In an effort to understand the process of aging and to realize what it means for someone to be old, I have conducted an interview with one of my neighbors who is approaching his sixty-ninth birthday in December. The gentleman preferred to be called Mr. B, so that was the exact name I used to refer to him throughout the whole interview.
Mr. B was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1947. As he told me, his childhood was not happy, and memories about it triggered some unpleasant emotions in the process of our conversation. He even almost started to cry a few times, but he never asked me to stop the interview. As far as I understood, his family lived in poverty for a long period of time, so he had no opportunity to enjoy life. His earliest memory was his fifth birthday when instead of getting a present, he and his parents were forced to move into a tiny cabin on the outskirts of the city in order to survive financial hardships. It lasted for more than six years until his father received an offer to work for a medical company. At that time his family finally got an opportunity to move back to their house.
Despite all the challenges, he never despaired and studied well at school. While he was living in a cabin, some of his classmates used to make fun of him because of the way he looked. However, this fact did not prevent him from becoming one of the best pupils in the class. He was a very curious young man, so he tried to use every chance to participate in competitions, conferences, and concerts organized by his school. Mr. B told me that he finished school with great academic achievements, which made his parents very proud of him.
After finishing school, he entered the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia where he studied cancer biology. The choice of the faculty seemed quite simple for him. From the age of 13, he knew that he was going to study cancer biology because his best friend died from this disease. Since that time he promised himself that he would dedicate his life to working in that sphere in memory of his friend, and he kept his promise by becoming one of the best students. Lecturers considered him to be a very talented student and he managed to demonstrate his knowledge, skills, and personal qualities.
As he was studying at university, he, fortunately, did not have a chance to do military service. According to Mr. B, he knew that he would help people more as a doctor than as a soldier. After graduating from the university he was sure that his destiny was to help people to fight cancer, so he started applying to each hospital he could in order to find a job. In a three-month period, he was finally accepted to one of the hospitals in Miami, Florida. First, he was disappointed that there were no positions for him in Philadelphia, but after thinking about it, he took a plane and went to Miami. Soon he realized that he was not mistaken, as he became an irreplaceable doctor in that city. Many patients were queuing for weeks to get an appointment with him.
When we started talking about his personal life, he smiled. He got married to a beautiful woman, Cintia, with whom he fell in love as soon as he saw her. They met at a concert when she stepped on his foot trying to get closer to the stage. Six months later he asked her to marry him. They had a small wedding ceremony and invited only the closest relatives because neither of them enjoyed big parties. A year later Cintia gave birth to their first daughter and since then their life never was the same. Four years after that another girl was born, and she was just as beautiful as the first one. The couple called their daughters Rachel and Sarah.
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As time passed, his little princesses (this is how he calls his daughters) became adults and started to live their own lives. Mr. B admitted that he did not even notice how fast they became mature women. He said that he always wanted them to be decent people, so he and his wife taught them only the best during their childhood. Their family was based on the principles of love, respect, and honesty, so these are the qualities that Rachel and Sarah cherish until these days.
Rachel followed the career of her father and became a doctor, while Sarah engaged herself in law. Now she is a lawyer in a big company and her dream is to become a judge. Both of his daughters got married and moved to different cities with their own families. Mr. B and Cintia are both retired and they have plenty of time to devote to themselves. They have always dreamt about buying a motor home and driving around the USA, so now they are on the way to implementing their dream.
It was always interesting for me what it means to be an old person, so Mr. B kindly explained it to me. The hardest thing about becoming old is the necessity to abandon your habits and to watch how the young generation is making mistakes. Mr. B said that he is no longer capable of playing football or basketball and that it makes him feel frustrated. When I asked him about the best thing about the aging process, he needed some time to set his mind. After a few minutes, spent thinking, he said that the only good thing about being old is the fact that he reared two adorable daughters, who are the biggest achievement and pride of his life.
When I saw that Mr. B was slightly tired of reminiscing, I decided to postpone the second part of our interview. The following day, when we started talking about his health condition, he took a deep breath and said that he felt well enough. However, later he admitted to having a backache, but it was all just because of his age. In addition, he sometimes suffers from high blood pressure, so he regularly takes medicine to feel better. In order to reduce his backache, he was prescribed Ibuprofen, which he has to take once a day for two weeks. As far as high blood pressure is concerned, he has to take Diovan on a regular basis in order to prevent deterioration. Moreover, now he regularly visits his physician, approximately once in six months, unless something more serious bothers him.
He said with a smile that compared to his peers he has nothing to complain about. Being a doctor, he always forced his family to take care of his health in order to avoid problems in the future. He has always led a healthy lifestyle and tried to avoid bad habits. I was surprised enough when he told me that he had never smoked in his entire life. Moreover, he did exercises every morning for more than 20 years and avoided high-fat products and unhealthy food.
I was curious about the factors that help Mr. B be fit at such an old age, and to be honest, I was impressed with what he said. According to Mr. B, the only thing you should do to be healthy is to follow the daily regimen. It means that you should always pay attention to the level of energy you waste and get. For example, it is not healthy to have 4- or 5-hours sleep for a long period. Everything in our body is connected, so if you are tired within a few days, your body is not capable of resisting viruses and other diseases.
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Then we started to talk about his dental health. To my surprise, Mr. B started to feel ashamed, and soon I realized the reason for it. He confessed that he has been always afraid to go to a dentist throughout his life and it played a significant role in his current dental health. By the age of 45, he has lost 6 or 7 teeth due to his carelessness. He has always waited until the last moment and went to the dentist when it was too late. I find this behavior slightly awkward for a doctor, but I have no right to judge him because each person has his own fears. The last time he had an appointment with a dentist was 7 years ago, when he got his last prosthetic crown. Since that time he has artificial teeth, and he considers it to be fascinating, as he does not have to cure his teeth anymore.
As I have mentioned before, Mr. B has never smoked in his entire life, but he used to have another bad habit, which could have possibly interfered with his dental health. He has always been a big fan of sweets. His wife even used to hide them from him when they were younger. He told me that he could eat half of a kilo of sweets per day. He started smiling after saying that because now he realizes that he behaved like a small boy. He told me that he still wonders how he did not get diabetes. Probably, God was on his side.
Due to the fact that he has fake teeth, they do not require much care. He said that brushing them twice a day is enough to keep them clean and shiny. Mr. B has not suffered from any serious oral diseases so far. However, as he later recalled, he sometimes had stomatitis, but he never went to the dentist with that problem. He always tried to cure it himself by using some natural remedies, such as herbal tinctures. When I asked him about oral pains, he could not even recall when was the last time he suffered from them. He even made a joke saying that there is nothing in his mouth that can hurt. He has medical insurance, and he does not have to pay for visiting physicians or other doctors. In fact, his insurance does not cover dental services. Nevertheless, at an adult age money has never been a problem to him and the absence of insurance was not the reason why he did not visit dentists.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Mr. B whether he would like to change something in his life. He scratched his chin and told me proudly that he would never change anything in his life including that period in his childhood when his parents barely survived. When I asked why he told me that he would never become the person he is now if he did not overcome all those difficulties in his life. He said that what does not kill us makes us stronger.
The conversation with Mr. B was really easy. There was no need to force or to beg him to give answers. I am very fortunate that he was so open to me because he gave me some advice and became a real example of a decent person. In turn, he was very pleased that somebody was interested in his life. Mr. B wanted to make a good conclusion to the interview, so he said that each person in the world is unique, and even such unique people have both good and bad times in their lives that should never influence the way they behave and treat others. The last thing he said was that a good deed is never lost. I admire such people as Mr. B because they do not stop when they face some difficulties in their way. Therefore, I am really proud that I had a chance to have a conversation with such an amazing person.