Legends of the fall
I never saw it coming.
It didn’t catch me off guard like a snowball in the back of the head. Or like being rear-ended. Or even like an alien abduction. No, it really blindsided me.
Now, before you think you have mistakenly picked up a copy of last month’s Bollard or been sucked backward into the space-time continuum, let me assure you, you have not. I know those opening lines are the same ones I used to start my last column. And while I am a fan of recycling my own hilarity, this is not that occasion.
You see, the current it I speak of is not the creeping crud that felled me in March. No, this is a brand-new it — a gaggle of them, actually. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s begin with this past winter that wasn’t and the final pathetic insults of ice and snow it delivered after spring began. Let’s target March 24 in particular, the day everything was coated in black ice.
But before we go on, may I ask why it’s called black ice? This term does not adequately describe said weather condition. Black ice is only black when it forms on roadways that are also black. When it forms on light gray porches and steps, it’s light gray. And when it forms on stone walkways, it’s stone color. In other words – it’s invisible. Alerting people via the morning news that there is invisible ice coating every surface would be a lot more helpful than telling us to watch out for black ice. If there had been black ice on my stone walkway, I would’ve seen it, and I wouldn’t be in the condition I’m in now.
See, on the morning of March 24, having finally sufficiently recovered from the crud to return to the land of the living — or at least to the gym — I ventured out my front door. I am usually in a dead heat whenever I leave the house, but I knew it was slippery out and I was being careful. I skated from the door to the railing, never lifting my feet, and then ever so gingerly granny-stepped down each stair, clinging to the banister for dear life. I was so proud of myself for not being reckless that I stood for a moment on the stone walkway at the bottom of the stairs, taking in the morning scene and congratulating myself for my prudence.
The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back.
There comes a point in one’s life when a fall kicks even an English major into math mode. You don’t actually worry at first about pain or cringingly wonder if anyone saw you. Instead, you pull out the mental calculator and start tabulating the things you might’ve done to yourself and the amount of time dealing with them is going to take. And that ringing in your ears? That’s the old-timey cash register in your head tallying up all the possible copays, treatments and deductibles.
I gazed at the sky. I cannot not be hurt, I told a gray cloud. Given the timing, I also had to calculate compound interest. I was bringing back my show after a year’s hiatus. In a month and a half, I had to be ready to cavort alone on a stage for 90 minutes. I cannot not be hurt. The cloud cared not. It sifted a light mist across my face.
Miraculously, when I finally stood, I seemed to be intact. Things that were supposed to wiggle, did. Things that shouldn’t, didn’t. I commended myself for being in such amazing shape for my age, then sallied on to the gym, where I lifted weights for an hour.
“How did you fall?” asked the insurance provider, the receptionist at the Quick Care center, the attending nurse, the radiologist, the E.R. doc, the PT nurse, the sports doc and my physical therapist.
The damage to the rotator cuff took its sweet-ass time making itself known. I was fine for a couple days after the fall, but then I tried to parallel park and my left arm would have none of it. “Tra-la-la,” I said. “I’ve tweaked something, and it will go away very soon on its own.” The Puritan who runs the control center in my brain approved. Ye show that bum arm who’s boss, he said, flicking a grain of millet from his lapel. And get thee back to that basket of laundry in thy basement.
But a week later, the kind-of-bum arm had turned into a useless, unflung wing. I was convinced I had brought all this upon myself. First, I bragged I never get sick, and then I was leveled for a month. Then, I applauded myself for being rubbery and resilient when it turns out I’m as creaky and crackly as the rest of my peers. So I am being punished, I thought, as I took my pet arm for a stomp around Back Cove. At least I can still do my daily walk.
And then another it happened.
I’ll spare you the details. (I mean, do you really want to know the reason I creamed my toe in the middle of the night is because I didn’t want to disturb the kitty cat sleeping by my side when I got up to pee? I didn’t think so.)
When I hobbled back to bed, I fired up the mental calculator again. The damage was to the second toe. There was no pain delay this time. I swear I thought if I looked under the covers I’d see my toe glowing and throbbing, like in a cartoon. But toes are big babies. They always hurt. You put a sock on wrong and they wail. I decided to try to bend the toe. That would prove it was fine. And I could still bend it — that is, if I flexed my whole foot, the second toe went along for the ride. Still, I was convinced this was a sign everything was OK. “You’re moving, aren’t you, toe?” I whispered under the covers. The toe nodded, wagging up and down with my foot. I started to roll over and my shoulder barked: “Hey, don’t forget about me!” I collapsed in a Picasso-esque heap, legs and arms akimbo. The kitty slept on.
In the morning, things in the toe department didn’t look so good. Now, I’ve never had very pretty feet. In fact, when I used to where a shade of toenail polish called Intergalactic Green, a friend nicknamed said toe “E.T.” Except this E.T. had donned a purple turtleneck and gained a little weight overnight. It was securely wedged between its two neighboring toes, as though it were being held up by them like a drunken frat brother.
I dragged myself, à la Igor in Young Frankenstein, to my computer and Googled stubbed, sprained and broken toes. Diagnoses abounded, but the bottom line was this: It didn’t really matter if it was sprained or broken because, ultimately, there’s not much you can do for a bum toe except to ice and elevate it and wait it out. If you really wanted a cure, you could immobilize the toe by taping it to another toe in what is called a “buddy wrap,” but I figured my frat toes had that covered. I’ll give it a day or two, and I’m sure it will be better, I said to myself as I hunkered down at my desk for the weekend with an ice pack. My inner Puritan nodded in approval.
And then the it storm hit.
Somehow, during the days of limping and dragging my leg around, then resting my keister on hard chairs while elevating my foot, I managed to strain my hamstring and bruise my coccyx. I couldn’t sit without discomfort unless I rolled over on the edge of my left butt cheek — what kids would call the side-cheek-sneak position — but that required using my left arm for support, and my pet arm was having none of it.
I should have gotten a get-well card from Web M.D. for all the searches I did there. I wanted no more medical interventions. I just wanted to work all these its out on my own. But wait to heal? That does not compute.
As I said last month, there is never one day that I take my usual health and strength for granted. I have friends who live heroically with pain and compromise all the time, and I know my complaints are puny by comparison. So I will wait, and I will heal.
Because, as we all know, the show must go on.
Elizabeth Peavey’s one-woman show, My Mother’s Clothes Are Not My Mother, returns to St. Lawrence Arts on June 4 & 5. Tickets and info at stlawrencearts.org.