According to my wife, it started long before I noticed. The creaks, pops, hisses and sighs. At times, it almost sounds like the final moments before a volcano erupts. It has become my own soundtrack that accompanies my every movement and effort throughout the week.
Like when I get dressed in the morning. There is a sort "Hhrmmm" as I work to button my trousers and a "Humpf" as I tighten the belt. Then as I bend over to tie my shoes it sounds like a slow leak coming out of an old tire.
As for my knees, well they are pretty much a child’s tin drum set with everything but the cymbals.
When I get up out of a chair, it sounds like the "Little Engine That Could" puffing up a hill. Speaking of hills, on a walk through the snow to the post office I was chugging along completely unaware of the noises I was making until the child walking in front of me asked her mom, "Is there a sidewalk plow somewhere? I hear it but I can’t see it."
If this were just my own issue, I wouldn’t bring it up. It may be an old guy thing. Sitting in the "Husband’s Chairs" at the mall the other day, I got my proof. Grey-haired duffers like myself were deposited and collected over the time I was installed there. Each of us settled in with his own soundtrack. Gruffs and grunts or humfs and aums. As we sat there waiting, there were snorffles and sneezes, clearing of throats and noses.
It is sort of like R2D2 in the Star Wars film, little sounds just pop out as I travel about my day. Not so much communication as effort: Efforts to breathe, to bend, to get up, sit down, tighten something, or loosen it.
The other day the dog and I were watching TV when my wife, Kelly, walked into the living room. She was greeted by a low moaning sort of a growl. "Which one of you said that?" she asked. Well, I didn’t know.
That’s the truth. I don’t actually hear most of the sounds. They are involuntary and I’m not listening for them. It is too late. One at a time, I’ve gotten used to each one as it was added to the repertoire. If I could actually catch myself at it, I’d stop it.
Ladies don’t seem to make nearly as many noises. They are like submarines; they run silent. Men are more like sonar with a ping or a pop for each thing we encounter or do. If women could decipher the pattern, they’d know what men are thinking.
Thankfully, most people don’t notice all this. Younger folks are all plugged into their smart phones or iPods listening to their favorite play lists. Women are generally pretty good at ignoring men when necessary. Other old guys, heck if they hear anything they probably think it came from them.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident, or in silence, either.
Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families. He works as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage specialist. You can access previous Aging in Place columns and Scott’s blogs at scottfunk.org.