I liked it.. Hope more do then don't. -O url goes thus: <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/news/760480.asp?0bl=-0" target="_blank">http://www.msnbc.com/news/760480.asp?0bl=-0</a> ____________________________________________ My Turn: Hey, Doc, I Still Have A Lot of Living to Do Forget the age on my medical chart. Only I can decide whether being old means being finished By Sylvia SimmonsNEWSWEEK June 10 issue ? I am in consultation with the orthopedist. ?The steroid injections into your knee haven?t helped,? he tells me, ?so we have to talk about going in surgically and mending the tear in the meniscus.? ?OK, THEN,? I REPLY. ?How soon can we do it? Let?s not lose any time. I want to get on with my life.? He looks up from his writing pad, stares at me, seems surprised. Then he replies gently, like a kind daddy speaking to a little girl. ?Of course you do. Were you thinking of a trip? Maybe a cruise?? He is in his late 40s. I am old enough to be his mother. I am offended, but I say nothing. After all, he will be the man with the knife, the scalpel, the laser, the whatever, when I?m on the table. I do not want a hostile relationship with my surgeon. But it?s obvious he?s pigeonholed me into the last of the four patient categories that doctors use when writing a case history: young, middle-aged, senior, elderly. Did he glance at the birth date on my chart and think, ?Well, I can fix her knee, but there?s not much she can do anymore anyway?? I leave his office wondering if his mother is on the porch in her rocking chair waiting for Norman Rockwell to draw her picture for a Saturday Evening Post cover. I flip off that channel in my head. But I can?t forget the look of surprise on his face when I told him I want to get on with my life. Did he see me as an aged woman still yearning for some long-dreamed-of trip? Was he thinking that I hoped to live long enough, be healthy enough, to stand in breathless awe before the Taj Mahal? Did that, doctor. That I dream of climbing to the top of the Great Wall? Did that, too. What kind of cruise did you have in mind, Doc? I?ve already sailed the Yangtze, the Danube and the Nile. I?ve seen the animals in the Serengeti and known the joy of having the emus eat bread crumbs out of my hand in the Australian Outback. Do I long to swim in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mombasa or fight the waves off the palmed beaches of Togo? Do I dream of visiting the tomb of Tutankhamen, seeing the Dead Sea scrolls, riding a camel at the foot of the Pyramids? Been there, done all that. I?ve lived through a train wreck while traveling from Benin to Ouagadougou while on special assignment for the Peace Corps. I?ve danced the suva-suva on the island of Apia, survived a tidal wave in Honolulu and came away alive after a cable car I was in jammed halfway up to Table Mountain outside Cape Town. Nor do I want to retrace my steps from World War II when, as a young volunteer with the American Red Cross, I served with the Blue Devils of the 88th Infantry Division as it fought its way up from the heel of Italy to Rome and Pisa and the Arno, into the north Apennines and the Po Valley and Balzano, and finally to the Austrian border. Yup, doctor, saw it all, lived it all, loved it all. That?s not the part of my life I want to get on with. On my last birthday I received a card from the lieutenant governor of my state wishing me a happy birthday and telling me that I can now ?enjoy a life filled with cherished memories.? That card infuriated me. I do not plan to spend the rest of my days looking backward. The pace at which I have lived thus far has left me without time to do the simple, ordinary things that give meaning to life. I never learned to fold a contour sheet. I never found out what ?rack-and-pinion steering? means. I never had the guts to eat a frankfurter off one of those umbrellaed Sabrett carts you see on the streets of New York City. I never made the best-seller list. Never found out if blondes do have more fun. Never had a visit from the Prize Patrol. I never slowed down long enough to read my Honda owner?s manual and learn how to set my cruise control or make a tilt adjustment to my steering wheel. I want to learn what all those symbols are on the toolbar of my word processor, figure out how to reset the clock on my VCR so that I can change the time when we go off daylight savings. I want to learn sign language, take piano lessons, produce a truly memorable tiramisu. I have yet to find out how to mend a broken heart, how to live at peace with myself, how to love uncritically. Yes, doctor, there is much I have yet to do, to witness, to taste, to share. I do not think actuarial tables, or my doctor, should fix the parameters of my life expectancy or usefulness. Only I can define old, or elderly, or used up as it applies to me. I will make the call. And, until then, I have a lot of living to do.