The other day I was being seen by a delightful nurse practitioner, Paige Hammonds. She was reviewing my past history at Emory and pointed to my chart and said “I see here that you….”
Well, what my eyes went to was the first line of the paragraph she was looking at. It started with the words: “Mr. Hatcher is a 72 year-old gentleman who…” It took me right back to my third year of Cornell Medical School in 1961 when I was 24 years old. I could remember starting histories with similar words. When seeing someone over 70 I would think “How old can a person possibly be?” I could not imagine myself ever being as old as 72. I was just 2 years away from having wrestled, played football and running sprints for the Williams College track team. I couldn’t think that far ahead, to the day when I would be 72. I laughed out loud! I told Paige how I would have felt writing down a similar history 48 years ago. She laughed too.
And here I am now: 72 years old and loving every single day of the adventure.
At times I do feel a bit like the Velveteen Rabbit. The edges of my body have become torn and tattered a bit. On my 63rd birthday I had a complete rupture of my Achilles tendon that has recurred slightly several times since. I have survived a small melanoma. Occasionally my left hip hurts a bit. Cataract surgery returned my vision back to Technicolor (important to me as much as I love the bright colors of gardening). And then there was that mitral valve that needed a major repair job a year ago.
Excellent care at Emory and from my orthopedic friend, Dr. Ed Loughlin, as well as incredibly wonderful support from family and friends, has made all of this medical business relatively atraumatic.
But “Mr. Hatcher is a 72 year-old gentleman” really was a moment of truth.” I am 72 and I continue to laugh at my response to it. It was fun and it still is!
Recently I have discussed with a number of people their feelings about their age. They have shared their response to being 60 or 70 or 80 or more. A common response is for them to point out that one can be quite grateful to have reached these ages. And this is exactly where I am too. I consider each day a blessing and if I should live ‘til the day when a medical student’s history begins with the words, “Dr. Hatcher is a 90 year-old man who comes to the hospital complaining of…” I’m sure I will have the same response. WOW, when I was in medical school I couldn’t imagine being 90.
I do know one such soul quite well, my mother in law, Katie Hutchison. She celebrated her 90thbirthday just recently. Each Tuesday, the day I work down at Grady in Atlanta, I spend the night at Katie’s home after we either go out to dinner, she cooks one of her delightful dinners or I bring in something to eat from the OK Café. What an amazing lady. What a blessing she is to me and to those about her. What energy.
So, say a toast to the day ahead of you and as the plaque my daughter sent me for my 50th birthday says: “Today is the day the Lord hath made: rejoice and be glad in it.”