Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now

Well, the results are in and I may now count myself firmly planted in the baby-boomer population whose aging joints are calling it quits and demanding attention – as in medical intervention.

Why I never expected to suffer in this way speaks more to my abject fear of all things medical rather than to my ignorance of the impact of aging. I am a very bad patient.

I should be glad there is the possibility of a slightly intrusive tweaking of a ball joint followed by a few weeks of physical therapy relieving me of the constant pain I now experience from the hip bone connected to the thigh bone. But I am not.

I cling foolishly to a fantasy where I wake up and it will have been a bad dream. But nope, this is for real.

I already know I will hate it if and when one of my gal pals says something like, “Time to pull up your big girl panties…” Where the heck did that phrase come from?! My panties may be bigger than they once were, but not that big!

All those decades I spent walking my legs off in order to stay physically fit and keep the DNA that would toss pounds onto my frame if I even looked at a slice of pizza were also slowly, with glacial exactitude, wearing out cartilage. Add to that some rotten trick of biology that makes bones clog up like an artery. I’ve been handed a one-two punch.

The royal we – as in me, myself, and I – are not happy.

This phase of life, at least for me, could easily be referred to as the gloaming. Not sun-drenched salad days or sun-setting golden years – something in-between, like another uncomfortable latency phase, only with gray hair.

Here’s where I have to remind myself to count blessings and reflect on how very lucky I am. Having perspective is mature, and I can pull that on more easily than big panties.

By the time my parents reached my age, their joints were seizing up. Dad should have had a knee replacement but that miracle of modern medicine wasn’t yet available to the average mere mortal, and besides, I doubt very much if Dad would have willingly gone under the knife. I get my anti-medical intervention gene from him by the way. He, in stereotypical guy fashion, simply avoided doctors.

Ma had her share of aches and pains and began her nose-diving career around the age of 70. She hurt a knee that never quite felt right again, and then both ankles disjointed and required surgery. She broke her collarbone in a fall, and at least once smashed her face. Although she moaned a great deal when she was still able to stand and pivot, she bore it all with amazing grace. She was brave.

As I lay in the MRI tube of doom tamping down my claustrophobia, I channeled my parents. I thought about Ma and her ability to face really scary stuff with the attitude, “…It can’t be helped.” Her ability to resign herself to whatever was happening served her well in the last decade of her life. That’s not to say she wasn’t really pissed off, because that would be a bit too much rewriting of history. She was the enraged hornet until acceptance rode in on its white charger.

Dad’s modus operandi was like the movie Finding Nemo where the character Dory sings, “…Just keep swimming…” He plowed ahead regardless of physical or mental limitations, including moving heavy appliances and TVs well into his early 80s. His “got to earn a living” streak simply wouldn’t allow him to put the brakes on and accept that his body’s tank was nearing empty. His knees fused together in painful bone-on-bone fashion, but he still put his own pants on every morning.

They were the poster images for a picture whose caption could easily read “TOUGH OLD BIRDS.”

I am made of weaker stuff. I didn’t suffer through the Depression-era or WWII. I was given food and shelter aplenty. If I didn’t want to eat the crust on store-bought bread, Ma would cut it off and eat it. If I was sick, I stayed home in a cozy room on the sofa being attended to by the family doctor and a mother hell-bent on returning me to health. Dad fetched the bowls of ice cream as Ma mopped my feverish brow. Spoiled and privileged in the 1950s bountiful fashion was I.

Now I find the memory of their fortitude comforting. If they could endure all that came their way, so can I. I’m working hard on being able to resign myself to whatever fate is planning, after all “… it can’t be helped.” I’ll be repeating the mantra “Feet, don’t fail me now…” I think Ma and Dad would appreciate that sentiment.

This Mattapoisett Life

By Marilou Newell

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