Things my father never told me about aging

A few years ago, during a regular checkup, my doctor performed the standard digital examination of my internal nether regions and loudly proclaimed: "Yes. It's enlarged."

Before I could digest his quick diagnosis, he'd already moved on to examining other nether regions. I sat bolt upright and howled: "It's enlarged? What's enlarged?"

He seemed surprised at my surprise. "Your prostate. It's enlarged. Now your blood pressure...."

"No, no. Never mind my blood pressure. Prostate? What does it mean? Do I have prostate cancer?"

Acknowledging my concern, which probably elevated my blood pressure to a point where he was concerned about that, he explained that many men my age - I was then in my mid-50s - show signs of an enlarged prostate. "It's common and no cause for major worry. Of course, sometimes it does become cancerous."

"Geez," I said. "My father never told me about that."

He shook his head. "You know what? Neither did mine."

That got me thinking. There are a lot of things my father never told me about growing older. I guess his old man never told him and he figured I'd find out on my own. He was bang on.

An enlarged prostate is only one of a growing list of surprises I've been bumping into recently that apparently accompany one's journey to the twilight years. And the fact they are part of nature certainly doesn't make it any easier.

Like the blood pressure business. Seems my whole family had high blood pressure. They just neglected to tell me. And now I have it. And being an accredited hypochondriac, it doesn't exactly set my mind at ease that it's called the "silent killer." No symptoms - just straight to the stroke or the heart attack.

To avoid silent surprises, I attend a hypertension clinic, where they try to regulate my high blood pressure with medication. Works, too, except for one particular annoying side effect. How do I put this delicately? Does the expression "sexual dysfunction" ring a bell? In other words, these pills keep me from ringing my bell, if you catch my drift.

Until, of course, they introduced into my system another pill - a little blue one called Viagra. It's one of the pluses of growing older - one my old man definitely never heard about - and it's my absolute favourite pill.

Not that there aren't other little delights to cause me to lose sleep. Like losing sleep. It seems it's quite common for older folk to sleep much less than they once did. In addition to getting up several times to accommodate Mr. Prostate, it also takes longer to get to sleep - but it's no problem at all to awaken before the average rooster.

Strangely, though, I can no longer stay awake watching TV or reading. I nod off. Makes sense - older folks can't hack late hours. Except in bed. Nothing seems to keep us awake more than lying down to sleep.

Did I mention hard of hearing? Apparently a string of ear infections when I was a kid led to a scar tissue buildup that led to: "What? What did he say? Huh? You talkin' to me? Sorry, didn't hear you."

Scar tissue aside, some of it also has to do with aging.

Okay, check the list. Prostate, high blood pressure, hearing loss, declining bell-ringing, lack of sleep. Now add on hair loss.

When I first noticed that tiny little bald spot on top, I began brushing my hair back to hide it. Now I have less hair to brush back and it's no longer hidden. And the tiny spot has become large enough to accommodate two place settings and a Frisbee.

But that's only on my head, naturally. The ears, nose, fingers, toes, back - a veritable forest.

Growing at a similar rate is the spread around my middle. When I was a younger, sedentary fellow, it was just a cute little potbelly. Now that I'm an older sedentary fellow, the pot has become a cauldron. And not so cute.

I'd exercise more, but that only contributes to creaking bones and joints. They creak when I walk, climb stairs, try to dissociate from the couch and particularly when I reach for the remote control. And did I mention ringing the old bell?

It goes on. Cuts and bruises take longer to heal. The cold bothers you more. Heat, too. Earwax buildup is more frequent. Teeth get softer and bones more brittle. Eyesight? See hearing loss. Every morsel of food causes some form of heartburn or stomach upset. And we don't even want to think about changes in regularity.

And it's not all physical. Mental dysfunctions and personality disorders also beset us. Like forgetting things. Getting more irritable and argumentative over nothing. Losing concentration while driving. Losing temper while driving. Losing driving privileges.

Little things grow on your body that never grew there before. Then you worry about those little things becoming melanoma to go along with worrying about heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's and - heaven forbid - The Biggie, incontinence. All of it, naturally, leads to stress. And while we're on stress....

Did I miss anything? Probably. But that's okay - next time around there will surely be more to add to the list. All of which makes me wonder: What is that business of growing old gracefully all about?

And before I forget - because, well, you do forget - Dad, thanks so much.


We hope you enjoyed this article. We know aging is often a more serious business than the light-hearted perspective given here. Comfort Life is your source for all information on many Canadian aging issues.

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