The Road to Dotage is the pleasantest, openest road you’ll ever encounter in life. Free at last from the demands of working and raising a family, you get onto it as if exiting from a jammed expressway, coasting down a ramp, abandoning your car and skipping onto a broad, sunny path. The destination is unknown, but of course it’s the journey that matters, and the journey is delightful.
There’s just one little thing. You have to find a way to block out or disregard the shrieks and groans continually rising from the ditches on either side. These are the the cries of the casualties, those who have fallen or run off the road. The ditches are strewn with elderly people: wounded, sick, demented, and dying. These are your peers, your colleagues, your rivals and your friends.
Of course there is an army of doctors, nurses and pharmacists on hand, tending to the casualties, trying to get as many as possible back on the road as soon as possible. They work miracles, these people.
Last year a man I know, an octogenarian who still teaches college and rides a mountain bike on weekends, fell suddenly and violently ill. In the hospital they found a hole had opened in his esophagus, and food was leaking out into his abdomen, setting off a septic infection. This man spent two months flat on his back in intensive care, as they battled the infection and saved his life. In the following months he underwent two surgeries to repair the damage. Now, I hear, he is back on the Road to Dotage.
I write this from the ditch, where I too have suddenly fallen flat on my back. The sore hip I brought back from dance camp only got worse and worse, until I could barely walk or sit up without excruciating pain. Last week the orthopedist dismissed me and sent me on to a neurologist to search for the source of this torment. After two more MRI's, the diagnosis is in: a "doozy" of a herniated spinal disc. I'm seeing the neurosurgeon next week.
I’m living day to day with the help of a wonderful wife and powerful pain killers. But I have hope. I fully expect that in some weeks or months I will step – or at least limp – gratefully back onto the Road to Dotage.
I started this blog with an enthusiastic account of a book – “The Delights of Old Age” by Maurice Goudeket. He was one of the lucky ones, enjoying the wisdom of old age and finding new adventures and pleasures as he walked in wonder through his seventies. Since I liked the book and identified with his character, I assumed my seventies would go the same way. And maybe, once I get back on my feet, it will be that way again for a while. But never again will I ignore or disregard the voices from the ditch, the cries of the wounded. I’m one of them now, and we are legion.
-- Copyright 2013 by Tom Phillips
Photo by Django Phillips
Photo by Django Phillips