Fading away as I lose the battle of old age

The combined bastards of old-age and depression are winning in the Summer of Hell, aided by climate change, oppressive heat and out-of-control inflation.

August arrives on this already warm Monday with thunderstorms expected around 2 p.m. In other words, more of the same after the same weather for the last two months of the Summer from hell in America and the rest of the world.

Our yard is gone for the summer, felled by a broken lawn mower still waiting for parts, the constant rain and heat, and an operator downed by various ailments, including COVID-19 and multiple exams, scans, and MRIs.

A 90-minute brain MRI last Friday found some possible problems with balance, hearing, and memory issues that have hobbled me for most of the summer. The doctors say that if I had tried to mow or trek the hills of FloydFest, I would probably be in the hospital.

For the first time in my life, I feel old, really old, and — too often — unable to cope.

On Tuesday, I will settle into a hard wooden bench in the Floyd County Courthouse for the weekly sessions of Circuit Court, sitting in a first-row corner that allows me to keep my still-functioning ear angled toward judge Mike Fleenor, Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Branscom, assistant Ryan Hupp and a parade of defendants, defense attorneys and witnesses so I can hear and capture their words and actions for the weekly report in The Floyd Press.

Ironically, I sat in the same courtroom more than 60 years ago to cover court proceedings for the paper when I was still a student at Floyd County High School. As Jerry Garcia wrote in the Grateful Dead’s long-ago hit, Truckin’ “what a long straight trip it’s been.”

In another irony, I photographed the Dead at the Mississippi River Festival in the St. Louis area in the early 1970s when they gave one of their first public performance of that song. The laid-back country-rock tune, along with others on the album. American Beauty, was so mellow that some of the stoned Deadheads were jeering and healing to “bring on the Dead” because they weren’t sure the ones on the stage were the band they thought they were listening to.

I covered that festival for 10 years as a reporter for The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, one of many stops along the way in six decades as a newspaperman. My long, bushy black air and thick beard fit right in with many of the bands at the festival.

Today, my hair is thinner and mostly white. Same for the beard. It needs cutting, badly, and will probably get trimmed back at a barbers’ appointment Tuesday afternoon. Then I hope to slide the shorn head into a full-face motorcycle helmet, don a sturdy leather jacket and ride down to the city’s Harley Owners Group chapter.

Unfortunately, my lingering balance issues from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). will limit the trip to a ride on Amy’s three-wheeled CanAm RSS Spyder instead of my battle-warn 2009 Super Glide that hit 100,000 miles on the odometer on Nov. 8, 2012. The docs say no tw0-wheelers until I get my balance back under control.

Chalk up another win for old age. That autocratic bastard is winning far too many rounds lately.

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