Friday, January 24, 2014

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart

Yes, dear reader, the results are in and they are not particularly good. Apparently we are all aging,  at least according to the experts, many of whom have been studying the phenomenon for so long, and are as a result so old themselves, that a certain amount of skepticism regarding their data is unavoidable.

Nevertheless, the aging process, also referred to as Personal Entropy Affliction (P.E.A. for those of us generally too short of breath to actually say Personal Entropy Affliction) is by and large incontestable.

As we may recall, all systems move inexorably towards a state of maximum disorder. And while this may be fortuitous on cosmic scales, as it enables temporary pockets of life to pop into being, on the human scale there is pretty much a zero upside. The arrow of time, in other words, is the friend of no man.

Noted Gerontologist Mindy Middlemarch focuses her research on what she refers to as the 'two-pronged assault' on the human life form.

Prong one concerns the gradual, though persistent and, to be perfectly honest, irreversible breakdown of the physical body. Things start to hurt, stop working or, in some cases, simply fall off. There is also the unpleasant tendency for things to mysteriously turn into other things, for which teams of specialists are standing by to provide names.

 A normal human head, for example, can over time take on the appearance of a lumpy, discolored root vegetable.

78 year old man:  So, Doc, can you tell me what the hell's going on here?
Highly trained specialist:  The explanation is fairly complex, quite likely beyond what your current intellectual status will allow you to fully grasp.
Man:  Still, I'd like to hear it.
Specialist:  Well, if you insist. You're suffering from an aging-related phenomenon, the precise medical term for which is Potato Head Syndrome.
Man:  Oh dear God!  Can it be treated?
Specialist: Afraid not.
Man: So what's my prognosis?
Specialist: Hard to predict. You may remain a potato, or progress to the engorged turnip stage, or, in the most extreme case, you could end up resembling a rotting pumpkin.
Man: That's terrible!
Specialist:  True, but look on the bright side. You'll be a big, scary hit come Halloween.

Prong two deals with the deterioration of mental faculties, or as Dr. Middlemarch graciously  characterizes it, the metamorphosis of the mature mind. "Old people don't necessarily lose their minds," she says. "Rather they undergo a critical divergence with temporal reality, what I like to call acute memory displacement, frequently accompanied by a slipping out of sync with current cultural paradigms."

Say what?

Take, for example, the curious case of John P., an 86 year old living in the more or less exact epicenter of the memory-impaired Mid-West. John can recall in exquisite, some might say excruciating, detail the first time he kissed a girl, some 70 years earlier - the contours of her face,
her aroma, skin condition (two tiny pimples on her chin), the tensile adaptability of her lips,
the torque of her trembling hips  (T = r x F), the formulation of her tongue (reluctantly inserted into his mouth for precisely 2.7 seconds), the color of her bra (pale blue, glimpsed furtively while her eyes were closed), the sound she emitted during the kiss (a high-pitched, almost squeaky moan), etc. 

What John cannot recall is which of his five dresser drawers contain his underwear.

Even curiouser is John's apparent disdain for the laws of probability. Statistically speaking, on at least one of every five days, based entirely on random choice, John should be able to put on a clean pair of boxers.

According to Agnes, his wife of 66 years, John has now gone 137 days without the benefit of clean undergarments.  "The situation has become fairly desperate," she tells us.  "He's gotten a lot more stubborn in his old age, refusing to look in any more than one drawer per day, and of course he always gets it wrong. I pretty much have to hold my nose whenever we're in the same room."

When asked to comment on Agnes' assertion,  John says,  "I have no idea who this woman is, but I'm pretty sure she's been stealing my underwear."

*Shown a faded photo of his elementary school class, John was able to correctly name 29 of the 32 students.  However, when handed a framed photo of himself and Agnes on a recent vacation to Orlando, Florida, and given three chances to identify it correctly, his answers were ...
  a) a Biblical artifact   b) a one-way mirror   c) a piece of fruit.

I don't know about you, but I'm really starting to like this guy.

Next time:  How millions of elderly Japanese attempt to stave off dementia by driving  automobiles at unbelievably slow speeds, and the extent to which this practice is responsible for the alarming increase in depression, high blood pressure, heart palpitations and sudden brain aneurisms in the younger Japanese driving population.

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