Thursday, February 3, 2011

And then ...

Jodie and I step off the front step just after six a.m., as we do every work-morning, for what is, in the winter, just a clockwise walk around the block. There has fallen, overnight, some snow --hardly more than a good dusting. In the driveway, suddenly, I am on an ice rink .. one foot flies that-a-way, the other that-a-way, but, regaining my balance, I slide-step gingerly onto the dusty-snow-laden street. I test it .. it is safe .. no treachery of ice beneath the snowdust. And so our walk proceeds, turning right onto Schooner Drive, and then another right until we've reached the point where the undeveloped "park area" of the development begins, the place where I like to let Jodie off her leash so she can, in this mini-woods-like setting, run and sniff and p&p at her leisure. I walk on .. what am I thinking of? .. am I not paying attention, as I almost always do, to where my feet will be falling? ... I walk on around the curve. I can't remember what I was thinking of, can't remember having put my brain in idle, can't remember proceeding unthinkingly.

And then .. and the suddeness of it was astonishing .. I realized I was airborne .. straight-out, as it were, the toes of my boots pointing skyward .. and it had been on the ascent that I somehow noticed that, yes, the white I'd been walking on had, in a foot-wide swathe along the side of the road, given way to a narrow strip of the dusk-grey ice.

Whack!  Flat on my back! And, secondly, but with the lesser force .. crack! .. the back of my head. The first sense of my situation is a fright that I have no breath .. the wind has been knocked out of me. This hasn't happened since I fell out of a walnut tree when I was about five

At last, flat out on the ice, a gasp naturally enacts itself and the depletion of oxygen begins a reversal. Then I realize I can't move. It hurts too much. It had certainly been, I realize, a hard fall. I try "feeling-out" which vertebrates are shattered, and then I realize that any sort of broken bone would be a greater pain than I was feeling, and I recognize that what I am feeling is not any sharp pain but huge and various sorenesses. I try again to move. I still can't and see that my immobility is in part because any leg or arm I try to use is just sliding on the ice. Finally, somehow, bending my knees (and thinking, ah, no broken bones in my legs or knees), I get myself turned onto my left side on the ice. The left side of my back is what is hurting the most. Still I can't rise. No way can I rise.

I am helpless. I am an ungainly sprawl along a corner of a road in the dark. How long will it be before I am discovered? And will the discovery of me be in the form of being run over?  Bump .. bump .. a driver puzzling out 'what the hell was that?'  (Incidentally, counting this morning, I've forgotten a flashlight only about twice all winter.) I can't see Jodie, she's god-knows-where in the half-block of faux-wilderness. I wonder if she will come and realize I am hurt and will she come up with a plaintive barking?

Then I imagine an ambulance.  Humiliation.  My face isn't washed. My hair's standing every which way.

Finally I somehow scoot myself on the ice until I can reach over to the eight-inch high ridge of hardened snow left along the road by the plow. Using this ridge as purchase I get myself slid right to the edge of it. I pull myself onto it and .. with lots of pain and very slowly .. get myself turned over onto my knees. Now Jodie has arrived to stare at me, and sniff, and wonder, I suppose, what the hell her co-pack leader is doing on his hands and knees in the crusty snow. Slowly, soreness by soreness,I get myself stood up. With a crooked back I begin gingerly-stepping toward home. I feel slightly dazed and confused and scared at how quickly life can change.  Then when I reach the point where I'm directly across from our house I look at it and see that .. hey-zu friggin' kreesto .. my car has been stolen! Was it not there when, four or five or six minutes earlier, I'd stepped out of the house? Had I really not noticed? How can you not notice your car has been stolen when you park it in the same spot day after day after day?

I am looking at the wrong house. My car is in the driveway two doors up.

In the house finally I give Jodie her slice-of-bread reward, and I go to my room and sit on the edge of my bed. I realize there'll be no going to work today. I may have to go to the hospital. I'm not sure I've straightened out my hurts from my sores, not sure I've recognized each place that hurts. Like Etta James sings -- all I could do was cry. That's how forlorn I felt. I have been accident-free my entire adult life (haven't I?) .. and now a divide has been breached. A fine control has been lost; aline crossed. I'll never be the same. At six o'clock I had not felt old. Now, weeping, hurting, with Jodie looking on concerned, vigorously licking my hand as if she would transfer healing from her tongue through my skin, I feel old and, yes, frail. Yesterday I was laughing. Today I am crying. I am pitiful. 

I had promised my buddy Jack a lift to work this morning. I'll wait until the last moment before waking Mark to ask him if he'll get up and keep my promise for me. The moments crawl by. I feel my sore muscles stiffening. At close to seven I try to stop crying and I wipe my eyes dry.  It's a huge agonizingly slow effort to stand up. I walk to Mark's door.  "Mark!"  He responds sleepily. "Will you help me?" "Yes!  What?" "I slipped on the ice and hurt my back and I owe Jack a ride to work ... would you give him a ride for me?"

He jumps out of bed. "Are you okay?"

I am helpless. I've had to ask for help. I'm not okay. And drying my eyes was a waste.  I start crying again .. maybe because I can't say I am okay because I'm not okay.

I lean against the jamb of Mark's bedroom's door to maybe change one hurt to a better hurt. Mark's asks me where I hurt and I assure him once and twice and thrice that, no, I don't think I need to go to the hospital because while it is sore it is not sharp pain and if there were a broken bone there would be sharp pain, and, no, I don't think my head hit hard enough that it is concussed ... etc., etc.

When he's left to pick up Jack I finally can get back into bed. Not easily. Not painlessly. But I get in first on my knees .. how I suddenly appreciate my creaky knees .. and let myself down; then it takes about five minutes as I millimeter-by-millimeter get myself turned onto my side. That hurts too much. Slowly to the other side. That hurts too much. Finally flat on my back. I never rest flat on my back. I know you're supposed to, and I try, but I just can't. Now I'm forced to practice the pose. And it quickly is evident that the longer I lay the stiffer my sore muscles are becoming.

Mark comes back and now is getting ready for work. He has brought me donuts and coffee. He sets an extra table by my bed and puts my laptop on it. The idea of reaching for that laptop is squelched when I try without success to reach for the coffee.

And do I want some extra-strength Tylenol?


I who used to admire the idea of dumping chemicals into bodies am now afraid of things like Tylenol -- I trusted Stanley Owsley, the early (before it was even illegal) distributor of LSD, more than I trust the corporate-souled manufacturers of Tylenol.  (My theory: A Tylenol would camouflage the pain and I'd be inspired to turn this or that way when I shouldn't, possibly resulting in damage.)

Do I want Mineral Ice? No. "I'll leave it here on the table in case you change your mind." The idea that I could reach any space of my back to apply Mineral Ice is laughable excepting that it would hurt terribly to laugh, but this doesn't take away from the sweetness of Mark's kindliness and care and concern.

So, abed, I lie, trying to to move various muscles. My mouth almost drops open when, thumbing through an unread New Yorker I come across an article by Joyce Carol Oates, "The Widow's Story". Whop! If anything can take my mind off my back it is something biographical from J.C.O.! I'm obsessed with her and her brilliance and her production of at least ten books a year (as it seems). The article is plenty long and it is poignant beyond poignant and it totally engrosses me and then I am deflated when I come to that little New Yorker symbol that indicates the end of a story, and in my deflation I realize that I've become so stiff that I can hardly turn in bed at all. Well .. I do manage .. wrenching and winching and scooting myself ever so slowly and hurtingly until, still on my back, my legs are dangled off the side. From this position I carefully and slowly raise my back upright and then cautiously get onto my feet. As I walk around I realize that this activity somewhat dissipates the stiffness. I shave. I take a shower. I put on fresh underwear .. making myself now, three hours after the accident, presentable to go to the hospital if needs be .. I put on baggy clothes .. and I walk back and forth from here to there and walk back and forth from there to here .. walking invalid-ly slow and not without some occasional teaching-moments of pain .. learning, for instance: do not reach for something .. careful, that dictionary (just how the hell is camouflage spelled?) is heavy .. do not sit in that lounge chair but in that one with the straight back.

And so here's how it stands now: I'm sitting at a desktop Apple. I'm sore but not in any great pain. It hurts to take a deep breath but I've learned to take them, if possible, in the style of that last segment of a lazy yawn .. is that clear? .. that quick inhalation that goes deep and, for today, results in only a quick second's worth of hurt. I suppose that deep-breath-hurt comes because of bruised or cracked rib(s).

My largest anxiety is that if I stay in one place or position too long I will get so stiff that I can't unstiffen myself. And if my whole-body-erection lasts for more than four hours ... well, as the ad on TV says, I'll have to call the doctor.

So - half an hour typing - stand, walk, try to stretch - then type some more.

It's become about eleven. Having manned it up, I stopped crying hours ago.

Update #1: On the phone Abby .. "are you nuts?" .. urges me to get pain-killer pills. I call my doc and Mark picks up 30 50mg Diclofenac tablets on his way home from work. He's made a crockpot of great beef stew.
Update #2: Friday. I have a great sleep. Still sore. Abby brings donuts and laughs (ouch, ouch). I sit the afternoon away watching stupid TV, standing and stretching every half hour or so. When Jack shows up at 5 p.m. with some brownies, and to take Jodie for a walk, I amaze myself by being able to walk almost normally once I've gotten myself up.
Update #3: Saturday. All the great pain has diminished, it's all plenty tolerable. I drive to Orleans. I have a great sandwich at Jo Mama's. I go to the library and stay for about four hours, attending a couple different presentations in their auditorium (one on musical instruments; another on raptors). I'm beginning to think I'm really something! And then, back home, Jack brings chicken soup. I watch Indiana get beat by Iowa by one point. What's one more hurt?


  1. Oh you poor love, you relive my worst nightmare,when we had ice I stayed indoors. Having a cat instead of a dog makes that easier. Falling at our age can be a disaster. Take extra care of yourself, and how brave to get yourself home. Thank goodness you have Mark to care for you. Blessings xxxx

  2. George, Hope you are feeling better. Such a description; I felt as though I was there watching from the sideline. Now, since I have the walk shoveled, I will heed my neighbor to the east's advice and stay inside. Love, Sheila