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  • OLD ROSIN THE BEAU was putting the last few stanzas on his famous ballad, chronicling certain end-of-life issues of a rakish fellow with a legendary thirst and fondness for strong drink.

    I’ve traveled this wide world all over,
    And now to another I’ll go,
    Where I know pleasant quarters are waiting
    To welcome Old Rosin the Beau.


    I feel the great Tyrant approaching,
    The cruel and implacable foe,
    Who cares not for age nor condition,
    Nor even Old Rosin the Beau.

    (The Ballad of Rosin the Beau – Traditional)

    THE HOSPITALIZATION seemed so unnecessary at the time. Yes, the gout had attacked yet again, and, yes, walking was difficult and painful, even with the aid of a cane. A good night’s sleep would fix the problem just fine, I protested.

    Eve is not one to pay much attention to her husband’s pie-in-the-sky nonsense. She called 9-1-1. And off the old boy went in a police ambulance to the emergency unit. To his discomfiture, the medics admitted him.

    After three days of the most exquisite pain I’d ever experienced, in both my feet right up the legs to the knees, I was begging for some release. I truly felt the great Tyrant approaching. Fluid extracted from the left knee joint disclosed the problem: massive buildup of gouty uric acid crystals throughout the affected area, attacking the joints and, incidentally, hurting like bloody hell. I’ve heard it said (but cannot verify) that gout killed the great English lexicographer Samuel Johnson; it certainly plagued him throughout his life.

    I wasn’t going to simply waltz out of the hospital this time. I’m still unsteady on my feet (one takes one’s feet so foolishly for granted until one loses the use of them!). My balance is so compromised, I have to use handholds and bounce off walls to stay on course. If I weren’t so stubborn, I’d probably use a walker.

    The point of all this is to say that I’ve emerged from this crippling spell in a new place. On the one hand, I’m happy and grateful to have dodged another bullet and to be getting better – gradually. On the other, I’ve shed a lot of the hubris that, in hindsight, had a tendency to make me behave at times like an opinionated ass.

    Maturity comes gradually to some of us, a slow but ineluctable turning of the seasons of our life.

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