A Yankee Notebook, Columns

I’ve Added a New Experience to my List

by Willem Lange

EAST MONTPELIER – For many decades now I’ve harbored the conviction that to live a vital, interesting life, I should try something new each week. This has led to many fascinating experiences, lots of new acquaintances, and now and then some distress, especially if the experience is unplanned or inadvertent.

I’ve found that the percentage of inadvertent new experiences has increased with advancing years. Age, as we all know or eventually find out, is accompanied by diminished physical capacity and strength, loss of balance, and increased fragility of bones. Quite a few oldsters, for example, fall and suffer broken hips, which are often too far gone to heal properly, and get replaced with prostheses.

Kiki, my nearly constant companion, loves walking in our local park. As the time of day approaches, she sits expectantly on the floor just behind my desk. If she thinks I’m not noticing her, she shakes her tags vigorously, invariably provoking a Shakespearean response: “Never shake thy gory locks at me!” She’s clearly impatient with my preparations: a trip to the john, a handful of treats in my pocket for the dogs we meet, a temperature, appropriate jacket and hat, a glove for my cane or hiking pole hand (the other hand stays in my pocket and produces the treats), and finally the proper shoes or boots for the underfoot conditions that I’m expecting. The closer we get to the park, the more she leaps around and whines, as only peppy terriers can; and when we stop at the parking place she’s out of the car like a rocket.

I regret to report (I’ve told her, but don’t think she’s yet grasped it) that her favorite recreation has come to an end until the snow and ice have melted from the park, probably in mid-May.

For quite a while now, when the trails in the park have been frozen or ice-covered, I’ve been a bit nervous about hiking alone. The odds of slipping and falling are much increased, and the thought of waiting for help (I carry a watch and phone, both of which are able to call 911 with only a voice prompt) at sub-freezing temperatures is a bit daunting. Getting up from the ground after a fall has gotten more difficult (a nearby tree or boulder can help) and if the fall has managed to damage something, could be impossible,

You see where this is heading. Yesterday, just as I reached the car after a fairly cautious mile or so, I momentarily lost my focus by trying simultaneously to turn off the watch measurement of my hike, dig out my car key, find a treat for Kiki, and call her out of the path of an approaching car. Overload. I snagged a rock or chunk of ice with my creepers and experienced again that awful, inevitable feeling of falling. I landed with a heavy thud, and then considered how I might get up. It takes all the strength of two arms to accomplish, and my right arm wasn’t responding.

By sheer good fortune, three lusty hikers were just passing. They came over as fast as they could and, after a brief period of finding good grips, lifted me bodily and set me on my feet. I was pretty shaky. One of them put my hiking pole behind my seat, I found a treat in my left hand and gave it to a clearly anxious Kiki, and my deliverers helped me into the car. I assured them I could make it home all right, which I did, and dosed myself with Glenlivet and Tylenol. Then I took to Facebook to announce the ill fortune.

A few minutes later the phone rang. It was a Facebook friend and retired nurse who announced I was going to the emergency room, and she’d be by in a few minutes to pick me up. I protested, but it was pretty obvious her concern was justified and her resolve firm. So off we went.

As Arte Johnson used to say on “Laugh-In,” “Verry interesting.” The tip of the ulna, called the olecranon. where the triceps attaches, was broken off. Nuts! They splinted me pretty well and referred me to the orthopedic department. Rebecca drove me home, where my still-anxious pal awaited.

They’ll see me in Orthopedics two days from now. Meanwhile, I can drive, cook, wash and fold laundry, and type on this keyboard. What I can’t do are play computer solitaire (probably a good thing), feed myself with my right hand, scratch my nose, and insert my right-side hearing aid without some difficulty. I’ve got to figure out tomorrow how to take a shower. According to a monograph from the internet that I just read, I may be back to as nearly normal as I’ll ever be about the time the ice and snow have vanished from the park. I’ll have added another new experience to my ever-growing list. And I may have gotten just a tiny bit wiser. We’ll see.

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