Sunday, July 9, 2017

Limping into our Third Third

Last week, as I arrived at my book club, I limped out of the car. Coming from her car was Chris, limping. Robin met us at the door, limping. If Riki were with us, she’d be limping, too.

None of this had been planned in advance. We weren’t reading a book with a limping character. No Hunchback of Notre Dame, no Treasure Island. No game of charades, no funny ha-ha mimicry.

Our bodies are just crapping out on us.

I even cringe writing that because I harbor the desperate hope that my currently bad knee is just a temporary aberration and has nothing to do with long-term degeneration.

But, of course, it does.

One day, I was biking and running and walking, and the next day, I was in terrible pain. No fall, no twist, nothing catastrophic. It just happened. It was going to go away in a couple days. That’s why I hobbled, iced, and Aleved my way across the Badlands and South Dakota. That’s why I foolishly thought the 422 stairs of the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore wouldn’t be a problem. That’s why they’re probably still talking about that crazy hopping redhead.

So, of course, I was at the orthopedist the day I returned. (Yes, the same orthopedist. I trust him. He gave me my knee back before.) That’s why I was in an MRI machine the next day and physical therapy the following week.
Sample thoughts while limping and freaking out: What if I don’t have my knee back?!? How can I run? How can I go up and down stairs? What do I do when my mental health requires movement? How will I not get fat????

And on the Fourth of July, I went to two parties where people enthusiastically discussed ailments. Or, as Our Third Third readers have put it, “organ recitals.” Then the New York Times did an article on knee interventions, which everyone shared. And shared. My doctor said that as we get older, we can injure ourselves sliding a shoe box with our foot. We are all degenerating.

My physical therapist has pointed out that my right knee doesn’t line up with my right foot when I walk. I have pointed out to her that I can’t even balance on one foot, period. Basically, I have to re-do my whole skeleton. My friend Irene has to re-learn how to sit. We should have done this when we were three years old, but if we can fix it now, we’ll have mobility.
The looming Third Third question is: what do we have to give up? I used to play soccer and tennis, but I had no trouble giving them up. They weren’t worth the injuries. The doctor and the physical therapist feel the same way about running. They call it pounding, and they wince when they say it.

I’m not a devoted runner. I don’t train with intervals; I don’t go fast. I don’t like races. Very often, I try to find excuses not to run (rain, wind, laziness, other things). But running is outside, tires me out, maintains my weight, keeps me healthy, and wards off depression. It’s cheap, easy, and accessible anywhere. I just haven’t found anything else that works on all those levels.

So a bum knee starts a cavalcade of reactions in me beyond the initial five-months-of-crutches freak-out. Beyond the “Oh, no, we have stairs now!” It starts all sorts of “beginning of the end” scenarios in my mind, visions of restrictions and incapacities. Of no outlet for all the parts of me that need an outlet. Of limitation.

This is my first encounter with Aging-with-a-capital-A. (Well, not really: there is that issue of my face sagging….) But this could mark the transition from getting-older-means-you-get-to-do-more to getting-older-means-you-get-to-do-less. That’s going to take some mental readjustment. If this is a first step, no wonder I’m limping.

I know I’ve been lucky. There’s a woman in physical therapy who’s trying to walk at all. When my mother’s memory went, she had to give up the reading that she loved, and that would be HARD. Maybe you’ve already had to cross this bridge; what was it, and how’d you do?

1 comment:

  1. Barbara, it was Duane French, who many years ago introduced me to an truth I've never forgotten: We are only temporarily able-bodied.

    Some of us get on with disabilities early in life; all of us sooner or later. Whenever it happens, we have to figure it out. I guess I can live with that.



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