Leaving the East Coast for California this week was rare good luck. Phil had planned for months to attend a conference in San Francisco, and I tagged along to spend time up in the hills with the granddaughters. The overlap with their mother’s trip to Australia was serendipitous, and I looked forward to hiking the trails with the girls and alone, when they were in school. We even jetted out of JFK a few short hours before New York’s fourth, or was it fifth or sixth major storm of this season.
California is in bloom, and smells of eucalyptus. Just to be able to smell the air instead of freeze my nose hairs was a treat. I woke early on Thursday, eager to run outdoors without a coat and take some pictures. As I stepped out on the expensive and expansive new deck, the sun topped the hill and blinded me, and I didn’t see the step down, and did a face-plant. My right knee took the hit, with collateral damage to my left elbow. There was not too much swelling, and I convinced myself that it was better to move the leg than let it stiffen up, and so walked the mile down to the school to help out at the Valentine’s Party, then inched the mile back up the hill afterwards. And then it all went “pear-shaped”, as my friends in Oz would say.
In that hour I aged thirty years, and stayed there for the next two days. Walking was bad and painful, as I wrenched half the other muscles in my body, accommodating for the knee. I stumped around using a Louisville Slugger as a cane, desperately afraid of slipping and falling again. Sitting was an experiment in free fall, and standing back up, as much a mental exercise (“You can do it, just concentrate”) as a physical one, hauling myself up on one leg, the bad one dangling, unable to bear any weight.
And I thought of my mother. She is 94 now, and after breaking a thigh bone, walks very tentatively, often using a cane for stability. When necessary, she uses a walker. As I planned my movements around the house; heading to my room, what can I carry there, what can I bring back? When cooking, gather everything in one area of the counter, close to the stove, to minimize movement. Using the toilet-don’t ask! Exiting the pool-call for help!
The misery lasted two full days, and today, Saturday, I am merely walking with a limp. I am anticipating a Keyser Söze-like transition (“The Usual Suspects”) over the course of the next day or so, and plan to hit the trails tomorrow or Monday.
This taste of aging was a wakeup call. Instead of the six plus miles my Fitbit records every day, I traversed (ha!) only half a mile yesterday. And of course the less I walk, the worse shape I am in-a vicious feedback loop.
When I was younger, I was known to crash into light poles, as I walked down the street reading a book. Now I realize that I have to be eternally vigilant, so that I don’t go cascading prematurely into the evening before that good night.
But I did snap one shot after the fall…