Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saurday Musings, 26 September 2015

Good morning,

A warning twinge often courses through my legs just before they collapse, and that happened today at 7:25 a.m., right after I put the crystal cup of yesterday's coffee in the microwave and en route to the front door to check for our boycat on the porch.  I hit the floor just west of the piano, flailing for a hand-hold, scraping a chair across the hardwood as I tried to grab its seat and missed.

I lay on the floor for several agonizing moments before I realized that I had stopped breathing.  My mouth gaped open but nothing emerged:  Not sound, not an exhaled stream of carbon dioxide, nothing.  I've broken a rib, it's going to hurt like hell but BREATHE DAMMIT BREATHE, my brain screamed but still my lungs did not heave.  Panic immobilized me.  My face started to numb; a cloudy haze rose around me and I thought, Jesus Christ Corinne, You can't die because you fell and broke a rib, breathe woman.  With a great internal lunge, I pushed my chest out and felt a cough rise, and a moment latter, I lay on my belly gagging.  Shards of something that felt like glass rip through my chest, signalling that indeed, I'd probably broken a rib but by God, I had made myself breathe.

And suddenly I whipped back in time to 1982.  On 09 February 1982, a crazy (self-described) Persian in a VW knocked me into the air, sending me catapulting three stories above the Tivoli.  I slammed down on his hood and through his windshield.   Seven weeks and a surgery later, my mother and a social worker flanked my casted body discussing whether I should be discharged to my fourth-floor apartment or a rehab unit.

Social worker:  What if there's a fire while she's still in this cast?, gesturing as though towards a piece of rotting meat.  How will she get out?  She won't be able to get down those four flights of stairs.

The rotting meat's mother:  You don't know my daughter. 

It turns out that without a court order, a social worker could not actually prevent me from leaving the hospital when medically discharged to do so.  Perhaps my youth prompted me to stubbornly insist; perhaps I'm just the kind of person that rises to a challenge; perhaps my insistence foretold a later brand by a frustrated spouse of doing whatever the hell I wanted.  Regardless -- home to the fourth-floor flat went I, the rotting meat, with only a landline and an unlocked back door to provide help if I fell.

A few days into my recovery, I hit the floor just inside of the locked French doors to my balcony.  As my crutches slammed and skidded out of reach, I found myself grateful that they hadn't shattered the glass panes.  They came to rest about ten feet from my position.  I lay panting, trying to calm myself, shifting the heavy weight of the toe-to-hip cast on my right leg and the ninety-pound body around it.

Silence gathered in the air and settled.  Somewhere in the building, a phone rang for several long minutes.  I thought about the telephone in the kitchen and the one beside my bed, twenty-five feet away -- it might as well have been on the moon.  Chance might bring a friend sauntering up the back stairs; my next scheduled visitor would come at ten in the morning.  I contemplated lying on the floor for seventeen hours and decided that I needed to figure out how to stand.

I surveyed the living room.  I had a green fake-leather recliner, two parlor chairs (badly in need of re-upholstering, I noticed), and a heavy wood coffee table that looked almost sturdy enough to bear my weight.  It would have to do.  I began inching towards it, lamenting the dust on my robe, hearing my Con-law professor's query to my mother early in my hospital stay:  Was it her good leg or her bad leg?

My mother's reply echoed in my brain as I slithered across my floor:  I didn't know she had a good leg.

She doesn't.  Nor good arms, and her torso isn't  much better.  But she's stubborn and she's determined and she's going to get off this floor.  Ten minutes later by the leering clock on the end table, she's made it to the coffee table and grasped its edges.  You'd think hauling ninety pounds and a full-length cast eighteen inches off the ground would not be difficult but it can be.  With a neurological system that inhibits the smooth cooperation of your muscles and a weakened, post-surgical state, the process defies that simple easy tug to vertical stance.  But in the end, the disposition of which a Jackson County Circuit Court judge would one day take judicial notice as being relentless prevailed, and I hauled myself to a sprawled position across the coffee table and lurched far enough forward to get momentum and throw myself backwards into the recliner.

I started laughing, then, but the laughter quickly morphed into long jagged sobs.  A wave of raw emotion washed over me.  My body quaked.  But then the quake, as all  quakes do, subsided and I lay, shuddering, trembling, panting, and eventually, still.

A half hour later, I heard a clumping on the back stairs and felt the floor quiver under a rush of motion.  Steve Hanlen and a friend roller-skated through my apartment, one holding a six-pack of beer, one holding a bag of take-out.  Round and round the living room they skated, calling my name, scolding me for not rising to meet them, settling in my spindly chairs with their wild grins flashing.

We ate; they drank beer.  Steve got me a glass of water and after we'd eaten, lifted me from the chair and helped me into the restroom.  He asked if someone would come to assist me that night.  I shrugged off his question and put my arms around him.  Thank you for this visit, Steve, I whispered.  He returned my embrace and did not speak.  Then, me settled back in my chair, rubbish for the back dumpster in hand, the two of them clambered back down the fire escape and  skated away.  .

Thirty-three years nearly to the day: I lay on my living room floor in Brookside and tried to figure out how to get myself vertical.  I could have called for Jessica; I could have slid twenty feet into the dining room to drag my cell phone from the table.  I told myself that I would do one of those things if I could not get up in ten minutes.  I had no way of knowing when my deadline came.  But years of being in this predicament helped me figure out a way to get off the floor.  I scooted over to the couch, pulled the throw pillows down to the floor, wiggled on top of one of them, and then flipped my 115 pounds over to steady my broken artificial knee on the pillow.  Thus padded, I willed my torso, now screaming from the surely-broken rib, onto the couch, and leveraged the top of my body to its cushioned surface.

From there, sitting was a cinch.  Standing, not so much, but I could smell the coffee and so, eventually, quivering, nearly crying, I got to my feet and made my way towards the nectar of gods in my purloined crystal cup in the microwave.

Out on the porch, I thought about that awful commercial -- Help, I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up.  I reflected on five pounds that I still have to lose to get to my ideal 110, and how much harder everything has become since I started gaining weight again.  I lamented the loss of my landline with its phone-in-every-room.  I drank warmed-over coffee; read the news of Mr. Boehner's resignation and the Royal's abysmal loss; and breathed.

About halfway through the comics, I decided that my rib is not broken after all.  And that I had another good story to tell.  I thought about Steve, roller-skating through my apartment on 43rd Street.  I remembered the last time we got together, just a few months ago, at the 75th Street Brewery on one of his visits north from Texas.  I wondered if I had ever told him how close he and his friend came to finding me helpless on the floor.  I whispered, outloud, there on the porch, Thank God he came! and went inside for another cup of yesterday's Joe.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.