Everything Has a Shelf Life

By Donna Cordello

My friends and I compare notes. How’s your (fill in the blank) today? We could be referring to a knee, hip, our feet or a shoulder. Or an ongoing treatment. Or a digestive problem. Or back pain. The subjects are diverse.

And then, we offer each other advice. Did you try physical therapy? Or, I have a good chiropractor. Or, what supplements or meds are you on? Or, has your change in diet helped? Or, Dr. So and So is great!

And although I would never want my friends to have troubles, I find some comfort in knowing that I’m not alone.

Despite my forever young mind, it’s like the rest of my body has transformed into an old pinball machine; where the little ball hits a different target every week. And despite years of exercise, I guess just like an older refrigerator, roof or washing machine, everything has a shelf life, including our bodies.

I recently experienced a reality check at my niece’s wedding.

In the past, I’d be on the dance floor from appetizers to desert. But, two songs in, ping pong, my knee and hip blew out. And as I waddled back to my chair and watched the crowd jumping and twirling around to techno music I didn’t recognize, all I could think of is, what the hell happened to me? I mean, I’m not that old aunt who wraps cookies in a napkin and stuffs them into her purse. Not yet anyway!

But, more than that, I thought about how, unlike me, they have a lot more days ahead, than behind. And I thought I hope they don’t wish them away like I often did.

I waited, anxiously waited, for days and weeks and even months to just hurry up and go by. When I consider all the times I looked forward to the future, I probably wished half my life away.

In my teens, I couldn’t wait to get a license and a car. I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school, get a full-time job and my own apartment.

In my 20s, there was the countdown to my own wedding. And then, in my 30s, the long weeks I wished away to finally get out of maternity clothes and cradle my newborns.

In my 40s, there were the times I wished my kids were older — especially some of the teen years — when karma kicked me in the ass. I also wished away sports seasons, where my clothes were sticking to me in brutal heat or I was soaking wet from sideways rain or my teeth were chattering in the freezing cold.

My 50s became a countdown to the next decade when I could finally retire.

And here I am, four years closer to 70, and never realized how fast all those birthdays would whiz by and how those babies I couldn’t wait to get out of diapers are all now in their 30s. And I find myself longing for every single day I wished away, even the difficult ones. Because without all those storms I somehow survived, I wouldn’t be so very appreciative of all the rainbows afterwards.

Although I cherish all the memories, wisdom and experiences I’ve acquired over the years, the one thing I miss more than anything is my youth.

Those young women on the dance floor have no idea that those sexy high heels they’re effortlessly dancing in, will likely collect dust in the back of a closet someday, and be replaced by more comfortable shoes (you know, the ones that you go to six different stores to find).

And some of those young men will wish they can still wave their arms high above their heads like they used to, instead of nursing torn rotator cuffs down the road.

But we don’t think about those things when we’re young. And, if they are like me, certainly don’t appreciate their vibrant bodies when they have them. They don’t foresee all the little things that will change over time.

Like, sleeping through the night without waking up to pee. Or going to bed at the same time you used to primp to go out. Or, maybe nursing a three-day hangover when you think you can party like you used to! Or having to take an antacid before eating spicy foods. Or finding a teeny, tiny top you wore on your honeymoon that can now be used as a bib!

I never expected that once I started collecting Social Security, I’d have more dates with doctors — I’m not referring to steak dinners. Or that I’d be performing tasks based on how my body parts feel on a particular day.