Monday, June 6, 2011

Contemplating Mortality: "Pull the Damn Plug, Renee!"

The notion of age slipping up on you is, I think, a misrepresentation. This past weekend, I got a good look at the suddenness of the attack.

I had spent last week being especially active physically, riding my bike, kayaking, walking, gardening, mowing and happily sweating a lot. I was starting to feel sun-warmed and much younger than the guy who starts Medicare next month. But when my eight-year-old buddy Isaac asked me if I'd throw the ball with him so he wouldn't have to get in the pool with a bunch of girls, it all came to a head. Throwing a ball is something I've done--and done pretty well--since I was a good bit younger than Isaac and it's an act I haven't thought much about in recent years (save for when I threw out the first ball for a Salem Red Sox game a couple of weeks ago and blew the opportunity by pitching wildly). I haven't been active in throwing baseballs and footballs, but it's like riding a bike ...

Maybe not so much. Riding a bike doesn't take this much skill, coordination and suppleness of muscle structure--which is pretty much a thing of the past for me.

The more I threw with Isaac, the more pronounced the pulled muscle in my back (if that's what it is) became. I had hurt it a couple of days earlier by climbing too many hills on my bike without a rest. Old muscles don't react like young muscles, but nobody tells you that if you don't ask. So here I am asking an eight year old kid to throw the ball so I don't have to bend, turn, jump, lean, stretch or anything else that is normal when tossing a ball with a boy. When Isaac's ball missed me and rolled past on the ground that meant I'd have to bend over and pick it up. That meant pointing my right leg directly behind me and stooping gingerly as low as I could go and suffering that sharp pain as I reached for the ball.

Today it was putting on my socks. I couldn't do it. Too much pain. Fortunately, however, wearing my Weejuns without socks is as trendy today as it was in 1964, so when I show up at the birthday party for my 89-year-old "mom" in Lynchburg, I'll be extra stylish and nobody will know my back is in a sling.

This situation doesn't have much to do with mortality, but on my walk this morning (yep, managed to do that), I was thinking about what I'd tell my doc if she said I couldn't be saved and it would require respirators and all this electronic crap they have these days that keeps you breathing, if not necessarily alive. "Pull the damn plug, Renee!" I found myself saying out loud with a smile. And I meant it.

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