whose getting old? Not me

Lying there in the dental chair with a hypodermic needle in my mouth, I suddenly felt faint. Not particularly wanting to lose consciousness with a needle stuck in my jaw I waved my hand for attention. The dentist stopped and looked at me.
“I’m going to faint. I’ve fainted before. I know what it feels like.”
She said something about the medicine — that it can make some people’s heart race. I felt my heart thudding along rapidly. I lifted my hand and caught a glimpse of pure white skin and nails instead of my usual pink.
The dentist asked if I had I ever had that medication before. I had no idea. I really have done pretty much everything I can to avoid medical interference in my life. … but there was that one procedure about five-six years ago that involved some kind of pain numbing chemical.
Whatever the cause for my physical reaction, the dental assistant kindly explained, “Sometimes when people get older they develop sensitivities to some medicines.”
When people get older!? Get older! Are you talking about me?
That’s not the first time I’ve been labeled with the ‘O’ word by someone still too wet-behind the ears to know anything. I’ve heard it before, but I hardly expected to be labeled that way in a dental clinic.
I’ve grown a bit accustomed to it at the fast food places. So I excused the subtle implication from the cashier when she told me the total for my lunch.
“That’s not right. It’s too low,” I said reaching for my wallet.
“I gave you the senior discount,” she quietly said glancing at my graying hair.
I didn’t bother to tell her that my hair began graying sometime before my 30th birthday about the time my last child arrived.
That child, now the mother of two, also notes signs of aging in her father and I. Fortunately, I still have a few children and grandchildren that think otherwise. Last year I slid on reading glasses to finish knitting a scarf before the recipient had to head home. One of the grandchildren looked at me and laughed, “You look just like a granny.”
I peered at that child over my spectacles, “Well, I do have grandchildren. That would make me a ‘granny’.”
The grandchild did a double take. She had never thought about me that way.
Such blithe awareness of me contrasts with the medical explanation for any fluke I notice in my body enough to take the time to inquire about it at the clinic.
I noticed it first when I thought perhaps I should join my children and have an eye exam.
After the exam, the white-coated opthamologist sort of leaned back in his seat, “Most people find that they need glasses as they grow older.” Well! Does that also explain why half of the children in the family began wearing glasses in grade school.
All too often, it seems to me that physicians just look at me and my chart, perform a bit of requisite poking and prodding and have a quick and easy answer, “Well with age the sense of taste tends to decline ….” With age, your joints do tend to …” “Sometimes the weather effects older people like that.”
In other words, given enough time the body starts to decline. It refuses to function as efficiently as it did in the past and requires more effort to yield the previous results. Which I found out the weekend I had to go to a church retreat with a face only Freddy Krueger’s mother could love. After a childhood of roaming the hills of New York oblivious to poison ivy in any shape, form or quantity, I had become highly allergic to the stuff. The doctor never said the ‘O’ word when I showed up with an inexplicable itchy, red rash. No, he just informed me, to my great dismay, that one’s inborn immunity to the vine diminishes with repeated exposures — translated that means with time and age.
If you ask me, it’s not so much that I am getting older, I just have had more experience and exposure to the physically detrimental aspects of life.
That’s my explanation and I’m sticking with it.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at jhershberger@eldoradonews.com.