Still rolling at four-score and seven

By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
Four score and seven years ago, my parents brought forth, on this continent, a new person named for my mother’s twin brother, Jerome Gaston Petrie. As you can see, folks, I have finally caught up with President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Although each birthday is a genuine milestone, it is a celebration that must not be allowed to obscure the overwhelming importance of today, each solitary day of our lives. Let alone a year, we cannot grasp a month, not even a week. The most we can handle is one day at a time, and sometimes we must take one hour at a time.
Would you believe that one minute lends itself to our best management of time? I have often quoted, “Just a tiny little minute – but eternity is in it.”
Longevity can be a wonderful thing, and by far most people would like to live a long, productive, enjoyable life sporting a sound mind in a sound body. But far more important than longevity is living every moment at the peak of quality, service, fulfillment, generosity and love. Our desire for life tends to wane as its quality does.
We remain at that peak for some decades before our wonderful body begins to show signs of wear, smile lines on our face, some inset wrinkles in our brow and generous splashes of silver atop the crown of our heads. Through it all, it is of prime concern and importance for peace of mind that we feel comfortable in our own skin.
To my dismay, December 2016 brought along an ineptness in my right thumb and right index finger. No doubt a gradual development, all of a sudden I had trouble picking up a host (the bread) from the ciborium to share Communion during a Mass.
Placing the host on a person’s hand or tongue was equally difficult and hazardous. At the same time, my right thumb lost its ability to strike firmly the advance bar on my computer keyboard, so that I had to learn to compensate with my left hand. I thought back fondly to the times when I would cradle an apple in my hands, dig my thumbs in at the stem and split it in half with scarcely a ripple of my thumb muscles.
Since I have been very observant and analytical about my health for decades, I quickly associated a link between that finger-thumb weakness and a bias of my body toward the left hip that I had noticed in a mirror. That bias has also marked a mild scoliosis that has developed in my spine in the last couple of decades.
To some extent, I have succeeded in arresting that bias development, and I have even been able to reverse it a bit by making a conscious effort to stand tall and erect, pulling my left hip in and rotating my right hip out. Over the years, one tends to slump a tad as muscles weaken. With the deterioration and compression of the cartilage in our spine, we grow shorter as we age. Once 5’11,” I am now 5’8.”
My problems with the host at Mass began in December and peaked in early to mid January as folks became aware that I was on a fishing expedition each time I reached in for a host. Uncharacteristically, I dropped one or two from time to time.
Amazingly, even in real time while I was struggling to grip a host with my thumb and index finger, by rotating my right hip out and forcing myself to distend my spine by standing tall, I was able to grasp a host that I failed to grasp just moments before. By February 4, I had begun to move into a better phase of finger work and control.
When I was suffering from accidental dehydration in late January, Father Lambert insisted that I get my annual physical at Opelousas General. Slapping an IV in my left arm, and later an antibiotic IV also, the nurses ran me through the entire array of tests, measurements, X-rays, CT scans and blood analysis. Seeing all normal outcomes, the head nurse told Father Lambert, “The age of 87 cannot be right.”
Just shy of 87, February 26 changed that. I have no pains arthritic or other, no need for medication, no acidity in my breath or stomach, no memory issues, no fiber problems with bowel movements at least twice and often thrice daily, no mood changes since I was 24, and no desire to be even a partial carnivore/omnivore again.
Considering the huge health benefits that have accrued to me from eating no meats, no seafood, no dairy – nothing that has a mother – no white flour, no white rice, no salt, no sugar, no caffeine, I am not in the least tempted to even dream about consuming any of those things. In fact, the smell of most meats and seafood has become offensive to my nostrils and taste buds. Even desserts turn me off.
With Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday just past us, I am grateful that my entire life is stricter than a Lenten fast, yet happy, with two cups of water and a tablespoon of barleygreen for breakfast, an orange later, a big salad at noon, later, a heated low-sodium, spicy V-8 juice, an evening meal of beans and vegan jambalaya.
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, is pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Opelousas, La. He has written “Reflections on Life” since 1969.)