Stop the Whining

I had to clean my eavestrough the other day in readiness for winter, that tiresome relative we are obligated to invite over, a refreshing visiter but who always stays too long. I was fairly certain the eavestroughs were full to the brim, with leaves and pinecones and pine needles. My assumption was accurate.
I have two ladders, both aluminum, but one significantly heavier than the other and the heavy ladder is my preference, giving me a sense of security, false or otherwise, the sense the ladder won’t topple over without serious provocation. Every time I clean my rain gutters, I have an attack of memory loss. I forget that I am not The Hulk and carrying my ladder around my house and outbuildings in the upright and locked position will leave me in a somewhat paralyzed condition a few hours after the job is done.
I was born without a self-preservation gene. I’m not sure if it is due to a chromosome deficiency but there is no little voice in my head telling me to pace myself, reminding me I am now collecting Old Age Security, and do I really need to do the job in record time. It was a sunny day, the leaves were falling, the air was warm – what could possibly go wrong. I scrambled up and down the ladder like a monkey on drugs and was feeling glad to get this job off my list before the snow flies. I felt a slight twinge in my back but was basking in the glory of the day. Fast forward 53 minutes and I couldn’t get out of my chair or tie my shoes. Dang it, I said, along with a few other words that really shouldn’t see print.
We are told that aging is best done with grace and a feeling of accomplishment. We all have loved ones who never had the privilege of growing old, so I feel shame at complaining. But … I’m not really fond of this growing old stuff. I have been someone who doesn’t like to be told I can’t do something because I lack the skill or the strength. If my dad ever wanted me to do a job, he would start out his request with “you might not be able to do this,” and I was hooked. I think the descriptor for this behaviour is called stubborn, and I have that quality in spades. But stubborn isn’t seeing me through, doesn’t have my back, so to speak, the way it used to. I blame it on aging.
While I was in Dawson City, Yukon in 2017, I walked every day until the snow was too deep to do so. I walked along a trail across the street from Berton House, where I stayed during my four months of writer-in-residence tenancy. I carried my cell phone blasting out classical music in the hopes of chasing off any wildlife that might be interested in having me for lunch, and then I finished my walk following the trail atop the dike along the Yukon River. One day, an elderly woman was walking ahead of me with her very old dog. The two of them moved slowly. I hung back so as not to make her feel she had to hurry and not to remind her that she could be overtaken with ease. I followed her until she turned into her own yard. I adjusted to my normal pace and finished my walk home. I felt somewhat noble for my gesture of patience. Noble, that is, until I passed her house the next day and saw what she was up to. As I came along, I saw she had in her hand a bright shiny axe, the handle still very yellow, the blade catching the sunlight in a spectacular manner. As I approached, she heaved that axe over her head and it came sharply down on a piece of wood, splitting the wood cleanly and easily. I think I stopped, my mouth dropping open. This woman who walked bent, who looked worn out and tired, a bit feeble, was splitting wood with the skill and ease of a lumberjack. I was humbled. I think of her every time I have the urge to complain about getting older. I call on her now, to remind me to keep at it and stop the whining.
wendistewart@live.ca