives: health

Blessed aches and pains

It’s one of the most delightful and inspirational stories of American history. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who started as political allies in the Continental Congress – where they worked together on drafting the Declaration of Independence – became the bitterest of political enemies after independence had been won. Their approaches to government were very different, and their perceptions of dangers to the republic widely separated. The lies and vitriol both men (and especially their spokesmen) employed against each other in election campaigns make the ugliness of today’s politics look courtly and tame.

And yet, in their old age, the two men began corresponding, and became friends again. Amazingly, they died on the very same day – and that day was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration. (Seriously. It’s true. Look it up.)

I’m recalling that story today, not for political purposes, but just to talk about old age – a subject of increasing interest to me.

I haven’t read the Adams-Jefferson letters (I know, I should). But I wonder if part of their reconciliation, beyond the fact that they were nearly the sole survivors of their generation, was the reconciling power of shared aches and pains.

I had opportunities recently to spend time with a couple of people from my youth. One of the particular tribulations to which a just Providence has subjected me in my dotage has been that pretty much every one of the friends of my youth, the people I was closest to, have walked away from the beliefs we shared. I have not changed (much). They have changed their views in almost every way.

And yet we spent time together in amity. Thinking it over afterward, I realized that we spent a lot of the time discussing our health complaints.

This is a topic that never fails among the old.

I remember being young (my memory is still that good), and I recall that one of the things we laughed about when talking about old people was how they couldn’t shut up about their aches and pains, their digestions and their prescriptions.

And I understand. I have no wish to impose tales of my dry skin and digestive habits on the healthy young, who should have their minds set on higher things.

But when we oldsters are together, ailment talk is great. It bridges divisions, awakens sympathy, and arouses our helpful instincts.

All part of God’s plan, no doubt. He has a wry sense of humor.

Well spoken

An unanticipated good time. That was what I had last night.

Well, a good time by my rather low standards.

The first thing that needs to be understood was that I felt lousy. It’s become my custom to get a very bad cold in the spring, and then again in the fall. These colds invariably plunge into my lungs and there, in the darkness, foment sedition and unrest. In the end I generally have to go to the doctor for antibiotics. Which, of course, mess up my digestion.

I was in the midst of that cycle, having started sniffing and coughing several days ago. Yesterday I took the day off work and went to my doctor for my bread mold prescription.

But I was worried about the Lecture. Months ago I’d agreed to lecture, on May 1, to Fjell Syn Lodge of the Sons of Norway, in Mounds View, Minnesota. My subject would be the Viking Sagas. I’d lectured to them before, a year ago, and they treated me well. I wanted to do right by those good people.

My fear was that I’d cough through the presentation, spread contagion to immune-suppressed attendees, and be so hoarse I’d be unintelligible.

The weather was miserable. It was one of those chill spring evenings when winter is still holding on, and having run out of snowballs to throw at you, just spits. I wore a heavy parka over my Viking costume going to and from the car. All nature seemed to portend failure and miserable death.

Instead, it went quite well. The audience was appreciative, and seemed to understand when I needed to pause now and then for a sip of water. There are times when you just resonate with a crowd – they laugh in all the right places, and longer than you expected. They nod and smile and you know they’re following with interest and pleasure. This was one of those nights. I enjoyed it a lot, and hope they ask me back yet again.

Plus, several of them bought books, which is impressive when you’re dealing with a group you’ve sold books to before.

Thank you, Fjell Syn Lodge!

I even felt better today (went back to work, sort of on a flyer), and I give them the credit.