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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 fulltime 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. There are days I can explore a long hiking trail without effort and others, where I’m searching for the ice pack or heating pad. My body dictates the plans.

I’ve found the best medicine for aging doesn’t come from pills in a little bottle you pick up at the drug store, but from enjoying all of life’s pleasures that are a distraction from the aches
and pains.

Like sharing meals and laughs with family and friends. Or enjoying the beauty of nature. Or participating in any event or activities that brings you joy.

We have to suck in all the happiness we can. Because, when you discover that the first boy you ever kissed — along with your best friend from grammar school and several other familiar names — all end up in the obits, it makes you wonder when you might be added to the page. And, it’s one of the reasons I try to do things differently now.

When I run into old friends with the promise to get together soon, we make specific plans, because if we don’t, for one reason or another — ‘someday’ never comes.

I don’t save the ‘good’ stuff or extra nice things for just special occasions anymore. I use the antique platters and burn the fancy candles.

More importantly, I never miss the opportunity to let my husband, children, family and friends know how much they mean to me, but especially my mother, who is in her 80s. Because I don’t know many other people my age who are still blessed to have a parent and I make it a point to spend time with her and do things with her.

She reminds me that although she is still active, each passing decade provides more physical challenges. We used to be the same height. She’s taught me to do all the things I can still do now, before my own daughter towers over me.

Before you know it, time has a way of creeping up on you and yet, simultaneously goes by so much faster

And all the days you might wish away now are the very same ones you will, one day want back.

Donna Cordello is a free-lance writer who lives in Penfield. Contact her at