When those nice little old ladies fall on T.V., they always show the devoted daughters plugging in the handy dandy tracking device that calls the ever-vigilant bright-eyed neatly-dressed attendant at some distant calling center who promptly promises to send help “right away” when dear old mom next tumbles to the ground, sending prunes or grape nuts scattering in all directions.
What they don’t show you are the hours of physical therapy the nice little old ladies need before they are allowed back in those accident-prone, handicapped-inaccessible kitchens, the ones with overhead cupboards, ancient faucets, outdated appliances, and lack of walking space.
Let me tell you, falling and not being able to get up is the least of the problem. It’s likely to be that last bit of rest you’re going to get for a long time.
Sooner or later, a neighbor or friend or partner or wife or husband or child will wander by and you will have to admit that you are not looking at the interesting mid-20th century variegated pattern in the handsome wall-to-wall carpeting of your hallway, that in fact they might as well haul you to your feet, that—ouch—your right arm isn’t quite what it should be and perhaps we’d better call the doctor.
And so begins the usual round of Dr. This and Dr. That and x-ray this and x-ray that. It all takes a couple of weeks and a bunch of hemming and hawing and gulping down horse pills and sleeping with heat patches glued to your arm and tossing and turning all night long and nearly dropping the half-gallon of milk because you forget that you are one-armed these days.
And of course I can’t drive because I use hand controls and that takes two to tango. And oh, have I mentioned that CF broke her OTHER hand and is in a cast for three weeks? We shan’t discuss the sad circumstances under which it happened except to say that I will describe my stupidest fall and then tell you that hers was even more stupid:
I was doing yard work a few years ago, walking down our driveway, pushing our 65-gallon plastic garden waste cart ahead of me. It looks just like a garbage cart, the kind the town gives you for your garbage. Fortunately it was empty, and the top was open. I was tired, always my excuse. I lost my footing and stumbled forward, and ended up flat on my stomach, with my head and shoulders inside the garden waste cart. As far as I know, no one saw me. It happened on my birthday. At least hers wasn’t on her birthday. But it was close!
My most recent fall did not happen out of sight of friends and neighbors; it happened in plain sight of CF and just out of sight of NF, who had, let’s say, “neglected” to hold the door open for me, causing me to stumble up the short flight of stairs tween garage and laundry room, crashing to the ground and somewhat crushing the semi-antique aluminum cake carrier I was no longer holding but instead flinging to the ground, although I did try to brace myself by pushing off the wall dead ahead of me which simply caused me to double-bounce on top of said carrier and ricochet off the pile of newspapers waiting to be recycled. There was a slight cushioning effect, the one and only time, I am sure, that Mitt Romney will ever be of benefit to me.
The x-rays showed damage that will require physical therapy, which did not surprise me. I have done this before, because I fall a lot, and I always damage the right shoulder, which amuses me. I am left-handed, and for many, many years, I was a fast-pitch softball catcher. I imagined that at the least I would have new knees by now, or a ruined left shoulder. But no, those joints are fine. It is the much less used right shoulder that is turning arthritic, has bone spurs, and is continually being crushed and mangled by my falls.
The doctors can’t tell without an MRI if I’ve actually “torn something” in the rotator cuff or not, but they shot it full of cortisone and now it’s off to P.T. twice a week, where, should I fall, I will be immediately whipped back to my feet by two or more extraordinarily athletic young people. I need to warn them that I get dizzy if I stand up too fast. These are the same people who coaxed CF’s first broken paw back into shape, therapy that involved, among other magic treatments, dipping her hand in hot wax, a treatment that sounds so spa-like that I purr with envy. I suspect the closest I will come to hot wax will be bumping into the air freshener candle in the bathroom.
However many times I may stumble in P.T., I am sadly certain that I will fall again in real life, that I will again damage this shoulder. What I think I really need is to go to Falling School. I need to learn to fall properly. They must teach that somewhere. There must be professional fallers. Someone to teach you to not stick out your arms so you wreck your shoulders, but to tuck in your arms and roll with the flow. Someone to teach you to do a floor routine, like those gymnasts in the Olympics. After all, when I was in grade school, they taught us to survive a nuclear bomb. Certainly they can teach me to survive a three foot drop to the floor now.
I’m not too old. I can still learn. And I’m pretty sure there’s enough newspaper in the garage to use for cushioning.