Can the maladies of aging be blessings in disguise? The cataract is an instance everyone knows. A painless, outpatient procedure and SHAZAM, not only is the cataract gone, but your prescription is corrected to 20/20. You put away the lenses, frames, and fashions that dithered you since grade school and march about nose-naked and clear-eyed. All your friends think you've had a face-lift. It's far superior to Lazik because insurance covers it all. God bless the cataract!

Prostate cancer may be another. Most older men looking back on their lives will acknowledge the emotional wreckage: the shameful dreams, the degrading obsessions, the wild goose chases, the painful rejections. Who knew all this trauma was under the direct guidance of the intact prostate, which...if you're lucky...will blowout early and be excised. Then you may still have a decade or more to see the world as it really is. God bless the prostatectomy!

Low back pain is also suffered by millions as they age. If not a blessing, its cure is at least proof of Ockham's Razor (the correct solution is the easiest). Forget the tedious stretching exercises, the expensive NECK AND BACK CLINICS. Go directly to your nearest Home Depot and buy a 2'x 4' piece of plywood. Don't put it under your mattress, put it on top. Sleep directly on it. Back pain gone overnight. Guaranteed. It's the mattress industry and lust for the soft and fluffy that does us in. God bless plywood!

Now clear-eyed, love-cured, and standing tall, we settle into retirement thinking only cancer, stroke, and heart attack await us, enemies we at least expect. But NO! There are surprises we dreamt not of. The DVT, for instance.

You've never heard of DVT, have you? Neither had I. No bumper stickers proclaim, "DVT HAPPENS" ...but it does. I won't go into detail; you can Google it. (No, not diverticulitis...though that's fun too). Let me just say that DVT's cure involves a six-month regimen of what two doctors described to me as, "the most dangerous, outpatient drug known to medicine." The pill is painless; my complaint is both these happy healers were smiling as they described it. What a ghoulish profession.

I can be flip about these ailments because they're so minor in the big picture, but what I really want to get to is deadly serious. It manifests as a vision problem. You may be seeing 20/20, but it's misreading the visual data I mean. So it's probably brain decay of some sort. You've just lived too long and all that stored experience distorts your perceptions. Call it a priori optic error. You see it clearly, but you see it in terms of your pathetic past; so you see it wrong. It's very scary, life-altering, and domestically deadly. The Poem for October at describes a real-life instance of a priori optic error and the devastation it can cause.

Poem: See Marital Arts in the ARCHIVE