HERE COMES 70
It’s bearing down on me…. will be here in a couple more months. August 19th, 2015 – I’ll be 70 years old. I was born just 10 days after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. One of the very first of the baby boomers.
All my life I have been pretty upbeat, never really worried about getting old, always felt pretty good, even when I got to be 60, still felt pretty good. If I got sick, or injured in some way, I would usually shake it off in a day or two, and go right back to feeling like a teenager, like I always have.
I don’t know EXACTLY when that started to change, not long after 60 I think, but the change has been more noticeable, and accelerating with each passing day. Little aches and pains aren’t so little any more. Where did that teenager that lived inside me go? By 65 it was apparent that something was definitely up.
I will be the first to admit that I have never taken particularly good care of my self. Mostly overweight most of my life. Smoked cigarettes starting at age 15. Finally got smart enough to quit about age 50… cold turkey! Then got stupid enough after 5 years as a non smoker to start up again. By the time I was 64 my arteries in my legs were letting me know they couldn’t take it anymore. It reached the point where I could walk one block and experience crippling “claudication”, severe cramp-like pain from not enough oxygen reaching my leg muscles.
After John Lucas 3 did a “fempop” (femoral artery bypass surgery) on my left leg, and having three stents placed in my illiac region, and having my left carotid cleaned out, and having my right little toe amputated due to poor circulation in my right foot, I stabilized (for a while). When the claudication returned about 3 months ago in March of this year. I knew the situation was going to be grave. For the second time in my life I quit the cigarettes. I asked the Lord for His help. He graciously made it easy for me, and I thank Him for that.
This time John 3 was too busy to do this type of procedure, so his partner Dr. Capel explained my options. I won’t go into all the details, but basically he used something like a 21st century roto-rooter machine for arteries. It was marginally successful, but did not produce the desired increase in blood flow to my right foot, which was in danger of being lost to gangrene. Dr. Capel immediately suggested a second procedure, a bypass from my right groin area to the right ankle. Since this length is approximately 36″, and the human body does not have any arteries this long, and mine were not any good to start with, he would use bovine carotid segments (2). Yep, that’s cows ! As I didn’t have a lot of choice at this point, this procedure was accomplished, and I was sent home in a couple of days. (I go to sleep at night wondering when the horns will begin to appear on my forehead, and when I may start mooing instead of snoring).
Dr. Capel explained that although I now had a veritable pipeline delivering a large amount of blood to my right foot, the healing would be slow as a result of my type 2 diabetes. After about 4 weeks of being confined to either the bed or the recliner, to keep the leg elevated to reduce swelling, I was finally able to get up and move around on a very limited basis.
The problem was that I was now experiencing what it felt like to be a 70 year old man, or very close to it. I didn’t hurt, or feel bad, but I didn’t feel good either. I was depressed at the length of my recovery. My family noticed that I was unhappy. Even the nurse from the Sta-Home health agency suggested that I ask Dr. Wally for a “happy pill”, like Prozac, Zoloft or Lexapro, for treatment of anxiety.
I had come to the realization that I was now “officially” an old man, and I needed to just get used to it, and deal with it, and since I had an appointment with Dr. Wally tomorrow to get most of my other meds refilled, I would just ask him for a “happy pill” as well, and hope that I wouldn’t kill myself or my wife!
And on top of that, I realized that I was experiencing way too many of my friends leaving this earth, some even younger than me, and others in very bad shape, and who knows if I might be soon on the list?
That’s when my epiphany arrived. Rebecca and I have been attending a new church for the past year or so (well, new to us). Westminster Presbyterian Church here in Greenwood. We love the preacher, and while we know a good many of the folks that attend, there are many new and younger folks we don’t know, but we have been made to feel welcome, and have come to love this church, and the people that attend. It feels the way I think a church should feel… like a House of God, full of His people, and very glad to be there!
Rebecca and I went this morning, and almost as soon as we sat down, I began to feel a presence steering my thoughts to my recent medical adventures, and my depression and anxiety. It was almost like the Lord was sitting there next to me, and he and I were having a conversation. Well, I mean, not literally a real conversation of course, but it sure did feel like it. Maybe a “silent exchange of ideas”. It was almost like He was saying, “Joe, why are you so unhappy? You’ve come through some pretty serious surgery, and are still here, right? And didn’t I take those cigarettes away from you, and make it pretty easy for you? And, if you would take a look around, haven’t you got a whole lot of things to be thankful for?”
Well, perhaps it wasn’t so much a conversation between me and the Lord…. since he was supplying most of the ideas, and I was just occasionally nodding and thinking “Yes Sir”. But it did make me think “He’s right of course… why am I being so selfish? I have been showered with blessings all my life, too numerous to count, a wife of 47 years who loves me like crazy (well MOST all of the time at least), three terrific children, and their spouses, 8 marvelous grandchildren. I even worked for almost 30 years as the Director of Product Design for America’s greatest piano company, personally designing musical instruments that enriched hundreds of thousands of peoples lives with the joy of music. And I have a bucket list that probably only has one or two items left on it, since I have already done most everything and been everywhere a man could want, and here I sit feeling sorry for myself because I don’t feel good, or because I am feeling old. I should be rejoicing that I am among wonderful friends and neighbors, and yes, even strangers in this church, who were kind enough, and CARED enough to pray for me every day during my illness and surgery, and lengthy recovery, to the extent that I could literally feel the prayer bombs going off around me.
These people surrounding me today have been instrumental in my return to my faith, and I thank my God for leading ME in THEIR paths, as well as in HIS. At some point I need to thank them all, and tell them what they have meant to me and Rebecca. I couldn’t do it this morning, after Church was over, and the Lord and I had finished our “conversation”, or at least after He had finished His teachings to me and I had finished saying “Yes, Sir” about a hundred times. I was just too emotional then. Heck, I just knew Rebecca was going to ask me why I kept wiping my eyes during the whole service. Maybe she noticed and was just being nice, not wanting to embarrass me.
I think that may be why I am sitting here writing this down… maybe I will post this on my blog, so those that want could read it, and see how I feel about them. To know that I appreciate them and the love they have shown me. The very same love that Jesus Christ shows to us all. I know I could not get through telling them without an emotional break down (like old men are prone to have)!
I now know one thing I did not know when I got up this morning….. When I go to see Dr. Wally tomorrow, I will not be asking for a “happy pill”… I found a whole church full of them this morning, and they were all worshipping a Savior who has more medicine in the hem of his garment than all the drug stores in town!
Thanks be to God !
– – JOE SEAWRIGHT