Given the heavy weight of the current cultural and political discourse on our collective spirits, I've been trying to keep my writing on the lighter side, believing a bit of levity can help dispel the dark clouds. But some issues cannot be avoided, and today I want to address a serious problem affecting a growing number of our citizens and shows no indication of easing up.

In fact, we can expect it will only get worse.

Aging.

I realize it has been around a long time, at least as long as I can remember, but it has always been something that happens to other people. I feel a responsibility to raise awareness of this indolent process that quietly works its way into our lives.

Imagine my surprise when the simple, everyday task of getting dressed in the morning became a source of frustration and dismay, posing a risk of serious physical injury. Gone are the days when I bounced out of bed, pulled on a pair of jeans, socks, and shoes, and threw on a shirt. That routine task is now a measured and deliberate endeavor.

I no longer bounce out of bed. Instead, I position myself so I can roll off the bed at such an angle that I end up sitting on the edge of the bed and not on the floor. This de-bedding technique was developed out of necessity, and is accomplished slowly, carefully, and with great optimism for the outcome. Once this maneuver is successfully accomplished I take a few moments to relish the fact that I'm awake and aware of my surroundings.

The next step is getting into my sweatpants. Getting my right leg into the pants is not a problem. It's the left leg that can make or break my morning. Two things have to happen. I have to hold the pants low to the floor, and I must lift my leg high enough to clear the pants and find the point of entry. If all that happens the operation is a success. But if my leg doesn't make it, and gets hung up on the waistband, I must hop and balance on one leg while I try again.

This is both noisy and dangerous. It is noisy from the stream of curse words coming from my mouth. It's dangerous because I am no longer the gazelle I once was -- or thought I was -- and my sense of balance is unreliable. I may be able to manage one hop on one leg, but after that, well, it's not a pretty sight. The problem is once I start to hop, I no longer have adequate control over my left leg, and the situation becomes hopeless. My pride prevents me from avoiding all of this by simply holding on to the dresser or leaning against a wall. The result is I imagine I'm in the ER being asked how I dislocated my shoulder, and I have to tell them I was putting on my pants.

Concerning shoes and socks, I have two choices: sit down to put them on, or go barefoot. I am not too proud to admit that on rare occasions I have bent over to put my socks on and simply tipped over.

I accept these infirmities as the price to pay for living as long as I have. But it's harder to accept the problems with the simple task of putting on a shirt. What can possibly be so difficult with that? I've been putting on shirts all my life the same easy way, the right arm in the right sleeve, reach back and place left arm in the sleeve, and the shirt is on.

But now, suddenly, the left sleeve is nowhere around. I reach back moving my left arm all over trying to find the sleeve that isn't there, and things start to get noisy again. While this is going on I begin arching my back, thinking this will bring me closer to the sleeve, which is simply moving further away. You tend to do dumb things because of this aging. It may take me three or four attempts of bobbing and weaving before I find the damn sleeve, and by that time I'm angry, my shoulder hurts, and I don't like anybody I know.

Fortunately my morning routine all takes place in the privacy of our bedroom. But there are plenty of times when I must get into a coat or jacket in the presence of others, and that left sleeve is as stubbornly elusive as a shirtsleeve. I can't imagine what people thought when they saw me this morning standing there with my jacket half on, my back arched backward, my body gyrating, and my left arm flailing behind me. To make matters worse, I thought I found the sleeve only to find my arm buried in the inside pocket.

Getting old is not for sissies.

Bill Renzulli can be reached at wfrenzulli@mac.com.

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