02/19/2014 04:46 pm ET Updated Apr 21, 2014


There are plenty of things that can cut into a guy's day If you have a job, that needs time. Even if you don't, the day has you busy scraping the droppings from the litter box, asking the super, if you can find him, when he's going to put some heat in this building, hollering at the guys at the smoke shop who never ever clean their corner after a snowstorm.

Then, you need time for pills. How much probably depends on your age, since the quantity usually increases as you get older. When that happens, it's tempting to wonder if every single pill is necessary, but if you put the question to the doctor whose order you're following, you'll get a let's-not-deal-with-this look. You don't vary too far from the course set by him on whose good side you wish to remain, since it may be he to whom you look one day to save your life.

When they increase, pills require organization. Different folks address that in different ways. Some start the week depositing seven days' worth in little plastic boxes that read, "Monday," "Tuesday," and so on. That wouldn't be for me. Every morning I line up the daily allotment of pills at the front of the kitchen counter. When a pill is swallowed (see further down), I move its bottle to the back. Then, when I've returned to the kitchen for some more pleasant purpose, I'm relieved of remembering which pill I've taken and which not yet.

I've been asked why don't I take all the day's pills at once. It's because I believe an army of pills taken at the same time has to create turbulence in the stomach, which I'd rather leave for some other jobs.

You can see why attending to all this easily stretches toward evening. If by then the front of the counter isn't absolutely clean, well, more likely tomorrow. (There was one pill that needed to be taken three times a day, and at different times, but that pushed its luck and I arbitrarily reduced its intake to zero.)

There's more. I have a pill with exact instructions to be taken once a week, on the same day each week (a day you get to choose), the first thing in the morning with water before drinking or eating anything, then not sitting or lying down for at least 30 minutes. It won't surprise you to know that I've given thought to whether that's worth the trouble, but I know the pill's purpose, and it's enough to persuade me not to cheat.

Swallowing pills has grown harder for me recently, and sometimes I postpone trying and sort of slush them around my mouth. Maybe that's a way of rebelling against the whole regime. The ones I especially hate are the granddaddy pills whose girth I question. Is the manufacturer trying to make his pills look more important than those of some competitor?

By the way, I now need to take drops in both eyes twice a day. Those are easy, and I have to be awfully tired to pass on them at night.

This list, you've likely noticed, excludes aspirin, ibuprofen, the occasional remedy for upset stomach, etc. They crowd the bathroom medicine cabinet but are good to have if needed, as long as I remember to pitch them out after they've gathered dust.

Is there a tone of complaining in this tale? A tinge, I admit. I haven't dared to imagine whether as I move further into my eighties the list will grow longer. If so, you know, last in, first out.

Pills and other challenges of aging are alive in Stanley Ely's new memoir, "Life Up Close," out soon from Dog Ear Publishing and available in paperback and e-book.