Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
A 20-something lady was helping me transfer things from one car to another. Perhaps noticing that her lively pace outstepped me at every turn, she volunteered pointedly with a satisfied smile, “I am enjoying my youth!” Translated, that almost seemed to be saying, “How on earth do you old coots tolerate creeping old age?”
“You’ll enjoy your old age too, God willing,” I returned so low that she might have missed completely my hesitant effort to respond to such a pointed remark.
To get her attention, I could have said that at her age I could whistle a baseball toward the catcher well into the nineties, could break off a mean curve, could drive the ball 400-plus feet, run with the best, could snare a football pass nine feet in the air on a dead run-and-leap, could jump under a basketball rim and pop it.
“That was yesterday,” I mused, and as the song continues, “but yesterday’s gone.” One distant day a weightlifting high school seminarian at St. Augustine Seminary in Bay Saint Louis was pressing 100 pounds. To his utter surprise, I reached down with my right hand and snatched it over my head. When he winced, for seconds I reached down again and snatched it over my head once more.
Needless to say, if I tried anything close to that now, I would need both an osteopath and a chiropractor. “Flights of fancy,” we call such memories we all have. Such was the case as I topped the hill of four score and five on February 26. And how is life in the mid-eighties? So far, I can hardly tell the difference from one year ago.
Nevertheless, there are some pointed items of interest. Never too cool to school, I notice that the tendency to shuffle is trying to grow stronger. This means that, unless he exerts extra caution, an older person compensates for a decrease in physical strength by dragging his feet instead of lifting them, especially on turns.
When one drags his feet in making a sudden turn to the left or right, the sole of the sandal/shoe grabs the rug or uneven surface, setting up a serious stumble or trip. In this maneuver, the body turns before the feet do, causing an entanglement of the feet that can easily trigger a painful fall that may result in some kind of injury.
A hazardous carryover from dragging one’s feet can happen when one moves to go around a chair, table or other object. The slouchiness resulting from weakened muscles inclines one to take shortcuts, and that causes one to clip the edges of objects instead of moving cleanly around them. That in turn can end in a crash. In spite of this ever-looming threat, I must continually remind myself to move wide.
This same awareness and caution of movement holds doubly strong for vertical travel up and down steps or hills. Weakening muscles also try to avoid the labor of lifting one’s feet high enough above a stair step to avoid tripping. More and more, a conscious effort must be made to assure one of stepping high enough.
For decades, all the way into my late forties, I literally streaked up and down flights of stairs, often mounting the flight in two bounds. In all those years I had one harmless slip on a flight of stairs, one slip on a landing and one interesting stumble halfway down a 22-step staircase. Flying through the air with the greatest of ease, I hit the deck with a crash and roll, no worse for the wear. So hard is a young body.
Nowadays, the very thought of such a stumble and rough landing steadies my every move around stairs, high precipices and uneven surfaces. For the young, the key to sureness and safety of movement is the combination of power, balance and dexterity of motion. Eventually eroded by time and usage, that great combination can be salvaged only partially by meticulous attention to one’s environs.
In a blast from the past, every now and then, I catch myself striding with near abandon, although running with abandon is out of the picture. I invariably smile as I walk that special walk, remembering the way it was so many summers ago.
It still startles me that I live free of any dependence on reading or magnifying glasses, reading a computer screen for many hours with no signs of strain, reading books or annoyingly-small texts of food ingredients or signs in the ambient world.
Since April 30, 1996, forgoing all meats, seafood, dairy, salt, sugar and caffeine has served me well, normalizing all my body organs and fluids to the point where I live free of pain and medications, except for the baby aspirin daily regimen.
No day is a work day, because every day is a bonus, a vacation, a special gift of God that brings with it more joy, more rewards, more thanks for all the relatives, friends and others in my life. How long will I live? Till I die. That’s enough for me.
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, is pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, Texas. He has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)
Reflections on Life