As I wound up a conversation with one of my brothers recently, he sighed the words we have come to use as our sign-off: Ah, the Golden Years.

Whenever I speak with a friend or acquaintance these days, either at the grocery store, after church, or most often, on the phone, our chatting is loaded with discussions about our health, our exercise, our diets, our pills, our aches and pains. We’ve become conversant in terms used for X-rays, MRIs and blood analysis. Who would have thought I would one day understand the read-outs of my cholesterol? Who would have said I would even know what cholesterol was? Then there’s the goal of clear carotid arteries. And don’t forget bone density.

My particular medical crises these days involve signing up for prescription drugs. Because I didn’t join up when I was supposed to, I have to pay a penalty. I need to be punished. Where does the penalty money go, I wonder. Could it be toward the mountains of glossy, high quality paperwork that now arrive at my door daily? Or is it funding the television ads that run every 15 minutes? Do I need to spend my money looking at brochures that show people my age frolicking, yes, frolicking around golf courses and tennis courts, or coaching Little League, or climbing the Alps?

First of all I think it is a given that people who are applying for Medicare benefits are in the “old” bracket; they have limited powers of concentration. I know I do. Why must everything be so complicated?

My first few calls left me in tears. The people that were supposed to straighten everything out were clearly annoyed with me right from the git go. Although I apologized profusely for not comprehending what they were saying, I got the impression they would prefer to have me not call at all.

Talking on the phone in this situation is an adventure. First you must pray that the person you will be talking to speaks English reasonably well. If they don’t, let’s hope they don’t get angry when you say you can’t understand them. You’re having a conversation about YOUR money, after all.

But then there was Twana from Alabama who softened my up by saying she loved Vermont and that I had a beautiful name. She was so helpful and compassionate it made me cry. I was ready to invite her to come spend Christmas with us before we were through. Then a guy from Social Security not only spoke clearly but came down to my brain-addled level.

Some of the others I have dealt with tend to sound like they are hoping you will stop bothering them and give up so they can just take your money and be done with it.

So, I’m almost ready to bite the bullet and sign up for a plan that I have been assured will go up in cost every year from now on.