Ah, the joys of youth and the foibles of older age. This weekend I flew to visit my son, where he is a sophomore in college. He took me to a fun funky waffle restaurant for breakfast. As is my ritual, after eating breakfast, I prepared to take my vitamins and diabetes medication. Earlier this year I had stomach flu that left me with stomach cramps and diarrhea that would not go away. My doctor suggested that I remove all dairy from my diet and stop my diabetes medication, Metformin, for a few weeks and see if that helped. Within a day my stomach had returned to normal.
About two weeks ago I started to experience the same cramping and diarrhea after breakfast when I took my morning Metformin and it dawned on me that this could again be from the Metformin. So I decided when I did my vitamins for the coming week, I would not include the Metformin. But in my travel vitamin/medication pack for this weekend, the Metformin remained.
This morning at breakfast my son watched me empty the dixie cup with all my vitamins and meds into my hand and pick out two white pills and put them on my plate. While he did not ask. Teenagers never ask. I began to explain, as he ate his waffles full of sugary syrup, that I thought the medications were causing diarrhea and had decided to stop taking them in the morning. He looked at me, wide-eyed, with a full mouth of food and jabbed his fork towards me with the next bite of waffles. “No, I’m ok.” I said, “I don’t want any more.” Thinking that he was offering me another bite of waffles. “No, dad! Jeez!! I’m eating and you are talking about diarrhea. That’s disgusting!” “I’m sorry,” I explained. “You see old men talk about their ailments, and I’m getting to that point where I have ailments.”
He did not think it was funny. I tried to tell him the rest of the story of my going to my doctor and stopping the milk products and meds, without using the word diarrhea, but it did not go well. “Just stop!” He said. “I’m eating here and I don’t want to hear about your diarrhea!”
One of the things that have gone away, as I have gotten older, is the oversensitivity about the body that I felt as a teenager. I remember at 17 years of age going to my father’s doctor for the first time for an annual physical. As part of the exam, he did a finger exam of my prostate. I felt like I had been violated. At the time it was a disturbing experience. Earlier this year I went for pelvic floor physical therapy, once a week for about six months. During each PT session, the therapist would put a glove on, lube her finger, and work the muscles of my anal area, which they believed were contributing to my difficulty in urinating. I felt totally relaxed having a young woman wandering around in my anal area as we talked about all sorts of things. It just was not a big deal.
As I have watched my father, who is recovering from a heart valve repair operation, let nurses help him urinate and move his bowels, I see how our lives come full circle. As babies, we are helpless, and adults touch us all over to care for our bodily needs. Then as children and teenagers, we get prudish and squeamish about our bodies. But as the years go by and we suffer more indignities of body, just by living, we get more and more comfortable with what once seemed awful. When we get to be really old, adults again touch us all over to care for our bodily needs.
When my son was born I was 39 years old. He is now 19 and I am 57, almost 58. I am at the point in my life where things that worked smoothly for so many years are beginning to break. I forget how many years are between us sometimes when these issues of the body arise. He is in such a different place at 19 about his body then I am about my body at 57.
So I have to laugh thinking about our breakfast and his look of horror when I used the word diarrhea as he ate. It was the classic disconnect between two generations almost 40 years apart.