Surviving old age is worth the effort

We have an allotted time on this Earth. We should make sure we do the best we can with that time.

Advancing age brings realizations and challenges. As a married couple that has spent more than four decades together, we share some and deal with the infirmities of each. My body is a roadmap of physical abuse, some self-inflicted but much from a life of physical action that involved far too many actions in dangerous activities in service of a particular profession or service to the nation or just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Some who see the handicapped plates on our motorcycles and cars assume they came from the cow-Harley Davidson encounter in 2012 at the bottom of Bent Mountain, but we had them long before. A helicopter crash in the late 1960s left me with some missing body parts and enough injuries to require recognition for infirmaries. Other injuries from jumping off a moving train in 1973 added more.

Amy had a serious automobile crash before we met, and it left her with back problems that other injuries added to over the years, which gave her the right to carry handicapped plates on her vehicles.

Injuries from the motorcycle crash in 2012 included a severely broken right leg, which surgeons had to rebuild with pins, rods and braces, a traumatic, closed-head brain injury, a ripped-up face that required plastic surgery and other internal injuries. When I left the hospital two-and-a-half months later, the lead surgeon called me “a walking miracle. “

Yet I walk today with of a limp and unsteady gait than I did on Dec. 24, 2012, when I arrived home. A broken left leg two years later didn’t help, neither do the deterioration of bones that come with age.

Short-term memory loss from the brain injury continues. I have trouble with names. Sometimes, I have problem remembering someone I’ve known for most of my life.

That brain is CT-scanned and MRI’d yearly, along with tests to see if the memory issues are increasing. Early on-set dementia is not unusual for those who suffer such bring injuries. Do I have signs of dementia? I will be the last one to know.

For the most part, I can remember — in precise detail — events of events many years ago but cannot recall something that happened yesterday without prompting. That, I’m told, is part suffering what the doctors call “traumatic brain injury” or TBI, which is noted on my medical history.

While photographic a Floyd County High School football scrimmage Friday evening for The Floyd Press, a colleague asked: “How much longer do you plan doing these sort of things? “

“As long as I can,” I answered.

“Why don’t you take it easy?” I get that question a lot.

“I can’t,” I said. “This is what I do. I can’t imagine life without it.”

“And when you can’t do it any longer?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

I don’t know. I’ve been working full-time since age 15, when then-Floyd Press owner Pete Hallman hired me to report and shoot photographs for his paper while I went to school.”

Since then, I have traveled the world, covering news and writing millions of words in stories for newspapers, magazines and on-line publications. A venture into the world of politics for seven of the past 58 years did not stop me from free-lancing as a contract reporter and photojournalist.

It’s what I do. It’s really all I ever wanted to do, and it’s the only job I really feel comfortable doing. I’ve been a journeyman reporter and photographer, won some awards, been featured in some stories and on TV but, I am nothing more than a cog in a news machine that is undergoing many changes and challenges.

Many say newspapers and those who work for them are “relics of the past” and that our profession will die in the near future. Others point to successes like the New York Times and Washington Post and say they are the future. I’ve been privileged to have shot photos and wrote articles for both and many others for more than half a century.

Getting old can be a pain in the ass for those who face the physical or mental limitations of all that time spent “doing what we do,” but when doing it are things you love, they make living and working worthwhile, even with the pain.

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