Falling Apart but Falling Forward
Well, it is happening again. Another system failure. The red lights and sirens don’t sound, but the warning signs flare. I have become more aware of my body (and not in a good way). When you are young, our body is just there, responding to our mental commands. We take it for granted.
Today, I know it’s there. Parts begin to hurt for no apparent reason. My body moans, “Perhaps, you should have been a bit more cautious in your activities as a youth.” That is all very well, but I can’t really undue the past. I am the product of a “misspent youth” (although it didn’t seem like that at the time).
I played sports. I twisted, sprained and broke body parts. In a high school football game, I dislocated a finger. The coach yanked it back into place, taped it to an adjacent digit and said, “Get back in there you wimp!” It seemed that I spent half of my (less that stellar) collegiate soccer career in an ice bath or sauna and being taped up like the mummy. Concussions were a routine occurrence. I have knocked myself unconscious (multiple times) and woke up somewhere else than I started. “Traumatic Brain Injury” was not a term at the time.
In the Army, I jumped out of planes. I humped an eighty-pound rucksack up and down steep terrain. I got rattled around in armored vehicles. I ended up with a partial disability from the VA for my efforts.
These injuries generally stayed in the shadow for years, but my own actions continued to exacerbate the problems. I tore a ligament in my knee playing in an adult soccer league. I ruptured a quad muscle trying to outrun the “youngsters” in a fitness class. I even strained an Achilles tendon playing pickle ball (The boy just don’t learn).
All of this has come back to bite me. In fact, the “deterioration” has been underway for years. Although my own actions are certainly a significant part of the landscape, genetics isn’t helping much. I have been diagnosed with severe degenerative arthritis (it’s now all bone-on-bone). I partially tore a shoulder rotator cuff, but after the MRI, the doctor told me surgery wouldn’t help because everything else was in such bad condition. Now I know what an old car feels like when the mechanic says, “I wouldn’t put any more money in that baby if I were you.”
I am now on the cusp of a knee replacement (The term “shredded” is not a good term when used to describe a meniscus). The choice is between hobbling around in pain or having the surgery. It is scheduled and everyone who has had it has told me they wish they had done it sooner. That time is now for me.
I have become more conscious of “time.” By definition, it is a system of sequential relationships or a series of events which succeed one another (in my case one broken body part after another). Officially it is measured by the rate of decay of particles in an atomic clock. Or, maybe I should measure it by my own decomposition.
I say all of this not to elicit any sympathy (after all, I have largely done it to myself). Rather, I don’t think that I am particularly unique. Recently, I found myself with several other “men of a certain age” and the discussion migrated to our ailments, aches and pains. I stepped back and thought, “Is this really all we have to talk about?” Well no, but it is now a significant aspect of our lives.
Yet, I don’t think of the future in a negative light. My life has been full, and I don’t expect it to be any less so in the future, albeit perhaps not as high intensity as it once was. I have begun to enjoy little pleasures more. I wake in the morning and look out over the hills and mist hanging over the pond and think, “How beautiful.” I revel in the joy and wonder of my grandson. I see the delight in the antics of our dogs and want to be like them.
Perhaps rather than focusing on the deteriorating mechanical performance, I should rejoice in how I got into that state in the first place. There were some awesome times. Maybe as we get older, what we really become is a repository of memories. Like some old VCR, we make noises when we operate. The tape jumps and skips and sometimes gets wrapped around the capstan frustrating those around us. But ultimately, those recollections are worth holding on to.
Savor the past. Live for the moment. Exult in the time we have been given. Not a bad way to look at life.