Some years ago when I first noticed signs of joint pains and a general slowing down creeping up on me, I asked a doctor if these symptoms of aging would get worse. Without batting an eye or pussyfooting around, he replied bluntly, "Oh yeah! Definitely."

I remember thinking at the time he could have been a bit gentler in his medical advice, and I continued to mull over that disheartening comment for months down the road.

Where I once used to complain about not being able to make it across Sunrise Highway on foot before the green light changed to red, I now was embarrassed to find I couldn't make it around our block without halting every few minutes to give the old stems a chance to convalesce.

When at one time I fretted about standing in long lines during Christmas shopping expeditions to the mall, I have now been reduced to scanning catalogs for holiday, birthday and anniversary presents, completely unable to check out an item's true color, durability and texture in the stores.

Where I once made certain that sheets and my husband's shirts were freshly washed and ironed, I now find absolutely no problem with putting clean-but-wrinkled sheets on the bed and sending his shirts to the laundry. I no longer dread having to handle that weekly summertime chore of mowing the lawn and now pay a local fellow to cut the grass.

I rarely get into Manhattan these days and deeply regret not being able to visit museums, Lincoln Center, and the theater. We have, instead, become one of those aging couples who frequent local eateries at lunchtime and content ourselves with movie rentals; watching the Knicks, Yankees and Jets in season; and allowing our kids to take on more of the preparation and cleanup during holiday dinners.

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But most surprising -- after realizing that my 3-mile hikes around Rockville Centre have indeed become a part of the distant past -- I finally concluded that there was life after 75, that there were things one could do to replace more rigorous activities.

First, let me explain that I have never been a gregarious, outward-going person, eager to meet people and try new things. I'd always been quite happy to be by myself when not at the office.

Reading, writing, baking, doing some needlework, and tickling the ivories were always pleasant pastimes. Arthritis has pretty much put a halt to most of those activities. I once regularly discarded newsletters mailed to local residents announcing such community-sponsored activities as learning how to play bridge, square dance, or master the basics of a foreign language. Now I find myself avidly scanning these same brochures mailed out by the Town of Hempstead and the local libraries.

The first time I ventured out, it was a class in watercolor painting at a Lakeview activities center, which initially proved to be rather messy and left me feeling less than satisfied, even after a couple years. But then I found it. A class in pastels. Delightful! Good instructor, fun people to be with, and a satisfying sense of accomplishment at the end of each session. After a few years of this, when infirmities made sitting difficult for even an hour, my husband and I started to attend a weekly writing seminar at the Oceanside Public Library. Again, we were led by another encouraging and skilled instructor. But just as uplifting, I found classmates to be talented and reassuring.

It was an activity that produced no stress or strain and frequently provoked hearty laughter and genuine gasps of astonishment while listening to people read samples of their eloquent prose or poetry.

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I figure as long as I can still take a turn around the garden or put colors to paper and fingers to a computer keyboard, I'll be good to go for a while longer. I'm not yet ready to check out those frequent mailers suggesting we take a look at what Pinelawn cemetery has to offer.

Irene McCoy,
Rockville Centre

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