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Oh, My Achin'...

once you hit middle age, sometimes you feel like this guy must
once you hit middle age, sometimes you feel like this guy must

“What’re you in for?” I asked an acquaintance I ran into while at physical therapy the other day.

“Bum hip,” she said, hobbling toward me as she winced. “You?”

“More like what am I not in for,” I groaned, pointing to my swollen knee and rubbing my aching lower back.

Seems I’m doomed to serve a life sentence in rehab (physical, mind you, not addiction-related), what with my perpetually disabled everything. And so far there are no signs of potential time off for good behavior.It’s gotten so bad, that I’ve had to triage my aching joints to capitalize on the hard-to-obtain appointments with the physical therapist to help mend my injuries-du-jour. I’d already had a standing date with a fabulous PT to work on my always-nagging lower back issues, but when I tore my meniscus (that’s in the knee, for all you age-related injury neophytes), all of a sudden the back issues had to take the back burner, in order to figure out how to work with a niggling knee problem instead. Like a medic on the war front, I’m dispatched to relegate the least of my injuries to the back, while refocusing on the worst of the worst just to get out of the line of fire and remain as intact as possible. Shame, too, because I always looked forward to my PT appointments for my hobbled back, as the therapist was masterful in loosening up those culprit hip flexor muscles that were causing my back to misbehave in the first place. And while the pleasure/pain factor was at a premium during that deep-tissue work (at times deep enough to nearly land me on the threshold of tears), the end results were worth the pain.

Sometimes I love physical therapy. Like when they hook you up to that fabulous e-stim and get your muscles tingling with the electrical zap being transmitted intra-bodily. Throw in one of those ultra-heated therapeutic warming pads and I’m sleeping like a baby in no time flat. But now the bum knee demands e-stim with ice, not such a stimulating event. Well, actually overly stimulating, as I sit there with my teeth chattering, watching my muscles jump involuntarily with the zap and counting the minutes till the torture is over.

Now, while all of this “kneecapping” (i.e. being cut off at the knees by physical limitations) is easily attributable to the lamentable deterioration of a body due to wear and tear (also known as aging, in layman’s terms), I fear that much of it is my own stupid fault: it’s thanks to me behaving as if I’m eighteen rather than not-quite-forty-eight. Refusing to accept that maybe kickboxing isn’t such a good idea at this point, for instance.

Although sometimes it’s due to other circumstances I should have controlled. Take, for instance, the Sam’s Club injuries. Who here hasn’t thrown out some bodily part while lugging an item far bigger than we need to purchase while shopping at Sam’s? Come to think of it, that’s how I originally threw my back out, years ago: hauling cases from shelf to cart, then cart to car, and finally car to home. Buying something in product-on-steroids volume that I don’t even need a case of, but only because it’s the only way you can purchase it for cheap: a gross of this, a palette of that and whammy, you’re wounded. The irony is that the cost savings of Sam’s Club acquisitions should go directly into the medical-insurance-physical-therapy fund, because guaranteed you’ll ultimately hurt something lugging that stuff around and need medical treatment for it, the cost of which will far exceed the ten percent you saved buying it there in the first place.

I’m convinced it’s no small coincidence that Sam’s Club sells bottles of Advil large enough to supply a small hospital for a month: most of their customers probably need the pills simply to ease the pain and inflammation from shopping-related physical damage. They might as well put Don’t Forget the Advil reminder poster at the exits, right by the little old folks who swipe those receipts with a highlighter marker to ensure no theft (God forbid the megalithic retail chain lose a buck or two along the way). I’m thinking the real theft is in Sam’s Club stealing my well-being away from me by forcing me to act in the capacity as a virtual longshoreman, hauling enormous cargo needlessly. Maybe Sam’s needs to contribute to my insurance bill at this point.

I remember as a child hearing my “elders” lament their age-related failings: the aches, the pains, the feet that hurt when rain was in the forecast. And I distinctly recall my smugly thinking at the time, “Well, if they’d only been more active and taken care of themselves they’d not be in this position.” Little did I know my cockiness would come back to bite me, dammit. More like chronically wound me. Trust me, I’m paying for it. And you know what they say about payback. Not only does it rhyme with witch, but it hurts like a rhymes-with-witch as well.

(and a day after my first appointment for my knee, the insurance called to say I was out of physical therapy appointment allowances for the year, dammit!)


Categories: humor, Jenny Gardiner, Over the Falls, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Slim to None, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me, women, women's fiction

Help! I've Forgotten and I Can't Recall!!!

Yeah, I know, sort of a lame take on the iconic 1990’s television commercial featuring an elderly gal with a medical emergency who urgently needed assistance with her feeble self. Thanks to “Life Call,” she had someone who was able to prop her up, and all was well.

So far I’m not in need of Life Call to rescue me from a frail bone-related fall, but I am in dire need of some sort of life call to save me from an increasingly enfeebled brain. They say the mind is the first to go, and my memory–which until recently I’d successfully prodded into action with a regular machine-gunning of reminder alerts on my iCal each day–has taken a day at the beach and decided it doesn’t want to return just yet, if ever.

Thus, I have placed practically my entire memory in the evidently disabled hands of my MacBook’s iCal, which it seems has aged in dog years itself and is failing in its own wretched memory to remind me of all that I can’t help but forget. Two operating systems ago, my iCal reminders worked regularly, even though I overloaded the application with unrealistic demands: most every function of my day popped up to remind me to do it, short of basic hygiene functions such as “remember to brush teeth.” So many demands that while it reliably reminded me, it also crashed constantly. So I upgraded to a new operating system and the failures became rampant. My reminders would pop up for one event, but not for the next. But I’d not remember to check my calendar to see what it was forgetting to remember. The next upgrade failed me even more. I’m a victim of the memory of both me and my fail-safe computer, failing all over the place.

Since my calendar can’t even remember to remember, I’m holding out hope they soon come out with helper dogs for failing memories.

I felt a little relieved after chatting with my friend Tana the other day on the phone while she was preparing to leave for the gym. As she was talking on speakerphone, I heard water running in the background.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to the bathroom,” she said. “I’m just filling up my water bottle.”

Well, of course any woman with good girlfriends knows that occasionally we all happen to race into the loo while on the phone—it’s a hazard of friendship. So I just laughed and told her it wouldn’t have mattered regardless. We talked for a minute more when suddenly Tana stopped.

“Oh, crap. Where’s my water bottle?” she asked.

As if defining my dilemma for my own affirmation, she did what I regularly do: forgot the simplest of things in the shortest period of time imaginable. It’s what we do best. All day long. And fight it with the meager tools at our disposal to keep us from having to purchase ear horns and walkers and resign ourselves to our dwindling age and capabilities.

The other day I suffered the hat trick of memory shortcomings. First, I lost my reading glasses in the time it took to swap out shirts. A few minutes later, I became vexed because I couldn’t find the enormous pile of tax information it had taken me an entire day to find, which I’d then put somewhere I’d know where to find it. Shortly thereafter, I needed to recall the brand of car I’d rented a few days earlier, as I wanted to be sure we didn’t consider it while shopping for a new car. I’d made a point of remembering the brand. To no avail.

And that’s the thing. I’m always putting things where I know I’ll remember them. And rarely do. I walk to a food cabinet while fixing dinner, forgetting in six short steps what I’d gone there to retrieve. I wake at 3 a.m. with brilliant ideas, but don’t want to wake completely to write them down, certain I’ll recall by dawn. Never do. Yet then I wake up in the middle of the night over mundane things, like forgetting to soak black beans for dinner, only to not be able to sleep, recalling everything I need to remember to do that I haven’t done and worry that I won’t remember to do it. I leave notes everywhere, only to not know where the notes are. I record reminders on my phone. Only to forget to listen to them later.

Maybe life’s pressing needs are actually squeezing my brains dry. Sounds like I could use a good vacation.

A conversation between me and Tana these days goes something like this:

“Did you hear about, oh, what’s her name? Long brown hair, lives up that narrow mountain road.”

“Yeah, the gal with six kids?”

“Exactly. And that dog that smells like death. Her husband played in a band when he was in college—”

“Oh, what is her name? It begins with a P, doesn’t it?”

“It rhymes with my mother’s middle name, I think.”

“What’s your mother’s middle name?”

“Amanda.”

“Nothing rhymes with Amanda. But anyhow, we’ll think of her name. But did you hear–they’re getting a divorce.”

No! I always knew he was up to no good.”

“Who? Her husband?”

“Yeah. What’s his name?”

Well, you get the idea. We have all the minutiae committed to memory but the barebones facts have evaporated from our gray matter, by some brain-fog that has settled over our memories, doomed to cloak our thinking and force us into some Sherlock Holmesian effort to recall. Our trail of deduction requires mental bloodhounds, and it seems as if our dogs have got up and went.

“Between the two of us we have a brain,” Tana said. And she’s right. Which makes me think maybe I need to simply be paired up with someone, 24/7, from here on out. Because clearly at this point two heads must be better than one.

Categories: humor, Jenny Gardiner, memoir, News, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me, women, women's fiction