My Friends ~
I went to Fort Lauderdale for the winter. I left behind the bitter onslaught of this past season’s cruel rain, ice, snow, blizzardly winds that my friends, family and neighbors experienced. I escaped. But did I? I may have escaped the weather… but I didn’t escape life.
If you want to skip my saga, and turn back to a good book or a good streaming on Netflix or Amazon or my personal favorite, Acorn TV, I shall not be insulted. I certainly wish I could have skipped it.
Here’s the deal. I still got older. I still became more vulnerable. I still pretended I wasn’t older and more vulnerable. And when I wrote the blog about gratitude I missed the point completely. Let me explain!
January was the flu.
February was the cough.
March was the compressed fracture of the third lumbar resulting from the cough.
A broken back???? Here’s the poem I wrote:
HACK! HACK! YOU BROKE YOUR BACK!!!
Aw come on guys, enough is enough. These are supposed to be the golden years??? I’m afraid only in my fillings.
I thought the gratitude I expressed for January and February was supposed to cover me for the year. Like the Brooklyn Dodgers of old – I wuz robbed! The lumbar episode of March challenged all notions of gratitude and for the most part, all my theories of “growing old”.
As long as I thought I was doing what I always did… a few exceptions like dancing till dawn, drinking champagne from a satin heeled slipper (an orthopedic oxford doesn’t have the same look or feel), cutting my one woman show from an hour and a half to an hour (with relief some said that made the show better… what do they know?), some dietary alterations (no lactose, no gluten, no fast foods, no fun) I thought to escape the label of “old lady”.
And then came the Ides of March. Actually from the beginning of the month, the pain came. And some of you know that without any education, I am my own Doctor, I prescribed continuing pilates, massages, shiatsu all of the remedies that slowly but surely were making my back worse.
Thank goodness for good friends who won’t put up with my complaining and called me on my medical education. “Where was it you got your degree?” One of my friends went so far as to find me a doctor nearby that was the doctor for the Miami City Ballet. It was high season in Florida. Getting an appointment was going to be at the very least, difficult, if not impossible.
I checked out her website. I have a website, why wouldn’t she? It said she attended to dancers and performers. I called her office. And before I let her assistant get a word in, I announced I was a performer. “I’m a little older than most of the dancers and performers she works with, but I am still doing it… performing that is… and I need HELP!” And then, she asked me who the doctor was that referred me, and before I could stop it from coming out of my mouth, I dropped the name of the top orthopedic surgeon in New York City. I knew him slightly, but I never saw him professionally. I got the appointment. And I owe him.
Well, within days of the appointment, after an x-ray which determined I had the compressed fracture and an MRI which showed it was recent (coming from the cough), I thought I would start treatment. Up to that point the pain prevented me from doing anything. But I was told NO!
Two more weeks of doing nothing, giving the bone more time to heal and then I could begin a program of physical therapy. I had already been doing nothing since January. I have to tell you, I thought I could hear my mother and every teacher I ever had yelling, whispering in my earballs: “Look at her! Nothing! She is doing nothing!” Joan of Arc wasn’t the only one who heard voices.
When I finally received the go ahead, I was like a kid that had won a prize. I emphasize kid because, like a kid I was off to the races. I was going to be the fastest healer this side and that side of the Mississippi… I did the therapy three times a week, I added some stretching and some massage on the other days and by the end of the first week… I was hurting again.
The therapist sat me down. He said a nice thing first. Always start with the nice thing first. “You know you look younger than your age, right?” “Thank you,” I said. “On the outside you’re like a shiny tomato.” “Thank you,” I said. “Inside, you’re an octogenarian and your bones are mushy”. I laughed. But I did not thank him.
And very slowly, and I do mean s-l-o-w-l-y because the older you are the longer is the healing, I am getting it. I read an essay by Ursula K. Le Guin. And I quote: ”Everybody who gets old has to assess their ever-changing but seldom improving situation and make of it what they can. And they make the best of it. As the saying goes, consider the alternative!”
And I love this one from the same essay: “You’re only as old as you think you are! Now you don’t honestly think having lived eighty-four years is a matter of opinion.” You don’t… Do you?
For myself and fellow fossils, there is no such thing as doing nothing. If we have made it through to or any part of our seventies, eighties and ever onward it means we are doing more every minute of every day than ever we did at any other time in our life.
And dat’s da trut!!!
Love ~ Sally-Jane