Weekend Wanderer: I Fell. Is This the Beginning of the End?

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weekend wanderer

I turned the lock on the storm door.  

You know the one — it won’t engage without a forceful inward jerk, an even more forceful twist of the lock, and about seven expletives. 

I turn this lock often in the evening. I have an old beagle with an old prostate who feels the best time to be in the backyard is 10 o’clock at night, two o’clock in the morning, and 15 minutes before my five o’clock alarm. 

I also have a fear of ne’er-do-wells creeping into my house to steal our mismatched glassware, our three spoons, the pet ashes in the bar, our Singles CD, that book I didn’t like, the seven-foot branch in my son’s room, and the piano no one knows how to play. 

But on this particular night, slamming that lock home made my wrist scream. Pain spasmed my thumb and palm. I released the lock, even though it still wasn’t engaged. 

Vulnerable to the lurking predators in my yard, I powered through the pain, locking the door. When you’ve lost nine of your spoons to some mysterious, cutlery-sucking force, you will go to any length to protect those three remaining spoons. 

The cause of the pain was not as mysterious as the disappearance of those spoons. Weeks before, I tripped, landing on parking lot blacktop. 

I was on my hands and knees before I knew what happened. The pain instructed my stomach to eject its contents. That small part of my brain still functioning turned my head in a desperate search for the buses whose lane I now occupied. 

I also wondered how many people saw my plunge.  

I mean, I’m human. I have an ego — almost improbable for someone with just three spoons, but quite true. 

As the shock receded and my awareness returned, I took inventory of throbbing body parts. My fiftieth birthday inches closer each day, like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead. A fall isn’t greeted with the gumption and bravado the 20-year-old me would have displayed.  

Let’s be honest. The effects of osteoporosis rear their ageist little heads in women my age. A bus bearing down on me may have been the least of problems. 

Gingerly, I stood, waiting for something to buckle, to take a wrong angle, to glint sickeningly white in the June sun. But the only thing I could feel was blood pooling in the knee of my jeans. The other knee lay exposed by the hole in my J. Crew denim. 

That my bones held fast better than my jeans cheered me. I only needed to deal with the hemorrhaging kneecap. I could do that.  

I’ll take blood over bone any day. 

Despite being an hour from home, I knew where to find the nearest Starbucks because I find Starbucks like a metal detector finds coins. Twenty minutes later, I was ducking into a Starbucks bathroom while my son waited on drinks. 

Bruises bloomed deep on each palm. My bleeding knee had resolved itself, despite the purple clouding each kneecap. Six fingers sported their own bruises. But nothing was broken. Nothing was broken! 

Nothing was broken. 

The weeks passed. The bruises receded.  

Bizarrely, my wrists grew more painful. Slinging a purse over my shoulder triggered a scream from deep in my soul. Typing shot pain straight to my elbows. And Chaturanga? Forget it.  

“I think,” my doctor said, “you may have broken something.” 

Oh no. No no no no. I drink milk. I lift weights. And I’m not fifty yet. I may be staring the shingles vaccine in the face, but it’s still over six months away.  

I know what happens if something is broken. DEXA scans and questions about steps in my home. Recommendations for calcium and vitamin D. 

Which I already take.  

Because, you know, I’m almost 50. 

My doctor sent me for an X-ray. Do you know what the first question was on the intake form?  

It wasn’t “Could you be pregnant?”  

Because pregnant? Really? Look at me! If I’m pregnant, somebody somewhere has really screwed up. 

Screwed up. That’s the closest I’m allowed to making a dirty joke in this space.  

Sorry. If it helps, I make really dirty jokes in person. 

Anyway, the first question on the X-ray intake form asked if I had fallen recently. 

And that’s how it starts, isn’t it? Falls today, shingles vaccines tomorrow? I am the human version of my dead refrigerator — little bits of my body quitting in slow succession, mirroring the demise of my fridge. 

As I write this, I am watching a marathon of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s fourth season. It transitioned into The Hunt for Red October. Both are on BBC, and both were released before I could drive. 

Yet, while visiting these relics of 1990 with the BBC, I have seen commercials for hearing aids and reverse mortgages. This is the Star Trek and Red October demographic. 

And I’m watching it.  

Me. I’m the demographic.  

The X-rays showed no fractures. The orthopedic surgeon said I have a bad sprain. Four weeks in a brace I absolutely detest. 

At my niece’s engagement party last weekend, I slipped off that brace. Handshakes with her future in-laws were as agonizing as turning that lock. 

I was reminded of Alan Alda. His character on The West Wing injured a hand during his presidential campaign. But he hid it, to avoid appearing old. 

He was 68. 

That’s not so bad, right? I could be Alan Alda. He won an Emmy for that role on The West Wing. He’s an advocate for science and science education. He’s even auctioning his M*A*S*H combat boots and dog tags. 

For science. Science! 

He also, like Indy, has Parkinson’s. Furthering my theory mostly cool people have Parkinson’s. 

Think about it. Michael J. Fox? Neil Diamond? Linda Ronstadt? Ozzy? C’mon! 

So yeah. I can be Alan Alda.  

Fifty might not be so bad. 

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