Where did my legs go?
I used to be an athlete. On the swim team in high school and an intramural basketball team in college. Though never a great runner, I could hike and walk endlessly, be on my feet all day long and bend at the knees and lift and carry whatever heavy items that needed toting.
But that was then. Now my legs have the tensile strength of cooked pasta – with all the ramifications that go along with that. Walking from here to there is doable, but awkward. My balance is barely adequate. And when I go from sitting to standing (no easy task if it’s from a low chair), I need to be sure I’ve got my weight centered over my legs before I step off.
Yikes. What happened?
Certainly, aging. And, sure, some ailments and afflictions. But it’s not like I’ve been ignoring the deterioration. I do have knee and hip issues, but I’m still in possession of my original parts. I’ve done physical therapy and have a home exercise program. But still …
I’m glad to still be moving – albeit, much slower and less gracefully. But in addition to the physical effects resulting from the passage of time, there’s also a mind game going on here. It’s hard to think of myself declining this way.
Recently I accompanied my husband to Priest Lake, where he has an annual series of jobs to do at a number of lake homes. There’s one cabin near Coolin that involves inside work as well, and the owner leaves a key hidden outside so he can enter. She has let him know that the indoor facilities are available for use.
By the time in the afternoon that we get to that particular location, the lure of indoor plumbing is most appealing. Not that one can’t take care of things out in the woods, but there comes a time when porcelain is preferable. So while Bruce was working on the next-door cabin, I started to head inside.
But the front step was gone, and the step-up into the cabin was rather high – too high for me. I couldn’t find a cinder block or anything to pull over and couldn’t get myself up there. I considered just sitting down on the floor on the other side of the open door and scooting myself along on my bottom until I reached a chair so I could pull myself up. But the mental image of that was painful. And I felt bad, but not so bad as to not stick with the problem and come up with a solution – which I did, and which involved more ingenuity than I thought I had in me.
But really, the feeling of diminishment was awful. I mean, really, how pathetic is it not to be able to walk through the front door of a lake cabin?
On a somewhat funnier note, I find that my reading habits and TV watching have a new look to them. The other day I saw a commercial for a walk-in bathtub showing a man not able to lift his leg over the side of a regular tub, the solution being the product being offered in the commercial. Once I’d have brushed that off as a bit ridiculous, but now I thought “hmm, that could work,” because there is no way I can get a leg up and over a tub side without sitting on the edge and lifting it with my still-functioning arms. Good thing I have a walk-in shower that I prefer anyhow.
But I am now paying attention to the various canes and other assistive devices I see. I examined closely a foldable walking stick I saw advertised, and I’m reading about the merits of canes versus walking sticks, not so much because I want to but because my doctor recommended that when I take walks, I use one or the other to have that third point of contact. I haven’t quite let myself get there yet.
Television and magazines are full of all sorts of aids for those of us in our gray- or no-haired years. Happily, I don’t need the motorized get-you-up-a-staircase thing (yet), as long as there’s a handrail for support. Pretty sure I won’t need those catheters you see advertised everywhere. Or the product for Peyronie’s disease (Google it) now being promoted on TV. Or any of a number of items for a host of things that I didn’t know were actually things.
But when it comes to devices for balance or walking, I do need to take these more seriously. I hope I’m still a long way off from a scooter, though I hope also that should that time come, I’ll accept it with as much grace as I can muster. Probably there will be a hip or knee replacement or two before that.
I remember reading a long time ago that getting old isn’t for sissies. True enough. We just need to have a leg to stand on to greet our old age. Or two … even if they’re wobbly.
Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by e-mail at upwindsailor@comcast. net.
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