Titans of Aging


I had a recent health scare—or rather a couple of doctors had one on my behalf and I soon joined them. I’d come in for a prescription refill and found myself being counseled to have tests run. No symptoms: just a date passing in the year. I promised to follow up, but next business morning I received a call to set up a consult: that morning. Consult made, test scheduled. The earliest I could get in was two weeks hence.

I spent that fortnight wondering why flipping the odometer on my gage from 59 to 60 alarmed the medical profession so. It was as if I passed the witching hour on my last day as 59 and all the genetic Titans locked in Tartarus made a jail break and were running rampant through my body. My family history, not my symptomology, had elicited the concern.

And sure enough there they were: four little polyps just out of diapers. A biopsy scheduled. More waiting. I began living—well attempting to live—a bifurcated life. If all’s well, our nonprofit can be counted on for this and this. My children can depend on me for that and that. My husband and I can move into our thirty-fourth year of marriage with expectancy. If not? What can I be counted on for? Do I tell her? Him? To whom can I show my fear? Who do I protect?

In the end, my husband had to call for the results. The nurse apologized for the delay; their sick-people business was booming. But good news! All baby polyps were benign; we’d caught them before they grew up, formed a gang, and started vandalizing my system. In three years I go back in: same song, second verse.

I learned the news on my way to teach a class. I finished that and suddenly felt my weariness. I ached. I cried. My sinuses plugged up and my ears followed suit. I could attend now to the smaller discomforts of my body. I could taste food instead of forcing it down. I even slept through the night.

I’m grateful to the medical community for its vigilance. Not so much for the waiting. Will there be, in the coming years, more of these “hurry up and waits?” Will I get accustomed to bifurcated living? Will I find peace less a determined spiritual practice and more a natural state of mind? I have no idea. This I do know—facing the Titans of Aging takes courage, even if I face them with my teeth chattering and my eyes blinded with tears. And, for me at least, the courage comes, not as a token obtained by dropping coins in a prayer machine, but by praying in the sweat of terror—but praying all the same. And by considering the needs of those I love: determining who I want to be for them—if I live another couple of weeks or another couple of decades.

You hear me Titans? Game on.