Somehow the three things in the title of this blog post fit together. I'm just not sure exactly how. Like a perfectly completed jigsaw puzzle? Like a random pile of old car parts in a junkyard? Like pants and a shirt that sort of match, and sort of don't?
I had my third bone density scan last week. Osteopenia was the diagnosis after the first one some five years ago. Not as serious as osteoporosis, but a step in that direction.
A few days ago someone from my doctor's office phoned to tell me the results. Well, not the real results, the filtered simplistic results.
"Your bone density hasn't gotten any worse," I was told. "Keep up your same lifestyle."
Lifestyle? That's a broad subject. Is reading TIME magazine in the bathtub good for my bones? Is having coffee with an old friend almost every Sunday what's going to keep me out of the hands of an orthopedic surgeon if I slip and fall down?
After a bit of pondering I figured that what I'm supposed to do is keep up my habitual exercise habits. Tai Chi. Lifting weights and a cardio workout at our athletic club. Plus, the exercise that comes with the territory when you and your wife live on ten non-easycare acres in rural south Salem, Oregon.
It was the last lifestyle item that prodded my mind into doing some further pondering of the pros and cons of our current home.
We don't live on a ranch. We don't have livestock, unless you count our 60 pound dog, ZuZu. I'm not tossing bales of hay around or building fences.
But every couple of weeks I throw a 40 pound bag of salt in a Fred Meyer shopping cart, put it in the back of my VW GTI, then carry it into our carport and pour the salt into a bin in our water treatment area.
A couple of times a year I head off to Lowe's to fill the back of our SUV with a dozen or so bags of fertilizer, which then gets spread around the non-easycare yard of our non-easycare house that sits on the aforementioned ten non-easycare acres.
Spring and summer I not only mow our grass with a walk-behind DR Field Mower with a grass-cutting attachment, but I also keep the grass in several fields mowed to a grass-cuttable length, which I've found is easier than mowing them once a year in July when the dry grass is three feet high and the temperature is high as well.
And in the fall I get to throw large branches and other yard debris on a sometimes-giant burn pile that can only exist in the country.
I assume all this is good for my bones, being a part of the lifestyle that my doctor's office says I'm supposed to keep up.
So now, in addition to all the other factors that my wife and I think about when we're trying to decide if we should "age in place," as the saying goes, or "age in a city home," I've got to think about my bone density.
Having moved to our current home when I was 41, and being 69 now, I've had many years of the What doesn't kill you makes you stronger adage rattling around in my mind. Repeating this mantra has made property maintenance chores more endurable, if not more enjoyable.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the Stihl backpack blower that almost becomes an integral part of my body in the fall, since we have so many trees that drop so many leaves I can muster up exactly zero sympathy for people who live in town and complain about their leaf woes.
If any of them saw what I deal with each and every autumn, they would look upon whatever number of leaves fall into their life as utterly insignificant. Plus, I regularly have to climb up a ladder with the backpack blower so I can amble my senior citizen body along the edge of the roof, blowing out leaves and other debris from our gutters.
Thus all in all, I'd say that my bone density is well-served by where we live now, since I get a big extra dose of weight-bearing exercise simply by virtue of maintaining our property.
Then there's the Big Issue of living in the city: pavement versus nature, vehicles versus wildlife, gray versus green.
This evening dog and I went for our usual pre-canine-dinner walk. In the city I'd simply put on some outdoor shoes and grab a leash. Here in the country I do that, plus wear a coat with a flashlight and warm gloves in the pockets. I also carry an extra flashlight, because there are no street lights along our through the fields, across the creek, and through the woods walk.
I love it. I would miss it hugely if we ever moved.
I adore the uneven ground, the steep slopes, the sound of water rushing under the two narrow bridges I made to cross several creeks that run through our property. I get a thrill up my spine when an owl hoots from the top of a tall fir tree. I wonder what our dog has sensed when she suddenly starts barking wildly and dashing back and forth excitedly.
Coyotes? Cat? Cougar? All are possibilities where we live now. And our dog gets to be leash-free most of the time, being leashed-up only when we walk on country roads in our neighborhood where often two miles will pass without a single car driving by.
I don't know what lies in our future. Maybe we'll live on our ten acres until we die. Maybe we'll either choose to move into town, or be forced to by old age declining health.
For now, I'll keep up my lifestyle, as ordered by my doctor. Even the gutter cleaning with a backpack blower on our two story house, though my doctor hinted that this might not be the greatest idea when I brought it up at my recent Medicare wellness exam.
My primary care doctor did some perfunctory checking around -- listened to my heart to make sure it was beating, looked in my mouth to see if I had any teeth left, that sort of thing -- but a bigger part of the visit was a nurse asking me a bunch of questions before the doctor came in to the exam room about how I'm handling my 69 year-old activities of daily living .
One of my favorites was, "Have you fallen in the past year?" Which was followed by, "Are you afraid of falling?" I said No, and No.
But what I was thinking about was how I'd recently gotten up on top of our two story house and blown out leaves in the gutters with a Stihl backpack blower while walking along the edge of the roof. I couldn't resist mentioning this to my doctor, just to show how virile, brave, and studly I still am.
However, seemingly she was thinking of a different adjective, stupid, because she told me, "Maybe you should be afraid of falling."
Important: if one day I happen to die by falling off our roof with the Stihl blower affixed to my back, the preceding absolutely HAS to be read at my funeral, preferably after attendees have loosened up with a combination of good Oregon wine and marijuana, so my words generate the laughter they deserve.