LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: Please pass the chips, and my dentures

Published 11:21 am Friday, November 11, 2022

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Aging 101 should be a required course for all high school students.

I’ve seen teenage girls carrying “newborn” dolls around, and “feeding” them before gently putting them in portable cribs. It’s a high school’s way of preparing future moms for the responsibilities of motherhood.

Larry Penkava

Less often seen are high school boys lugging pillows strapped to their middles to help them perceive what pregnant women have to endure. But I don’t know that anybody has come up with a way for jocks to experience “childbirth.”

This is all well and good, as far as it goes. But what about the shock of turning 30, finding oneself in midlife crisis or, perish the thought, entering the senior years?

I’ve said before that I tell young people to live a long life, just don’t grow old.

Unfortunately, that’s asking for the impossible until someone discovers the fountain of youth.

Someone once said — and it’s been repeated endlessly — that old age isn’t for the faint of heart. After a certain age, you find yourself trapped in a body that’s alien to you.

“How did this happen?” is a question I often hear among my peers. Just yesterday, it seems, we were able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, were more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, etc., etc.

Today, just getting up from the recliner is a major project. Speaking of recliners, we old people require an adjacent end table to keep reading glasses, a magnifying glass, medicines, fluids, blood pressure cuffs, tissues and an alert system button.

A few years ago Ginny and I went to the beach, joining two of her sisters and their husbands in a condo. I think it was the first time I’d been on vacation with everyone at least 60 years old.

What was most amusing to me was the lineup of seven-day pill dispensers on the kitchen bar. I kept my own pills with my shaving kit in the bathroom, just to avoid picking up someone else’s blood pressure medicine by mistake.

As it turned out, there was strength in numbers. Six minds are better than one, especially when it comes to remembering stuff.

“Larry, did you take your pills?”

“Oh, so that’s why I went to the bathroom.”

We planned our days, not on our time at the beach, visiting nature trails or looking for amusement parks. No, our days were based around eating at Cracker Barrel.

Young people should know their days of consuming anything and everything without penalty are limited. There will come a time when selecting food from a menu is filled with angst and dread.

“I love cabbage but it doesn’t love me.”

“If I clean my plate, I won’t be able to eat again until Tuesday.”

“Please bring me a to-go box and an antacid.”

Our youth should also know that years from now, when they attend their high school reunions, name tags are critical.

I went to my own 50-year reunion more years ago than I want to recount. The strangers in our midst weren’t spouses of classmates. They were classmates.

“I should have known who you are. We dated for two years, after all.”

There was another reunion the other day: most of the Penkavas reunited with most of the Allens. We were cousins connected by our sister mothers.

Both my mother and her sister lived past the age of 90, which gives us kids some hope for long lives. Then we remember that both our mothers wished they could have gone sooner to be with their late husbands.

That’s the conundrum with wanting to live a long life. Do I want more years or a better quality of life?

Hmm. So far I’m still on the side of going for 100. I just want to know what’s going on when the reporter asks me the secret of a long life. “I guess it was the prune juice I drank this morning.”

We should make it a priority to prepare our young people for their golden years. They should be told that the end of life is much like the beginning. We start out in diapers and end up in diapers.

And then there’s the familiar statement: “Before we go out the door, I’d better make a trip to the bathroom.”

You know you’ve reached old age when the bladder is never quite empty.

Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189,