Today I’m healthy, my belly is full, and I’m warm and dry in a comfortable chair as I write. Life is good. My wife is outside doing what she loves, which is working in her flower gardens. My shoulder is paining a bit after pulling at the starter cord over and over to get my lawn mower going after a long winter. Can’t do my usual morning exercises until it heals, however long that takes. As I get older it takes longer, but I’ll be patient. Getting older is one of the things I cannot change and must therefore accept. Considering that the alternative is to die early makes acceptance easier.
|Roseann in her garden|
Back when I was teaching, my students and I were comfortable with each other this late in the school year, so one day in April or May I’d begin each of my classes saying, “I have good news and bad news. What do you want hear first?” They always wanted bad news first, so I’d tell them: “All right. Here it is: You’re all going to die.” They’d look at me blankly and then one would say, “We know that, Mr. McLaughlin.” “Good,” I’d respond. “Keep it in mind because it will help you appreciate every day.” Then one would ask what the good news was. “The good news is that, at your age, it probably won’t happen anytime soon. There are no guarantees for any of us, but given that I’m more than forty years older than you are, you probably have a whole lot more days left than I do.”
During most of my days, taking pictures has been one of my great pleasures. Lately I’ve been playing around with editing, printing, and framing some of my favorite shots. It’s another aspect of the art that I’m just beginning to appreciate. Getting the right size frame, the proper matte, and dry-mounting photos before framing is time-consuming but quite satisfying when it all comes together. That’s why I was particularly alarmed two weeks ago when the vision in my left eye got cloudy all of a sudden. After a few hours I couldn’t see at all. Luckily I got an appointment right away at the Maine Eye Center with a good ophthalmologist. Tests showed I had a spontaneous bleed caused from a micro aneurysm between my iris and pupil. By the end of the day the doctor pinpointed the tiny bleed well enough that he could focus a laser to cauterize it. Now, two weeks later, it’s back to normal. Though I’ve always admired flowering trees and soft spring greens in beech groves this time of year, after that experience and the long winter we all endured, they’re more beautiful than ever.
Twenty years ago, I started using drug store glasses to read, and four years ago, I finally got a pair of real prescription glasses. Around the same time, I noticed I was saying “What?” a lot at teacher meetings when nobody else seemed to have trouble hearing what was said. Also, my wife was asking me to turn down the television a lot. Last month I finally got around to checking it out, and an audiologist told me I had moderate to severe hearing loss, especially with high-pitched sounds like the voices of women and children. I reluctantly bought two expensive hearing aids a few days before my daughter Annie and her family moved back into their house after staying with us for several months. It was apparent right away that my new hearing devices eliminated any difficulty I had hearing children’s voices and I began to wonder if they worked too well.
Now that we have the house to ourselves again, I’m hearing the clock tick and the refrigerator go through its cycles. At Sunday mass, I heard a beautiful rendition of “Ave Maria” by choir director Heather Sheehan.
The bleed in my eye was likely caused by the Buerger’s Disease I was diagnosed with thirty years ago, or the blood thinner I take for it, or both. It’s a disease of the small arteries and I’ve had several aneurysms in my legs over the years. My brother died of the disease after multiple amputations. If not for a good surgeon and the wonders of modern medicine, I might not have two good legs. I might have been half blind, and wouldn’t be able to hear the song of cardinals or the laughter of my grandchildren nearly as well.
Life is good indeed, and every day is precious.