Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy

I don’t quite know why, but suddenly, I’ve become obsessed with the issue of Life Expectancy. Every day, I watch or read a news report about someone younger than me (I’m seventy-four) dying of what seems to be natural causes. They appeared healthy a second ago, and now they’re gone. Or they’re a little older than me, and now they’re gone, and I’m thinking, is that the age I will zero out on? I’m moderately healthy except for obesity, high blood pressure, prostate issues, and inability to sleep six hours (forget about eight). Of course, there’s the subject of a lifetime burden of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll I’m convinced is still in my physical system (Do I get extra points because I quit nearly twelve years ago?). Aside from all those worries, I’m sure I’ll be fine. That’s because I’ve been consulting life expectancy calculators lately.

In a recent post, I quoted the Social Security Administration’s calculator when I claimed that I have an additional “12.5 years in life expectancy subject to a “wide number of factors such as current health, lifestyle, and family history that could increase or decrease life expectancy.” That means, at eighty-six-point-six months, I will be sucked into the black hole. Wait, I forgot the second part about “current health, lifestyle” qualifier. Damn, I’m doomed.

Birth Days
We were all Young Once

Maybe not. As part of an assignment for my Gerontology class, I need to write a research paper about life expectancy. I took the test yesterday, and wow, I’m going to live to be ninety-nine years old and have an opportunity to add another one-point-six years onto that prediction. It was a little confusing, however. I could swear it also told me I would die at seventy-five, which is coming this December 8. Okay, that’s kind of not cool. I’m unsure what that all means, but that didn’t help build my confidence about living to a ripe old age. I have plans, and this interferes with them. Hell, I’m supposed to graduate next Spring. I can’t die before then.

Not satisfied with those calculators, I decided to check with another one and then average all three. So I checked with the life expectancy calculator sponsored by The U.S. Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project (USALEEP). According to their website, “USALEEP is a partnership of the National Center for Health Statistics, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS).” Their life expectancy estimates are calculated based on where a person lives. Zip Code, to be exact.

Birth Days
My Television Life

I punched in my address and zip code and got a message that I don’t live in a census tract they track (too suburban, I guess). The Life Expectancy Project quotes the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “life expectancy at birth in the United States is 76.4 years—73.5 years for men (a decrease of 0.7 years from 74.2 in 2020 (Well, at least I beat that.) and 79.3 years for women (a decrease of 0.6 years from 79.9 in 2020).” What are the leading causes of death? Heart disease followed by cancer and COVID-19. 

The calculator coughed out 80.80 years for all of California (I can live with that). Los Angeles County, where I live, is a whopping 82.29 years (Now we’re talking, but it’s still a little limiting for the long-term goals on my bucket list. All these numbers are colored by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (You do remember the recent rampage by Death?). If you read the qualifiers on the website, you’ll find the reality check about where we are as a nation.

For the first time in our history, the United States is raising a generation of children who may live sicker and shorter lives than their parents. In 2020 and again in 2021, we witnessed the steepest plunge in life expectancy since World War II, primarily fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Birth Days
The Older You Get

Knock on wood, but I’ve been able to avoid the plague so far. But, the small print speaks about reversing the trend will, as they say, “…depend on healthy choices by each of us. But not everyone in America has the same opportunities to be healthy.” But how much of those healthy choices can we control? According to the project, mitigating factors impact who lives longer and who doesn’t. They write that “…the drivers of inequitable social, economic, built, and physical conditions within and across place and race can dramatically reduce opportunities for better health and well-being.” I guess there’s nothing simple about trying to live longer.

Now, I live in what might be described as a middle to an upper-middle-income neighborhood on the east side of Long Beach. However, I live less than a mile from two freeways that carry thousands of cars every hour spewing their pleasant exhaust fumes all over our beautiful Southern California skies. There are also a couple of power plants nearby, but I have no idea what they’re spewing, so I don’t count them, although I’m sure my lungs do (just saying).

Generations- Grandpa with Anabella- Fort Worth (Photo by Antonio Nelson Ruiz)

As I write this essay, I realize that none of this matters in my daily life. I could get mugged and killed at any moment, slip and fall on my front steps, get t-boned on the 405 freeway, and get squashed into the concrete divider and be compacted into a small square. Worse (it could get worse?), I could get COVID-19 and get carried into an ICU and, with my health issues, never make it out alive. It could happen.

By the way, if my math is correct, when I average out all the predictions, I will live until the nice ripe age of 83.28 (Something not to aspire to). The reality is, and I know it is, that how long you live depends on many factors; some you can control, and others you can’t. So instead of obsessing about an arbitrary number, I should focus on factors I can influence, like diet, exercise, mental health, and the one aspect that has influenced so much of my life: determination. The determination to outrun death and its manifestations of sickness and incapacitation. So far, so good.

I Can’t Think of Anything to Write About

“To retire is to begin to die.”

Pablo Casals
1966 James Monroe High School Yearbook Photo

Weird. I usually have a million things on my mind to write about. I mean, I have a list. I’ve wanted to write about police brutality, what I should call myself (Hispanic, Dominican-Puerto Rican, Latino, Latinx), how white liberals are going to get us killed, the GOP delusion, how much reading I must do this semester for school; I mean I have a very long list. Yet, I can’t seem to put two sentences together this week. Nothing is coming out of my mind into my fingers onto the keyboard.

Paris, France (Photo by Antonio Ruiz)

I’m just so busy with my three classes this semester. Seriously, I didn’t even think about how much reading and writing I would be doing as part of my classes and assignments. Take, for instance, Gerontology 401 (the study of aging). I just finished our third week, and I’m already overwhelmed with so much reading and writing, but I must admit, it’s interesting as hell. Theories of Aging, the biology of aging, the genetics of aging, and the three categories of aging (Young-old, Middle-Old, and Old-old) are right up there with lessons on physiology. I feel like I’ve walked into a medical school classroom. I learned some of this material in Anthropology at Long Beach City College, so it’s not entirely foreign to me. I’m glad I decided to take the class. When you’re 74, you discover you need all the knowledge and tools you can gather to deal with your aging.

One of our assignments this week was to write a 500–750-word essay about ourselves in the context of why we are taking this class. I wrote:

According to the Social Security Administration, I have an additional 12.5 years in life expectancy subject to a “wide number of factors such as current health, lifestyle, and family history that could increase or decrease life expectancy” (Unites States Government). I’m hopeful that my family genes will play a more significant role than my past health issues in determining my life expectancy. I have family members on both sides who have lived into their nineties and seen their centennial birthdays.

Discussion Post for GERN401
Paris, France (Photo by Antonio Ruiz)

Until I wrote those sentences, I hadn’t thought much about aging. Honestly, I feel young except for the slow-moving getting up from a chair or those aches in places I never thought I had and the getting up in the middle of the night two or three times for the lonely journey to the bathroom (it’s a man thing). But a look in the mirror or the spider-like skin growing on my hands, along with those medical appointments to check my plumbing, all are severe indicators of aging. Yeah, I’m glad I’m taking this class.

My U.S. Ethnic Writers class, English 375, is beginning to heat up. In the last two weeks, we’ve watched two documentaries, Agents of Change (2016), directed by Abby Ginzberg and Frank Dawson, and Race: The Power of an Illusion, both critical films about race, whiteness, and culture in this here America. Particularly disturbing were the familiar battles over ethnic study programs in the late sixties and early seventies spotlighted in Agents of Change. Here we are in 2023, still fighting the same struggles with basically the same group of conservative white Christians, primarily men (accompanied now by more women), telling us People of Color who we should be and what we should learn about ourselves. Yeah, I have two words for you, and it isn’t a merry christmas. Thank goodness, I’m not tired yet.

Paris, France (Photo by Antonio Ruiz)

Journalism 415 Diversity in the Media has turned out to be a surprise. This class isn’t what I first thought it was, and I’m cool. Here’s an excerpt from the syllabus:

This course is designed to give students a theoretical, as well as practical, experience with issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality as they manifest in mediated artifacts of popular culture. The course is taught from a cultural studies perspective where students will gain skills in critical analysis and media literacy. Concepts of power, privilege, justice, representations, hegemony, consumption, and resistance will be woven throughout course readings, films, assignments, and discussions.

Excerpted from syllabus JOUR 415: Diversity in the Media

Now that’s a mouthful. In practical terms, this past week, I spent much time listening to various podcasts like Scene on Radio’s “Seeing White: Turning the Lens,” and Code Switch’s “Can We Talk About Whiteness,”along with watching a documentary called White Like Me. Catch the theme? That makes two classes in the same week address the issue of race. The right wing in Texas and Florida must be pissing in their pants. Look, seriously, I know these are complex subjects to discuss that make people uncomfortable, but I can tell you from experience that these are not new subjects. American history is full of these subjects and will be for the foreseeable future until, if ever, we accept and deal with the foundational narrative of America. It hurts and will continue to be a sore on the soul of this nation, so pull up your britches and grow up.

Paris, France (Photo by Antonio Ruiz)

This Spring 2023 semester marks fourteen semesters (hey, you don’t gulp fine wine, you slowly sip it) of college (Long Beach City College and California State University, Long Beach) with only two more until the Spring of 2024 when at the ripe middle-old age of seventy-five, I will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing. The journey has been both exciting because I’ve met so many inspiring students, teachers, and staff and because of the universe of knowledge and wisdom that has been opened for me, including Math (Stats) which I am not a big fan of, but which proved to be my biggest challenge over the past seven years. I got my only B in all my years in college in that class, surprising me (no, not that I got a B, but that I even passed the course).

I have often told myself that retirement is outdated in the digital age. There are too many opportunities to enrich your mind, body, and soul at any age, especially now. If I can walk, talk, and think, I intend to keep pushing my boundaries of living by learning and grabbing up as many degrees as I can fit on my wall. After that B.A., a Master/MFA is next. Hell, why stop now? I don’t play golf.

In Sickness and In Health

Inspired by “Old Faithful Testing the limits of love” By David Sedaris

Old marriage
Image by 👀 Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay

The last five years have been a test of the marriage vow we took in 1987; you know, the one about loving each other forever, in sickness and health. I sure did test my partner with those words. My body called for not one but two artificial knees during that time. The left knee in 2018 and the right in 2021, smack damn in the middle of the pandemic. Trust me when I say you never want to do even one if you don’t need it. And I mean last resort.

I’ve had other medical issues over the years of our marriage (if you don’t count the drugs and alcohol). There was the Hepatitis C scare. I’m cured, but the news came five months after I stopped drinking and taking drugs. The doctor told us that if I had continued, it would have been catastrophic for me, like throwing alcohol on fire. I missed that bullet.

My lower back pains, sciatica shooting down my right leg, high blood pressure, some crazy chronic cough that we think is acid reflux, and my general yo-yo weight fight. Other than those issues, I’m probably a diabetic, anxiously waiting for whatever else comes with high blood pressure. And she still stays with me. I mean, she’s had some issues over the years but compared to me, she is strictly an amateur. No, I got her beat.

Old marriage
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

We both have worked from home for the last nearly three years of the pandemic. School classes have begun to open up, so I attend more in person each semester. But I still stay home for homework and some Zoom meetings as much as possible. My partner does almost all of her sessions on Zoom. As a result, no matter how much space we give each other in our house (thank goodness for the size of the house), we still need to interact more often than when we were both working full-time at our respective jobs in Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from living and working at home during the pandemic: give each other space. Otherwise, you are inviting trouble. Of course, that was hard to do when you needed help during one of my medical issues, like when I was not that agile with a busted knee. The trip to the bathroom was like an adventure in mountain climbing, as in climbing out of bed, holding on to the metal bars of the walker, lowering oneself, and raising myself on and off the toilet. The shower had its own set of challenges. Considering how dependent I was in those first few weeks of my knee surgeries, I got to give my partner credit for hanging in as long as she did. Let’s say she’s a little queasy about looking at blood and scars and those yellow pus marks on top of bandages.

I think about other couples I’ve known over the years who have had their marriage tested by far more significant medical challenges than my lousy knees etc. Cancer, terrible life-threatening accidents, dementia- I feel stupid talking about my issues. However, there is no escaping the fact that a marriage can be tested by other conditions that we seldom want to discuss. For example, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and other mental health crises. All these and more spur the couple to confront the limits of what they are willing to endure and what they are eager to do to resolve them so their marriage remains intact.

Old marriage
Photo by Sumire Gant

It’s easy to say, well, you made a vow and that you should live by that code. Yeah, that’s easier said than done. I’ve learned over three marriages and two live-in relationships that all the tests of the relationship cannot be passed if both parties aren’t willing to endure it and pass through it together. If the foundation of love or whatever you want to call it isn’t there, then forget it. I mean, sometimes, the tests call out the best in people, and couples who may have been on the edge of disarray end up discovering something deep down inside of themselves and then use it to move through the crisis together, and they all live happily ever after or at least until the next crisis.

I am lucky that my partner has a deep reservoir of humanity in her and that I’ve discovered that I have one that I didn’t know existed. The past five years, especially the last three, challenged us both to take our vows seriously and to live each day contemplating what we meant when we said those words, “…until death do us part.” So far, we’ve come out on this end together and still rocking that love thing.


Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

This is a story about me—my obese self. The struggle with food and my weight goes back decades. I’ve written about this subject before, and I’m here again to tell you that this concerns me now more than ever. I’ve beaten back drugs, alcohol, and even my famous temper (Well, still working on that one). However, my weight? Damn, it’s an albatross around my waist and my internal organs. This is no joke, and I know it intellectually and feel it physically and emotionally, but this is hard to lose, especially at my age.

“Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It’s a medical problem that increases the risk of other diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers.”

Mayo Clinic

Since I last wrote about my state of health last November, I’ve been bouncing around in the 210-230 pound range, and trust me, for someone my size and age, this is dangerous territory.

Image by Shane Cromer from Pixabay

No lie, I love to eat. I like to think of myself as a “Foodie” who loves tasting the world’s cuisines. I’m game for almost anything from any culture. And that would be okay in some planned moderation. The problem is that the word “moderation” doesn’t seem to grip my mind when I start diving into a pool of arroz con pollo or Texas BBQ or ramen or mole and the occasional pork something (no beef, please). Then, add the sweet stuff, the bread, the peanut butter, the bread (Did I already mention the bread?), add up the calories, and it all piles up inside of me like mounds of fat and whatever else goes along with it into your arteries and your organs.

Science of Obesity – Adipose Tissue: The Bodies Fat Reservoir

Trust for America’s Health Trust (TFAH) is “a non-partisan public health policy, research, and advocacy organization,” according to its website. The nonprofit, funded by foundations like The California Endowment and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “envisions a nation that values the health and well-being of all.” I’m all for that. Shocker, according to TFAH, the obesity rate for adults in this country “passed the 40 percent mark for the first time in 2019, standing at 42.4 percent.” That rate for adults has gone up by 26 percent since 2008. Their annual report shows that poverty and discrimination have pushed the obesity rate up for particular “racial and ethnic populations.”

For a male seventy-three years old, a former smoker (cigarettes and mary jane), an ex-heavy drinker (What’s a better word than heavy?), and an ex-drug user, I sit here wondering what impact that amount of abuse does on my body along with my current weight load. I know I’m pre-diabetic, suffer from occasional sciatica bouts, and always feel tired. Let’s not even dive into a discussion about whether I have a case of mild asthma and acid reflux that causes me to suffer an occasional chronic cough. OMG, I’m falling apart!

Mads Tang-Christensen: The brain science of obesity | TED

Back to food. I know I love food, but sometimes I think I love the mechanics of eating more. How do you explain grabbing stuff I know is terrible for me and shoving it into my mouth? Breakfast sandwiches from MacDonald’s, BBQ pork ribs, fried chicken, donuts, pizza with extra Mozzarella, Ricotta, Gouda, and Goat Cheese. Really? And don’t get me started on ice cream. Ice Cream? DQ or Baskin Robbins. Doesn’t matter. Not a small-sized cup. But a waffle cone with two scoops of the most fat-creating flavors they got. At least I’m not asking them for chocolate syrup on it. Not yet.

Terry Black’s Barbecue- Austin (Photo by Antonio Nelson Ruiz

Food, or at least certain foods, is like a drug. Remember, I’m an ex-junkie, and we’re never satisfied with just one shot of dope. No, even while we are still nodding over, we’re trying to figure out when we will get our next shot. Same with food. Not satisfied with two eggs and two turkey breakfast sausages, my mind tells me, “Hey, one more egg and turkey sausage ain’t going to hurt.” Except that I’m usually moving a short time later to feast on lunch with double what I ate at breakfast and then dinner with double I ate for lunch interspersed with that snack at ten a.m. and 3 p.m. and some dessert at 8 p.m., maybe some popcorn, followed by getting ready for bed an hour later. Imagine all that fat and cholesterol sitting in my stomach overnight, ripening into gas, and whatever else happens down there that creates the worst stomach hangover when you finally crawl out of bed in the morning and make it to the bathroom where you wish for a moment that you never see food again and that death could not come quick enough to relieve the pain you feel.

Now, that’s a problem.

I get the whole image and body shaming debate; however, this is a profoundly personal fear that has nothing to do with looking like I’m twenty-five or even fifty. As I said in my previous post:

“How many friends with similar challenges have I seen drop dead or end up in the hospital? Honestly, this time fear has slipped into the picture. I have too many things that I want to do before I pass on. Writing these words scares me because I know this is real. What I do next is up to me, and for my own health, I better get it right.”

Antonio Ruiz
A not recent photo by Sumire Gant ( I don’t use a cane anymore)

I hope I’m listening to myself and reading these words carefully because I know that I’m not going to walk down the runway at my graduation at California State University, Long Beach, in two years needing assistance due to my weight while my body is failing me.

I am just saying.

My Titanium Knees

The following story was an assignment for my Creative Nonfiction class at CSULB. It was inspired by “Old Faithful,” written by David Sedaris.

Knees-the horizontal view

Last June, I had the second of two total knee replacements. This time, the pain seemed to be more intense than the first one. So, I called the Orthopedic surgeon’s office about the pain. The conversation went something like this. Me: My knee pain seems worse than my first surgery this time. Them (In a caring voice): We would like to remind you that we just spent three hours ripping your leg apart, yanking your bad knee out, shoving a new titanium knee in there, and then putting your leg back together again. Me: Yikes.

Did I mention that I was also suffering from Sciatica on my right side before and after the surgery of my right knee?

Stiff is an excellent way to describe my knees before surgery (Image by Wolfgang Claussen from Pixabay)

I have now had two total knee replacements in the past three and a half years. It’s amazing what modern science can do. They can slice and dice you and create a whole new person. Not to be ungrateful, but the only minor problems that kept cropping up were the sometimes severe pain episodes and that my mobility was limited for the first month or so.

Painkillers are not my friend. As a former addict, I have a particular aversion to opioids. Even when I was an addict, I hated pills. They gave me the worst hangovers. After my first knee replacement, they had to give me morphine in the hospital because the pain was so bad. Now, I had to decide how strong a painkiller I was willing to tolerate. Oxycodone was always first on everybody’s list.

How my head sometimes felt before Oxycodone

Yes, I’m a wuss. I don’t like pain. With both surgeries, they tried different variations of other lower dosage pain killers when I complained about the hangovers. However, the truth was that the Oxycodone was better than the rest, relatively speaking.

Here’s a tip that one of my doctors told me. Painkillers do not cure the pain. The pain is caused by your body’s response to the gross violation done to your knees during the replacement (see the first paragraph). What painkillers do, if they’re working correctly, is to get your mind to think, “Fuck the pain. I don’t care one bit about it.” I honestly didn’t know how to react to that news. It sure didn’t sound scientific to me.

Knees- the vertical view

Thank goodness, I am married to the most wonderful person in the world. I’m lucky to have someone to care for me after my operations. To come to visit me after my surgeries, to comfort me, to bring me changes of clothes and toiletries, and to drive me home. Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone like that to care for them.

Yeah, lucky me. Up to a point. One small, okay significant, side effect of a knee replacement is that your mobility is severely limited for more than a few months. There’s no jumping out of bed, no racing up and down stairs; even getting into a car and driving away can become a project. But it’s the other little everyday tasks that take some planning. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, showers, getting dressed and undressed. That’s where the love of your life comes in.

First Post Op drive

Look, I love my partner of more than thirty-seven years. And I know at our marriage ceremony thirty-five years ago, we pledged something about loving each other in sickness and in health. However, I’ve learned that there are exceptions. The bathroom is one example. I’ll leave it there. Getting in and out of the shower is better done alone (the shower stall is not that large). The reality is that unless my wife develops herculean muscles, there is no way she will be able to lift me in and out of most places or be my temporary chauffeur for the first three to four weeks. I mean, she has things to do.

If this sounds like she does nothing for me, I don’t mean this to sound that way. Trust me, I would never have been able to get through both surgeries without her help in many practical ways. I just mean that I had to learn to adjust and adapt to some things. Getting out of bed. Bathroom etiquette. Putting on my socks and shoes. Being realistic about how fast and far I move. After my second surgery, I braved up to drive two weeks afterward. I had to go to physical therapy, and yes, I took a painkiller before I left.

At least I looked cool with my shirt and cane

I don’t know if it’s just that I’m a man, but I’m pretty sure we can be the biggest babies in the world. I’m not saying I cried (all the time) when the pain decided to strike or when I couldn’t put one leg pants on during my dressing projects. Frustration is probably a good word to describe my feelings at the time. I’m glad my partner was there to whisper sweet things in my ear like, “What are you? A big baby or a man?” Thanks, sweetie pie, for all you did and do for me. I don’t know how I would have gotten through those knee replacements without you.

Fat Is More Than a State of Mind

I was inspired by “My body is a cage of my own making” by Roxane Gay. This essay is about me and no one else.

Not me: Image by Bruno :Germany from Pixabay

My body has been called butterball, fatso, fatty, roly-poly, overweight. I call myself carrying excess weight (easier to swallow). The names don’t quite describe how I often feel. Fat. I feel it in my bulging stomach, the rolling love handles, the man boobs, the loose skin hanging under my chin and upper arms. defines the word fat as it applies to a person as “Obesity; corpulence: health risks associated with fat. Unnecessary excess. Having much or too much fat or flesh; plump or obese.” This isn’t about body image or body shaming. This is about my health and my crazy fantasy of living at least thirty more years.  

The fatness, I mean, excess weight, began when I was eleven or twelve years old. Puberty, I’m sure, had something to do with it. I did lose more weight in the later teen years because of my heroin addiction (I’m not pushing that as a weight-loss option). My body cut me a break afterward, and I was average into my mid-twenties. I’m not talking slim and trim. You just didn’t need a thesaurus filled with substitutes for the word fat to describe me.

Weight through the Years

I never seemed to worry about weight through my twenties and mid-thirties. I bought a bigger size if I had problems putting on my pants or fitting into my shirts. Then, I would just go back to my regular routines. For several years afterward, during my early thirties, the fast life associated with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll helped me maintain a weight level that would make me feel comfortable. Unfortunately, the yo-yo weight was due to the ingestion of copious amounts of food, drugs, and alcohol. I tried a little exercise in between, but the fast life was too fast, and I had no time. Anyway, living a healthy life was the least of my problems. I am not advocating this sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll lifestyle to solve your obesity. Hell, I was lucky to get out of it alive.

Yo-yo weight has been plaguing me for the past more than forty years. It began with bartending in a German restaurant. Too much beer, Bratwurst, Weiner Schnitzel, and shots of Jägermeister. After I left the restaurant and moved into the world of Hollywood, I stabilized. For a while. Then, I would go up. Feel miserable about me. Try something different. Lose weight. Gain weight. Feel bad about me. Try something different. And the roller coaster ride would start all over again.

Weight through the years

There were doctor-prescribed pills. Therapy. Weight loss programs. The gym. Eating less. Eating healthier. Running half and full marathons. Drinking less. Fewer drugs. My life has been a lesson in fooling myself into thinking that your problem is just about your weight. It’s your state of mind, they say. If I would just pump up my mind, my body would follow. But, my weight problem, like life, is a little more complicated.

My problem is I loved all the things that made me fat (I’m sorry, overweight. roly-poly, bubba cheeks). I still craved food, drugs, alcohol, and the escape from reality that all three provided. Then, I convinced myself that all I had to do was do away with two of these, and my life would turn around. Well, I got rid of drugs and alcohol. I’ve been sober for nearly eleven years now. However, there is still food. A lot of food. And I just can’t damn stop.

Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay

The crisis now is that all that fat on and in my body is causing me health issues. Over the past ten years, I’ve become a textbook case in everything that could go wrong with one person’s health. There was Hepatitis C (cured). The two knee replacements, one for each leg. I’m pre-diabetic and suffer from bouts with Sciatica. There are breathing issues, and the doctor says my persistent cough is caused by Acid Reflux. I’m not saying all these issues are directly caused by my fat problem, but they sure don’t help.

I have plans. I need to add at least thirty more years to my life. I’ve wasted a lot of time, and I’m playing catch-up. Seventy-three and a college student two years away from my BA. Fantasies about a Master of Art and a Doctorate are rolling around in my head. Why not? I don’t have a full-time job, and I don’t play golf. So my only other options are dying from a lifetime of bad habits or getting my act together and prolonging my life. So I’m back to weight loss programs and regular visits to the gym and walks through the neighborhood. Oh yeah, learning to put less lousy food into my body.

In leaner years

There are real consequences to abusing your body. I know in the end, how many more years I live will be determined by more than how much food I eat. My genes, the environment, and roll of the dice will have a say. In the meantime, being overweight with fat won’t help. I guess I need to also work harder to find a different state of mind.

For My Own Health

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Forget COVID mutations; I’ve got other things to worry about. Over the past three years, I’ve had two knee replacements, degeneration of the lumbosacral intervertebral disc, sciatica, some strange extended bronchial infection that requires a CT-Scan and a visit to a pulmonologist, and the words from more than one doctor that I better do something about my weight. Or else.

Now, before I go on with my self-pity rant, let me be clear. I don’t believe for a moment that COVID and its mutations are anything but serious. Unlike the antis’ and the deniers, I believe that we are still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported 5,183,003 cumulative deaths worldwide. 611,528 new cases worldwide have been reported in a twenty-four-hour period. Since all this started in 2020, there have been a total of 259,502,031 cases worldwide. The breakdown in the United States does not bring me comfort. Just yesterday, there had been a reported 100,455 new cases. The U.S. statistics are mindboggling: 47,802,459 cumulative cases since this all began with an accompanying 771,529 cumulative deaths. And there will be plenty more as the deniers and politicians who grovel before them will guarantee.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

So talking about my medical issues seems so petty. Except they are both real and annoying the hell out of me. This damn cough, for example. Now, I’ve had this before. You think it’s just a plain cough until you find yourself wheezing and having difficulty breathing (No, I don’t have COVID or long COVID). In the past, it would either turn into bronchitis or graduate to pneumonia or just plain go away on its own. Albuterol Sulfate HFA Inhalation Aerosol and I have become the best of buds. This time around, it’s been joined by a new friend Wixela (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation powder, USP). If you think the name is too long or hard to pronounce, you should read the instructions and the side effects. I’ve recently taken a CT-SCAN. The results will be ready on Friday. I’m supposed to head to a pulmonologist, but the earliest appointment available is in February. Seems my healthcare provider has only one lung doctor in all of region four which includes Long Beach. So, I asked myself how many people we talking about in region four. I’m sure I’m not the only one. WTH!! I’ve put in for another referral, but I’m not optimistic that anything is going to happen anytime soon. I’ve been here before, and the holidays seem to see their share of slowdowns and shutdowns. Add the Pandemic on top of that, and you know I’m in trouble.

The lower back is acting up again. Out of nowhere, I suddenly found myself enduring excruciating pain when I would try to stand up straight after extended sitting. It takes a while to straighten up, and walking has me stooping over and moving ever so slightly to make sure my lower spine doesn’t get a hernia. Now, this is not new, as I said, but I really didn’t need this right now. I just recently received an epidural which is supposed to relieve the back and sciatic pain. Those shots are supposed to last three to six months. It hasn’t been more than a month. What the hell happened?

I’m going to be seventy-three years old next week. I’m starting to really feel that old (whatever old feelings you get at seventy-three). My doctors and my partner-wife wag their fingers at me with warnings about all this stuff happening to me is either caused by or made worse by my weight. Under any measure, I am obese. There I said it. It gives me no pleasure admitting it. This damn obesity is going to kill me unless I do something about it for the hundredth time.

Image by photosforyou from Pixabay

I love to eat. That’s my addiction. I wish I could say that it was always healthy food, but I would be lying. My struggles with food and weight go back decades. I was a chubby kid when I was thirteen years old. When I was in my fifties, I put on some serious weight that I took the desperate measure of a weight loss program and exercise and personal sacrifice to lose one hundred and ten pounds. And when I did, I jumped into running 5ks, 10ks, half and full marathons. A blown-out knee put an end to all that. Everything after that was a blur until I decided to give up drinking and drugs. Then, I thought I could get back to some healthy weight and return to exercise and moderate eating. Well, that was fine for a while. Then, the pandemic and all the subsequent issues came along, and all hell broke loose. And here I am.

I couldn’t move well because of the knee replacements, lower back issues, and sciatica, so there was no exercise. The Pandemic was the perfect excuse to use for stuffing my face and stomach in between zoom encounters and not moving for any reason. The result was not only an increase of 30 or more pounds (Not sound like much? Well, I was already 40-50 pounds overweight when this whole B.S. started). I am the perfect example of how being heavy impacts your health. From being pre-diabetic to increasing pressure on my knees and lower back, I have found that weight can make you feel miserable. I don’t need any more reminders than what my body is already telling me.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

So now what? I’ve been down this road before. I’ve restarted walking and the gym routine, and I’m back on WeightWatchers. Fine, I tell myself, but none of this means anything unless I take the same passion and commitment I applied to be sober and apply it here. Do I even have a choice at this age? How many friends with similar challenges have I seen drop dead or end up in the hospital? Honestly, this time fear has slipped into the picture. I have too many things that I want to do before I pass on. Writing these words scares me because I know this is real. What I do next is up to me, and for my own health, I better get it right.

Trust Me, COVID Ain’t Over No Matter What Your Facebook Friends Say

I checked the website this morning. Here we are 18-19 months in this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic; you know, the one that people increasingly think is over or is not as bad as the experts say or worse, never happened. Yeah, it isn’t over. According to the CDC, “the current 7-day moving average of daily new cases (146,182) increased 6.1% compared with the previous 7-day moving average (137,783).” The government agency reports that there are now a total of 41,593,179 COVID-19 cases reported as of September 15, 2021. THE CDC has reported an astonishing 666,440 total deaths to date. That number doesn’t seem to get a rise in anyone these days unless you are, like me, someone who knew a fellow human being is part of this statistic.

What has gotten people a little more anxious is this reality: hospitalization rates are increasing, including rates in children ages 11 years and younger, according to the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network. They report that “the weekly rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations for these children are the highest they have ever been.”  The rate for children four years and younger was 2.4 per 100,000 (for the week ending August 28, 2021). The rate for children ages 5–11 is 0.9 per 100,000 (for weeks ending August 9 and August 21, 2021). I know, These age groups are currently not eligible for any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

From FaceTime Margaret Ruiz

These numbers don’t bother some people, but they sure do bother me as a parent and a grandparent. My granddaughter, Anabella Ruiz, four years old, was diagnosed with COVID a week ago. She and her parents, my son Antonio and daughter-in-law Crystal, were quarantined. Anabella developed a bad cold and a low-grade fever. Today, as of this writing, she seems well on her way to a full recovery. We’re all glad to hear it.

Image by Janet Reddick from Pixabay 

But that’s not the point. Anabella shouldn’t have gotten it in the first place. According to my son, she most probably contracted it at her preschool—the one in Texas. You know the state where the Governor is prepared to kill everyone to satisfy the crazies in the GOP base (too harsh?). The Texas Tribune is tracking the virus in the state, and one of their recent headlines said it all, “About a month into this school year, the number of reported coronavirus cases among students is approaching the total from the entire 2020-21 school year.” They add that the state data on school cases is “incomplete and likely an undercount.” Hell, with no mask mandates required and people acting like it doesn’t exist, what would you expect.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had to contend with denial, misinformation, threats, and the disintegration of public health safeguards. Worse is the fraying of whatever mutual contract we had for neighbors looking out for neighbors, for Americans to practice what they preach:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare” United States Constitution

Image by Marcos Cola from Pixabay 

This pandemic has been a test of justice; those with the least resources and protection were easy targets for the virus. The last administration and the administrations of many Governors, County, and local officials have created an atmosphere where the local contingent of crazies constantly threatens domestic tranquility. People attack retail workers and show up at Board of Education meetings to protest and disrupt with outlandish conspiracy theories and selfish demands. We may not be at war with planes and tanks and infantry but trust me when I say this is a war for the common defense of our neighbors, our families, especially those who are most at risk. A significant number of Americans have turned their backs on that responsibility. Instead, they have said, “You’re on your own. We owe you nothing.” They have abandoned us all as we work to ensure the general welfare of the United States of America.

It is all in service to a delusion. It is to a sphere of aluminum foil through which they receive their instructions. Those instructions come from each other and the puppeteers who pull strings. The actions are all at the expense of the common purpose. That is to fight against a virus that threatens our lives, economy, and future. They would instead immerse themselves in shouting matches, and desperate sloganeering, and quest for power over the rest of us. But, what will they reap? A dead country, dead people, dead future. And for what?

Those that know better and encourage it are complicit. I mean, those people do know better, but they continue to enable it and lead it. They sit in their offices, television studios, editorial rooms, and behind their news site paywalls and laugh and count their money while America burns. All of this is in service to Free Speech, owning the libs, the illusion of freedom with no accountability, the economy, and some pictures of a strong America that does not exist and probably never has.

I wish I could tell you that we’re all going to be alright. That tomorrow, the deniers and apologists for them will wake up, brush their teeth, make their coffee or tea, and exclaim aloud that they get it. That being patriotic, that freedom, that being citizens of the United States of America carry specific responsibilities if we are to be a nation. The exact messages that we’ve heard for decades. Those messages came from the same types of people directed at those of us who protested. We were told, “You have a responsibility. Nothing is free. We all must respect the flag and our laws.”

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Hypocrisy is one thing. Refusing to see and hear the facts of what is literary in front of you is another. I honestly don’t know which is worse.

%d bloggers like this: