There is not much I do these days that is not awkward, hurts like hell, and takes forever to accomplish. But I keep trying. I relive the days when I could wield a hammer and drive nails all day long, climb ladders, split wood, ride horses. That is all gone now, but I keep trying.
I use the electric carts at the stores. Some days I test myself and feeling momentarily stronger, will stash my cane in the basket, and push a wheeled cart into the aisles. That’s assuming I don’t have to go all the way to aisle ten for cat litter. Or even further for a jug of wine. The trick is getting to a store early to get a cart that has enough juice left to make the rounds without stopping dead in the middle of the farthest aisle.
I have a disabled parking sticker. But, if those spaces are limited, I’ll find another open space nearby and leave the restricted ones for someone more in need than I am. Again, the solution is being the early bird.
Because I can’t bend over, I’ve tied my sneaker laces loosely underneath the tongue so I can slip into my Nike’s as if they are loafers. I keep grabber sticks in the house, in the car, and outside in the storage shed to pick up those annoying small articles that I’ve fumbled and dropped.
I live in Florida, the land of old age, and assistance. The land of geezer power. A place where I never thought I’d be. When I first came here a few years ago, I was bothered by the overwhelming aged population and the many disabled people I saw. I wasn’t ready to admit that even with the Grace of God, there went I. It did not take long for the truth to sink in with my rapidly diminishing mobility.
I tried. I refused to quit. I set goals to walk, going a little farther each day. Until I started taking more breaks, stopping and leaning on my cane, counting the steps. My abilities and movement reduced in a frighteningly rapid inverse curve to my increasing age. It was time to admit that I was one of them. I hadn’t given up–I had learned a bitter lesson.
I was reminded of my mother’s admonition when I was a complaining child, “I cried because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.” I look with respect at those people coping with disabilities far more significant than mine. How they struggle and don’t give up. I assisted where I could, helping people to stand, fold, or unfold a walker. Taking an elbow to help someone across the road. Or simply tried to imagine how difficult life must be for some people. Now, I’m the frequent recipient of such welcome aid.
I had an old Blues Brother’s poster hanging on my wall many years ago. Jake and Elwood stared at me with their dark shades and said, “We cried because we had no shoes. Then we met a man who had no class.”
I can do that. I need to stop whining and get on with my life. I need to try harder.
I do not have a unique disability with a complicated medical name. I have arthritis. Big deal. Yeah, it is a big deal, and it is getting worse. I was surprised when my doctor described Osteoarthritis as a disease. It’s easier to understand when you consider that things just wear out. Sooner for some of us than others. More than a decade ago, the Big A hit me like a hammer. I missed the preliminary signs by avoiding the obvious and shrugged off the warnings. When the shocking x-ray images were shown to me, and the ramifications explained by the doctor, I thought I could beat it. I refused the surgical procedures, convinced that I could handle this with supplements, copper-infused elastic sleeves, and assorted braces. I was only fooling myself.
Over the years, I coped. Quite well for a while, but with increasing difficulty. But I continually searched for alternative treatments and new supplements, topical creams, medicines, or alternative therapies like a cold laser. I’ve had physical therapy and acupuncture. Practiced Tai Chi and Yoga. I use a TENS apparatus. I have a medical marijuana card and have begun seeking a solution with that. So far, with no relief. I’m concerned about stronger drugs that my physician is willing to prescribe.
I see the path more clearly now—narrow, winding, and downhill. Because of other underlying medical issues, it is too late for the surgeries that could possibly make a difference.
I’m in constant pain with legs that don’t work, hands that can’t grasp, shoulders that won’t rotate, and a crooked neck like a bird.
The answer is simple. I admit my mistake. I know what I should have done that may have made life much more comfortable, but my arrogant posture got in the way.
I look and feel like shit. But I hope that, at least, I can show a little class.
About the Author
A frequent contributor of flash fiction and short stories to many venues, Ed N. White is the author of the TJ Tucker Thrillers and the Stephanie Grand/Deena Byrne Mysteries. His Middle-Grade mystery, Miss Demeanor, by Celia J., will be published by Histria Books, LLC in 2021.