3 November 2009

I hate growing old.

Warning: The following is gross.

My encroaching decrepitude proceeds apace. The signs of it are becoming more and more present. Some, like the growing grey in my hair, can be passed off as 'distinguished.' Some are unpleasant, such as the little aches and pains that are becoming a chronic reminder that I am no longer the young buck I once was. Most, however, are just plain gross. For example, I now have hair growing out of my ears. My eyebrows, for decades nice orderly arcs of hair have suddenly began growing again, and send mutant hairs that can reach down to my eyes, if I did not trim them.

But the real disgusting part of growing old comes when aging is combined with the secular miracle that is modern medicine. Thanks to the history of cancer in my family (short story, about 80% of my relatives have died of one form of cancer or another, and it is my most likely end) I now have to undergo a regular battery of singularly unpleasant tests on a regular basis. For example, tomorrow I get to have a colonoscopy. If the procedure itself was not sufficiently undignified, I spent today preparing for the test. The preparations involved two relatively simple steps: 1. Starve. 2. Drink four litres some kind of solution misleadingly called "Kleenprep". There are several things I really dislike about the 'kleenprep'. First is the taste. It's horrible. Some idiot gave it a kind of vanilla flavour, which calls to mind an ancient Chinese proverb: "Adding Ice Cream to manure improves the taste of neither." Second is the quantity. I don't want to drink four litres of something I like, much less this garbage. Third is the cutesy misspelled name. Why make the name cute? It can't be a marketing ploy- the only people who would buy this gunk are the ones getting ready for this or a similar test. It's not like a hip and trendy name will boost their market share. Why not just call it what it is: "Instant Diarrhea."? Which brings me to the last thing I hate about it, but I won't go into any further details.

After all this, and I still have tomorrow to look forward to. The highlights of tomorrow include: 1. more hunger, and 2. having something unspeakable rammed up my unprintable. And the best possible outcome for all this is that it will have been for nothing.

I've begun to wonder: What's wrong with death? What's wrong with just dying? I can remember when we used to say somebody died of natural causes, or somebody died of old age. That would be nice, I think: dying of old age. Instead I read in newspapers that a 94 year old man died as a result of complications following a myocardial infarction, or that a 101 year old women died of respiratory failure. We have categorized and subdivided death to the point where it no longer seems natural, and is therefore unnatural. It is always an aberration, or a disease, and essential wrongness that might yet be corrected. This headlong rush from death seems culture wide, and few seem willing to point out that it will end in failure. There is a word for people who turn their face from reality, who flee from the most basic facts of their existence: Insane.

We all got a date with the reaper. We may be able to put it off for a time, but in the end, all the probes and tests will only delay the inevitable. However, a delay in the inevitable means I get to see my family a little longer, get to see my kids grow a little more. Growing older is a fair price for that. In the meantime, I'll pray that the next medical advance involves the discovery of a less invasive way of checking out my gizzard.

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