Sunday, October 11, 2009


I don’t know what I expected of aging. My poor sister had physical problems all her life and as she got older it seemed to be a “given” that she was going to have continuing problems. And likewise I assumed that since I more or less breezed through my life without any weird things happening I’d probably …. well, I don’t know what I thought.

It’s easier to tell you what has surprised me, the latest being that I have discovered I don’t swallow as easily as I used to. Good grief, is that a part of aging? Every time I go to my primary care physician, a very young doctor, he always says in relation to any little complaints, ‘Well, Mrs. Title, you aren’t young anymore.” (Does he think I don’t know that?)

Now I might have become a little alarmed about the swallowing if it hadn’t been for my cousin Shirlee, who one day on the phone mentioned that she was having a difficult time swallowing her pills. She said she now has to put them on the back of her tongue, take a drink of water, and then toss her head back in order to get them down her esophagus when she swallows. She said, “I used to see my mother do that little head-flicking thing, and now I have to do it.” I yelled at her that my mother used to do the same thing, and how I always thought it was strange that my mother needed to go through a silly head-flicking routine to get hers down when I could swallow eight pills at a time with only one little sip of water .

Well, you know every time you have a mean thought it will come back to haunt you? And so I confessed to my cousin that I too no longer can swallow pills like I used to. If I don’t get enough water in my mouth, or swallow it the right way, or have the wrong combination of pills in my mouth (some have edges on them, and those are murder to swallow), I will end up with pills either stuck on my uvula, the roof of my mouth, the back of my tongue or in my esophagus. Or worse yet, still sitting on my tongue waiting to go down long after the water has made its unaccompanied descent. And yes, I’ve incorporated the “head-flicking” thing, because it truly does help getting them down.

Each morning I take 3 small pills – one for blood pressure, one for gastric reflux and the last one a baby aspirin. Those make up the first swallow. Then I stand and stare for a while at the remaining two horse-pills, which is what my family always called large pills. One is my morning Calcium pill, which I take faithfully to ward off the widow’s hump. It has edges. The second is my vitamin pill. It too has edges. It takes a big swig of water to get each of them down. They are too big to take at the same time but I can’t cut them in half because that adds even sharper edges to the equation.

What sometimes happens is that I just can’t face swallowing those huge things so early in the morning so I put them back in their bottle. Other times I make myself take them first – get the hard stuff done first, my mom always said. But either way, taking my pills has become a nasty way to start the day. It didn’t used to be so, but I didn’t use to be 74, either.

So now in addition to my taste problem, my arthritic vocal cords, my glaucoma (for which I put drops in my eyes each morning) and my receding hairline (yes, I’m one of those women whose genes calls for hair loss), now I have to add swallowing to the litany of gripes. I didn’t expect all this of aging, but I am, mind you, very grateful that my overall health is still fair to middlin’. I just didn’t expect all these stupid little nagging things to be a part of growing old.

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