Something powerfully painful hit my weakened back ten days ago, my blog passenger pigeons. A roaring freight train loaded full of aches and stabs and rippings blew through a failed crossing sign at belt level. Can’t say exactly what triggered the awful inflammation where my lower left back meets my hip. Shoveling the historic snow, maybe, or carrying my dog back into the house after he got disoriented in three feet of snow at 6:30 a.m. In any event Ground Zero erupted in a geyser of pain on January 29. We were at the Snowfall Ball, and my wife wanted to dance, naturally. I wanted to oblige her, but I felt the nagging paring knife pain where the tendon inserts as I lifted my left foot. The rest of my muscles began to compensate for the hurting one. In no time at all my hips and back were pouting then pulsing with pain. Sitting down or standing up felt like a rusty hinge was being forced to stagger without WD40. It was bad. I took some ibuprofen and suggested that the wife dance with other old men. A couple of old timers obliged, and why not? She looked so pretty and I was just rusted shut on the shelf. I danced a few rumbas and tangos until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had a glass of red wine and went to bed.
The knife pain began to feel like an arrow had been shot into that bull’s eye spot, and then a harpoon, followed by a small caliber bullet and then finally a rocket propelled grenade. It’s the same old injury I first experienced 13 years ago. At that time an audible pop was witnessed by my fellow teachers as white hot pain seared my back, and then I locked up in a contorted state of bear trap muscle spasms. It was rough, partners. Imagine being tied to a wild horse by your left leg, and it gallops crazily across a desert wash, stopping only to kick you with angry hooves now and then. It was like that without the horse or desert.
Pain killers and unconsciousness look like good options from that perspective, where even a sneeze will rupture neural cease fires across the battlefields of your agonized synapses. You think ‘I could use a coma right now’, a dreamy state of consciousness with reduced nerve chaos, not a comma, which is a punctuation mark meaning pause. I’d take either, though. I’ve never been a fan of fireworks or super hot peppers, which is close to what I experienced in my low back– a Fourth of July extrapainaganza display of gasoline-soaked scorpion peppers. Being vertical in gravity was enough to start the next display of electric anguish sparks. Getting horizontal was all I could think to do. Oh, to float on a surrealistic narcotic pillow.
In my injury past, two or three days would be the end of the penance and I would gradually go back to my old bad habits. In this episode, however, I was still locked up tight on the third day as I rose again… not miraculously erect like Jesus did but very nearly worthless, staggering sideways. The good thing about being in a near coma is that you can’t get into as much trouble with your wife and family. I can’t think of any other upside to relentless pain, except maybe it keeps your focus on God longer than usual. You can’t go ramming around. When life is a merry two step, you can easily lose focus of what really matters most. So, maybe in that regard pain is a gift that leads to humility and gratitude. If that is true, then I should be very humble and grateful.
Against my will, my torso pulled itself into the letter S, forcing a very awkward gait that I have seen in elderly folks who look like Mr. Magoo. I want to be the letter T, ramrod straight, shoulders back. Not the scoliosis dude. To attain T form, I had to lie on my back on the floor, for a long time. You can’t do much work on your back. My dog came over and licked me. That was special. Still, the feeling of worthlessness pervaded my zombiefied mind. I told my wife, “I feel so worthless….” and then added,”… it’s probably hard to tell from my normal level of functioning, though.” She snorted, “That’s what I was thinking, but I didn’t say it.”
“It’s true though, Mrs. Magoo. I’m just lying here waiting for a detective to outline me in chalk.”
“Oh stop your whining.”
Cop to coroner, “What’s the cause of death here, Doc?”
Coroner, “Stupidity. It takes a lot of men eventually. I’ve seen a lot of it this week.”
Cop, “How so?”
Coroner, “A guy like this acts like he’s still 25. His will wrote a check that his body couldn’t cash. Look at him, a beached walrus, out of shape, probably didn’t listen to his wife’s advice.”
Wife, “No he didn’t, officer. The coroner is correct.”
Cop, “Sad, really. He never got to collect his social security.”
Wife, “His lovely younger wife will, though.”
Coroner, “It’s okay. You know that there isn’t any money in the social security fund, don’t you?”
Cop, “Uh, no, I didn’t know that.”
Wife, “I didn’t either. Sounds like sour grapes to me, fella.”
Coroner, “Sure, everyone contributes every payday, right? And then once a month the government sends some of that money back out to folks on Social Security. So a guy like this contributed all his working life and he can’t collect a dime now. See?”
Cop, “Well, yeah, but how is Social Security a Ponzi scheme, Doc? I want to know.”
Coroner, “It just is. Trust me.”
Cop, “I need more than that, Doc. You can’t just say something like that, so inflammatory, you know, and then walk away with no details.”
Coroner, “Silly man, that’s what our government does every payday. It takes your money and says ‘Trust me’.”
Cop, “Huh, I’m seeing it now, Doc.”
Wife, “Trust me, fellas. He got what was coming to him for skipping yoga and never listening to me.”
BS, “Honey, you are enjoying your role way too much.”