At 81 I do not feel old; am I out of touch or just resilient?

Nature has certain laws we cannot abscond from.

The battle for survival in the jungle of living entities, set on thriving and reproducing no matter what, makes us prey to all kinds of enemies, mostly microscopic, that use us and hurt us, and often kill us.

I’m 81, pushing 82 and despite some gruesome health challenges, I do not feel old. It is a strange feeling. I wonder whether I’m out of touch or resilient?
I was in my early 20´s and had my Ph.D. back then. Now I realize how young I looked to my students’ parents.

What we call diseases are nothing but tiny beings which, I am certain, do not mean to harm us, but they need our bodies in order to make successful reproductions.

If we overcome the illness, the little invaders lose. If they win, we pass on, die, kick the bucket.

That is a simple fact, and perhaps a simplistic thought, but neither good, nor bad. 

I have had my share of wars and battles against the tiny invaders and have successfully beaten them off so far.

Ear infections, measles, chicken pox, kidney stones, two nasty bouts with the flu, common colds galore, gastritis, headaches… you name it, the usual standard fare Nature dishes out to us if we live long enough.

And we must add to that the wear and tear that usage inflicts on body and mind.  

The long and the short of it is that I am 81 years old and pushing 82.

I’m 81, pushing 82 and despite some gruesome health challenges, I do not feel old. It is a strange feeling. I wonder whether I’m out of touch or resilient?
At 80, with my eldest daughter, then 55, in Madrid

Time forces us to be forever pushing because there is no standstill, no pause.

Despite the above, I have led a healthy and active life, mostly pain free.

I was born, mind you, before penicillin was invented and put to wide use, which is saying a lot about the stamina and grit of my body.

I am a survivor, a chosen one, a lucky person in a lineage of lucky and strong forbearers.

I overcame childhood when children died like flies.

I made it through my teen-age years quite unscathed, when polio was rampant.

I’m 81, pushing 82 and despite some gruesome health challenges, I do not feel old. It is a strange feeling. I wonder whether I’m out of touch or resilient?
I enjoy walking long distances every day

Two marriages and raising four children were tough going but I reached port with most of my sails intact. 

When I reached 75, hell broke loose.

Open-heart surgery and a quadruple bypass made my determination falter. It made me realize that I was finite and that my body was not as sturdy as I had thought it was.

Yet I sort of made it, till Polymyalgia Rheumatica hit me like a ton of bricks.

With the dreaded corticoids I was able to harness the stiffness and pain and carry on quite well, until heart failure made me short of breath and unable to handle a busy, normal life.

This too I believe I have overcome.

What next?

The problem is that despite all the above I do not feel old.

I’m 81, pushing 82 and despite some gruesome health challenges, I do not feel old. It is a strange feeling. I wonder whether I’m out of touch or resilient?
At 80, summer 2019, with my second daughter, Laura, then 53

Somehow, I think that not feeling old at 81 is a weird feeling.

At the Heart Failure Unit of a local hospital, among all the mostly old people, I felt the youngest.

I felt spry and feisty among all those old folks, many in wheelchairs.

On the bus, and with dismay, I eye old people getting on, shaky and clumsy.

At the supermarket I feel sorry for the elderly couples roving around with a slow gait. And probably many of them are younger than me. 

When I exercise daily, I try to push myself to the limit, regardless of my age, as if I were 25 years younger.

At the gym I train as I used to… as if I were still forty.

Last year four new books of mine were published, and I am in the process of getting 3 more out in 2020.

I have taken up the study of French and German which I had put aside a long time ago.

I’m 81, pushing 82 and despite some gruesome health challenges, I do not feel old. It is a strange feeling. I wonder whether I’m out of touch or resilient?
At a book signing in the Madrid Book Fair, at 80.

I am in love with new technological gadgets (just bought the latest laptop), and wear a new exercise band in lieu of a wristwatch, and I have plans…

What’s wrong with me?

Have I lost contact with reality?

Why do I talk and act with my students as if they were my equals in time? (I still teach English, something I’ve dedicated most of my life to).

Why are they comfortable with a gaffer like me? 

Should I perhaps go to a psychologist and get help in assuming my age?

I am not breezing around pretending I am 30, or not acting my age, no.

I know I am 81… the problem is that I do not feel 81.

I’m 81, pushing 82 and despite some gruesome health challenges, I do not feel old. It is a strange feeling. I wonder whether I’m out of touch or resilient?
Two months earlier, my mother passed away at 101 and a half.

It is not a question of looks, it´s a question of feeling.

I am not lying to myself because this is not a question of appearance, or ailments, but a question of feeling.

Let me repeat; I do not feel old at 81, even though I am old.

This attitude of grit and resilience was explained by Herman Hesse in his Magister Ludi: “The human attitude… is always the same; it is always based on the same kind of insight into life and strives for the same kind of victory… a defiance, a death-defying intrepidity, a gallantry, and a note of superhuman laughter, of immortal gay serenity.”

I am not down for the count just yet, while I realize I am mortal.      

I’m 81, pushing 82 and despite some gruesome health challenges, I do not feel old. It is a strange feeling. I wonder whether I’m out of touch or resilient?
At 81, with my eldest, Lorraine, 56

 

Delfín Carbonell Basset

Delfín Carbonell is a graduate of Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Ph.D. in Philology from Madrid and has authored 35 books in both English and Spanish, published by McGraw-Hill, Barron’s, Larousse, Anaya and Serbal. He has taught at Pitt, F&M, Scranton and Murray St. University.

3 Comments

  • Viva Fifty
    Reply June 18, 2020

    Viva Fifty

    Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Reply June 17, 2020

    Linda

    This is wonderful. Love it on so many levels, both the writing and the marvellous attitude. I don’t think I have ever read a thing with which I agreed so whole-heartedly!

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