Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Changing Perspectives

My primary care physician is my age. If I keep breathing, my next one will be much younger. How do I feel about that? Ambivalent. Younger docs are more likely to be up on newer methods, but older ones are likely to be wiser - I hope. Once a year I bring my body in and he looks it over, offering advice about how to prolong my time on earth. I’ve taken his advice so far and already I’ve lived longer than my father or paternal grandfather, so that’s good.
Old oak tree in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

My primary residence is younger than me - under thirty. Structurally it’s in good shape, but I’ve already replaced the appliances we bought when we built it, and my wife is always doing cosmetic makeovers. It’s tight - no drafts - and I like that, especially as my body ages. Maintaining is a whole lot easier than building, and I’ve hired someone to paint it the last two times. My wife talks downsizing, but the thought of starting over and building something smaller makes me tired.
It’s the second new house I’ve lived in. My father moved us into a new one when I was four. New houses are nice. Once they’re finished, you can leave them alone for years and just live. But old houses require constant maintenance, just like old bodies. Up to age twenty-five or so, I didn’t exercise, ate whatever I wanted as much as I wanted, and stayed in shape. After that, I had to restrict my eating and I had to exercise, which I don’t like. Now I have to exercise even more and I’ve grown to hate it. The only thing I like is when it’s over and I don’t have to punish myself anymore for the rest of the day. I never feel "runner’s high" or any other endorphin thing I hear people rave about. I just feel fewer aches and pains than if I were sedentary. That’s the only reason I continue.
Our other house is older than me, built in 1910 or so. It was a kit house ordered from Sears and assembled on site. A couple of young architects live across the street in a similar house and they told me. After I looked it up and saw images online, I’m seeing hundreds of them around the Portland area. Nowadays, people can order houses from various companies, but they’re partially assembled in a factory. Walls and rooves are delivered to the site and assembled using a crane. Pretty slick.

The older house still needs work but it’s mostly cosmetic now. Meanwhile it’s comfortable to live in and there’s no hurry. That hurry-up thing I’ve had to do most of my life, juggling two or three jobs with family responsibilities. Now I avoid hurry whenever possible. Anything involving hurry-up I try to stay away from. I’ve got to repair the front porch on the older house, and I will when I get around to it. Got to put in a half-bath downstairs there, and I will when I feel like it. Gotta finish the book too and it’s taking longer than I thought, but that’s all right.

Some of my contemporaries are having work done on their bodies. A hip here, a shoulder there, and some knees. Good for them if they want to stay functional and avoid unnecessary pain. I suspect some are “having work done” of the plastic surgery kind too, but they don’t talk about it, and I don’t want to know either. Most women dye their hair trying to look younger but I admire the ones who don’t. If they let it go natural and keep themselves in shape, they look better in my eyes. There’s a certain dignity about being who you are that shines through. It’s attractive. Men who dye their hair? I try to stay away from them.
The older kit house

An elderly woman whose old summer mansion I took care of taught me - not expressly, but in the way she looked at things. I was thirty-something. She was eighty-something. Soil had built up over the lower course of shingles on one side and they were rotten. When I showed her she asked what a repair would involve. They’d been that way a while and I said we couldn’t know until we pulled them off to see what was rotted behind them. She asked if the house would collapse, and I said probably not for a while.
The old mansion boarded up for winter

She decided to leave it be, which bothered me until I figured out that she wanted to enjoy however many more summers she had left in the place without the ripping and tearing it would take to fix it.

Perspectives change when you’ve been around longer than the usually-allotted three score and ten years.


Anonymous said...

Replacing/repairing "stuff".
At this point, I pursue items of a quality/workmanship that I KNOW are going to outlast ME.
At least I know I won't have to mess with them ever again!
The problem I've had to compromise with is a lifetime of making/repairing "stuff", vs. "If you want something done RIGHT..."
*sigh* I recently arranged for "someone else" to replace the shock absorbers on my 14 year old, formerly USA co., um...vehicle.(why YES, it is all about the frost heaves) Oh, based on personal experience,I expect the local tradesman's work to be good. Better/less expensive than, say... the Dealer's, but still..


Tom McLaughlin said...

I stopped doing mechanical work a long time ago - shortly after I moved above the poverty line. Now I have a garage to work in and still I go to a mechanic. Don't even do oil changes anymore. Never liked it anyway, but it was an economic necessity for a long time.