Thursday, August 5, 2010

What a Pain in the Butt

     Maybe it started in Mrs. Boynton's ballet class doing back bends.  Or maybe it started when I practiced contortions in the Modern Dance class I took when I was a junior in High School.  Interesting term..Modern Dance..since it was conceived by Isadora Duncan in 1903.

     My actual point is...sometime in my youth..I tweaked my lower back.  Oh, at first it was just a little twinge when I hiked out on the sailboat, or free fell down the bunny slope.  No big deal.  Eventually it bothered me when I dug weeds, or reached under the bed to attack the mountain of dust bunnies.  Strangely, the tandem crash in "98 didn't bother my back..perhaps because I was distracted with trying to breathe with a punctured lung.  Then, there was one lovely Christmas morning, when, with all the family gathered to open gifts, I reached over the end of the sofa for a package hidden under the tree and was forced to admit..before Santa and all..that I was in serious trouble.  I couldn't sit back up!  If only St. Nick had left me an ice pack and a heating pad in my faithful old Christmas stocking!

     I just never knew what was going to set it off...but we came to sort of a back and me.  Of course I had to dig weeds while lying on my stomach, I had to assume a perfect leg extended up in the air behind me swan dive position to search for a contact lens lost in the carpet..and I could buy regular groceries, but was limited to carrying only those made of styrofoam.  The dust bunnies remained incarcerated under my beds like prisoners of war.  But all was quiet on the Southern Front.....of my back.

     Then one day, marching along looking for something else to be perturbed came to my attention that my bathroom mirror had been lying to me.  This enlightenment came to me one early morning, when, although I was awake enough to stagger to the potty, my denial system was supposed to be fast asleep...shhhhhhh.  It woke rapidly when, on my way back to bed, I caught a quick glimpse of myself and, thanks to the miracle of my recent Lasik surgery, was flabbergasted to see that my upper arms were turning into Cream of Wheat!  What?

     I comforted myself with the knowledge that for every problem there must be a solution right?  Who better to help me than the ever faithful Internet.  I looked up mush-busting exercises.  All I needed to do, it instructed, was rest my hands behind me on the seat of a sturdy chair..and lower my bottom towards the floor, then push back up.  Three reps of eight..two times a day.  Piece of cake.  Guaranteed to firm up the old Malt'O'Meal in no time at all.

     Unfortunately, the cease-fire was over.

     Somehow, those exercises triggered a sharp pain in the left cheek of my rear end.  Really?  Any of you old timers who remember Grandpa McCoy know what I am going to say.  Sciatica.  Darn tootin'.  His exaggerated gimp was no act. 

     Of course, it only really hurt if I stood, walked, or sat.  All the time, actually, except when I was sleeping, tanning at the beach, or getting my teeth cleaned.  I had to drive with my left foot on the dashboard.  But, because my life was busy, responsibilities plentiful, and my work demanding, I managed to deny its severity for a year and a half.  It was when I retired, however, I admitted  that my little in and day out was well.....a real pain in the ass!!

     I consulted my doctor.  Of course this wasn't the first time I had mentioned this problem to her, but this time I convinced her something needed to be done, when I told her how embarrassing it was to have to elevate my leg on the wine bar at cocktail parties.  "Do you wear a cocktail dress?" she asked me in a diagnostic sort of way.

     Her solution was to send me to a "Physical Medicine" doctor.  "What the hell is that?"  I thought.  Isn't every doctor a doctor of physical medicine?  What kind of cockamamie doctor is this?  Well, what she a very tall, big boned, expressionless, emotionless, mustache-less Czechoslovakian.........Hitler.  Only maybe not as friendly.  Without making eye contact with me throughout the entire four minute appointment, the dictator doctor made her assessment of my problem by tickling my feet and asking me how much wine I drank every day.  Her only comments about my back were..."effrybody hess beck problems" and "you need to haf thet mole on your beck checked".

     She sent me to "Beck Clesses".  I learned how to roll around on a ball the size of my living room sofa.  I can't remember why.  But the giant green ball IS more comfortable to sit on when I write than my old oak chair.  I learned how to do exercises that never improved my sciatica, but did aggravate other places in my back I didn't know I had.  I ended up at the chiropractor who adjusted everything but my crummy attitude.  Then.....I received from Dr. Grumpyczechnazi, instructions to attend a class on a Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulator.  Well, I thought, count me in for that kind of an adjustment!  But do I really have to learn about it in a class with other people?

     Suffice it to say, I didn't get the my fantasy adjustment..but that little TENS unit turned out to be my new best friend anyway.  If you must know how it works, sit through the beck cless yourself.  In a nutshell, it is a little contraption about the size of my 1960 transistor radio.  I stick a couple of gooey little patches on my back and attach some wires..then turn on the bliss.  So far no one has added my name to the No-Fly List, so I guess I'm not the only traveler who uses one to manage long airline flights......although it does fit my imagination's requirements for an underwear bomb.  Anyway...I felt free again, and maybe even a little ........young.

     What better for young people to do than dash off to Tuxie's Car Cruise.  For those of you who don't know what a car cruise's a fast flash to the past.  It's a sea of cars that were new when I was.  My husband, the ultimate car guy, loves to see the workmanship, and to compare carburetors, upholstery stitching, headlight placement, tachometers, and transmissions.  I love to listen to obscure old songs by Don and Juan, Paul and Paula, Don and Phil, and Mickey and Sylvia.  I like the colors and the shapes and the styles.  I enjoy the milieu; my husband enjoys lying on his back in a filthy parking lot looking at engine mounts.  I learned a long time ago to take a couple of tiny bottles of chardonnay to sip from my Catholic University coffee cup along the way.

     It had been a long time since I had been to a Tuxie's cruise, and I was excited to return knowing that with my new stealth device in place I could comfortably walk the distance.  Chronic pain saps one's attention.  I knew now I could enjoy every single aspect of our trip down memory lane.  I was eager to return, if only for a moment, to those feelings of youth, freedom, fun and frolic.

     Forget it.

     It seemed the majority of the crowd was there to revisit its youth too.  I knew this immediately when I stepped from our cute little '28 roadster into the path of a motorized wheelchair.  It was driven by a white-haired guy who had a miniature oxygen tank rolled into his t-shirt sleeve, rather than his trusty pack of Camels.  I jumped out of his way just in time to stumble over the walker of another guy who was taking a picture of his girlfriend leaning jauntily on her cane.  Quickly I checked my little pocket pal to be sure it was safely tucked away..invisible to the world.  I can't be this old....I thought.  I identify more with the younger people here, I'm sure.

     Well, maybe not.  We were strolling down the row with the "souped up" cars, when somebody revved up an engine loud enough to trigger an air raid siren.  Yikes!  F***!  I jumped out of my skin!  I looked around.  We were in the young crowd.  Scary.  Tall,  tatooed scary.  Some guy walked by with a t-shirt telling us he was a laborer.  "I'm a carpenter..who can I nail next".  Nice, I thought.  Bet his mommy loves doing his laundry.  This isn't youth, I pondered, this is hell.  My gray roots would show in two days if my hair was ruby magenta.  I'd have to go to beck clesses for my neck if I was trying to hold my head up with that much metal in my face.  And how could I hide my magic machine in skin tight leggings?

     "Let's get out of here," I told my husband.  "My back feels great...let's go pick up the grandkids and go to the park.  Let's kick the soccer ball around, ride bikes, play on the jungle-gym.  I'm too old to feel young here......but I'm too young to feel old". 

     My ever-agreeable husband nodded and looked at me with, what....sympathy?  Empathy?  Apathy?  Oh yeh.....I recognized the look.  I reached over and turned on his hearing aid.  "Wake up, Little Susie" I said.  "We gotta go home".