Thursday, January 27, 2011

Denial, Anger Issues and One Close Call

We are sitting at a traffic light in our new blue Ford Galaxie in downtown Tiffin. It was summer, and I was contemplating my new sandals and thinking how unfair it was to get in trouble just because I told my sister she was stinky.
I'm only telling the truth, I argued. She is stinky.
Am not, cried my sister with her stupid fake tears.
Girls!, shushed my mother.
Enough, said my father.
Then the light changed, and my dad eased into the intersection. Suddenly, there was the loudest bang I'd ever heard. The car behind us had been rear ended and it shot toward us into the intersection, missing our shiny new car by inches.
Whew, said my dad, peering into the rearview mirror. He missed us by that much. He held up his hand with a little space between his forefinger and thumb.
Oh my, said my mom. We are blessed. Girls, say a little prayer.
I prayed that my stinky sister would find stink bugs in her bed.
A lot of time has passed since that day in 1963. And as far as I know, my sister has never found a single stink bug in her bed.
But I think of the kismet of that moment back in 1963 whenever I have a close call of some sort. Like the time I jaywalked in downtown Columbus only to have a car swipe by me so close it left a stripe on my pants. Or the time I tipped a six-foot ladder up onto two legs while sneezing, and didn't fall OR spill paint.
There are times, though, when we skip our way through life, blissfully unaware of close calls we've had. Take my doctor, for instance. Today, he had a close call and tonight he's probably enjoying a typical evening at home, none the wiser.
For the past year or so, I've had sharp pains in my wrist and the thumb of my right hand. Not all the time, but some days the joints throb and it hurts to uncap my Diet Pepsi or pull the lid off a carton of Starbuck's Coffee ice cream.
Arthritis, said Ken.
Ha, I said, trying hard to forget the annoying flyer AARP sent to me in yesterday's mail. I'm too young for arthritis.
OK, said Ken. But I'm telling you, it sounds like arthritis to me.
Finally, when the pain got worse, I called my doctor who set up an appointment for me to see a hand specialist.
So today, my achy hand and I went to meet the nice Dr. Lanford. Tall, 30-ish, easy going, nice smile. We joked about winters in Cleveland as he stared thoughtfully at my xrays. Then slid his chair over and took my hand.
He pressed here. He poked there. Then he took my right thumb, pushed down and turned. Instantly, gritty pain shot through my hand. I nearly kneed him in his boy parts.
But that wasn't the close call.
The close call came a little while later when he patted my hand, looked me sincerely in the eye and said that while I may have beginnings of arthritis, most of what he saw was just "mileage."
Mileage? my mind said.
MILEAGE?!!? it yelled like I was hard of hearing. I'm doing my best to build a dam against the ravages of time and this pipsqueak talks to me about "mileage"???
Listen, buddy. You try finding trendy clothes in a normal size when everything you see is made for women the size and shape of a swizzle stick. You try sneaking off to the dermatologist's office on your lunch hour for botox so everyone stops asking you why you're angry. You want to talk to me about mileage? Slide that damn chair back over here, frat boy, and I'll show you how strong a hand with mileage on it can be. Care to thumb wrestle, wimpy?? Huh? Huh? I didn't think so.
The anger was startlingly instant and white hot. It blasted through my mind in about half a second. I never said a word but it must have shown on my face, because the nice Dr. Lanford immediately scooted his chair back a few inches and offered, "Well, not a lot of mileage for sure, heh heh. Just. . . you know - normal wear and tear. That kind of thing. Certainly nothing serious. "
He carefully placed my hand down on my knee and scooted all the way back to his desk. I gave a little laugh to ease the moment, and then we moved on to the what-to-do's and what-not-to-do's. He made his notes, asked if I had any other concerns, then told me to call him if the pain got worse or anything changed. I stood, and thanked him for his time. He shook my hand as he opened the door to the hall.
"Take care," he said as I walked past him.
No, you take care, my mind shot back with an evil little smile.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter Evils

It's a sprightly -473 degrees up here on Ohio's north coast. I know this because as soon as I stepped out the door to walk DaBoys this morning, two things happened. 1) Every part of my body froze beginning with my eyeballs and 2) in 0.1 seconds flat, DaBoys had done their business (ON the bottom step, no less) and ran back inside before the storm door closed. By the time I untangled the leashes from around my ankles and lurched inside, they were sitting by the kitchen counter looking pointedly in the direction of the treat jar, Sammy still sporting his LLBean winter doggiewear. It took me ten minutes to clad and unclad myself for our little micro-expedition this morning. Tomorrow morning, I may just lean out the door, hold them over the hydrangea and be done with it.
I have to admit that the snow has been really beautiful these last few mornings. Lovely, white glitter. And it hasn't been icy, thank heavens, because I don't care for ice. Especially black ice.
Black ice is sneaky.
And evil.
I backed into the turnaround behind the house one evening, completely unaware that a mischievous layer of black ice had stretched itself across the asphalt and was lurking beneath my car.
Flo Rida was on the radio, so I car danced for a moment before turning off the ignition and gathering my things to go inside. I opened the car door and stuffed my purse, a bag full of drug store purchases and the Tupperware from lunch salad into my left hand and began to step out.
Now even under the best of circumstances - clear weather, sensible shoes, flat terrain, no distractions - I'm not known for my coordination. So when my foot began to slide, I just figured that I needed to reposition my foot.
I grabbed the steering wheel with my right hand and hauled myself up a bit to give my left foot better purchase on the driveway with my fabulous new Rocket Dog heels.
That was my first inkling that something was terribly wrong.
Slowly, uncontrollably, my left foot began sliding beneath the car like a magnet being pulled toward the North Pole. I scrambled furiously to gain traction but for some reason the driveway was too slick.
My foot slid further under the car.
I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly that it began to turn to the left, leaning even more of me out the car door.
My left foot was taking me places I didn't want to go and I couldn't do a thing about it. Helpless as a baby, I began to fall out of my car. Because I refused to let go of the steering wheel, this all happened at a snail's pace.
I was now under the car past my left knee. My right foot was still inside the car as was my right arm at the end of which was my gloved hand with its death grip on the steering wheel. The wheel was turning as far left as it could go. I was clutching the car door with my left hand. My upper body was hanging closer and closer to the driveway.
There was a nasty breeze up my skirt.
My purse was still around my left arm and was resting nicely on the door handle. Slowly, though, I found myself looking up at it as more of me headed for the driveway. My purse started to tip over. First my mirror then my keys then my wallet then a week's worth of straw papers, receipts, tissues and change all marched out of my purse and onto my head like orderly soldiers.
I heard Ken a mere ten feet away in the house, talking to DaBoys.
I tried to holler for help but every muscle in my body was tensed in an attempt to ward off the inevitable.
Next I watched as my CVS bag plunked from door handle to map pocket where I prayed it would stop. But soon it slid open enough to dump its contents on me, too. Not a problem until the extra large bottle of Juergens nosed its way out of the bag and headed south.
That hurt.
Finally, my shaking right arm could hold me no more and I was suddenly plunked unceremoniously onto the driveway.
My left foot was hanging out somewhere by the oil pan.
My right foot was on the drivers seat, minus one snappy Rocket Dog.
My skirt and coat were clumped somewhere around my armpits.
My left hand was holding onto the map pocket, an unscarred box of Jelly Bellys perched like an acrobat on my arm.
I took stock.
I was feeling wind in places no true lady would ever expose to the elements. I had no shoe on my right foot and could only pray that the shoe on my left foot wasn't ruined. Nothing seemed to be broken, though.
That's when I looked up and noticed my Tupperware. It was in the most improbable spot up by the car window, its lid perched casually against the glass. I watched as it slowly tipped forward and fell, clipping the box of Jelly Bellys on its way down.
My sides hurt but I took a deep breath and hollered for Ken.
Nothing. He and DaBoys must be in the living room.
I got my right leg out of the car. My right arm felt like a ten foot long piece of Silly Putty. As I rolled over onto my side, everything that had been piled on top of me fell into a neat little pile. After a minute, my left foot bade farewell to the oil pan and I managed to get my knees under me. Kicking the Tupperware out of the way, I grabbed the car door and pulled myself upright.
I blew the hair out of my face and tried to yank my clothes back into position. Carefully, I bent down and shoved my purse items and drugstore purchases into the plastic bag. Balanced on one high heel and one bare foot, I slowly stood up and retrieved my right Rocket Dog from the car. Taking very small steps, I turned toward the house. A used tissue was stuck to the front of my coat, I'd torn my hose and lost my headband.
Ken pulled open the door just as I reached the steps. He was holding Sammy and smiling his happy little "my wife's home" smile. Charlie's little head was bobbing up and down in the window of the storm door. Ken's smile turned to a look of horror as he took in the sight that was his wife. In no time, he'd ditched the boys and lifted me into the house.
After a quick inventory to make sure nothing was broken or spurting blood, he ran for the phone. Taking in my bare foot, disheveled clothes, tattered hose and wild hair, he'd come up with the only logical conclusion:
His wife had been attacked in her own driveway.
He was quite relieved to find out that I'd merely fallen under my car.
So relieved that he couldn't stop laughing as he plucked paper clips and cough drops off my coat, helped me peel off my torn and twisted clothes and deposited me into a hot shower.
Later - after a long shower and hot meal - I sat blanketed in my comfy chair with two adoring furry dogs and one adoring furry husband, and sipped a steaming cup of tea.
My right arm still hurt and I had a lovely bruise blossoming on my backside. But I had survived my first close encounter with black ice. I was also happy that we'd avoided involving the police.
I felt sure Ken would have ended up in the hoosegow. No way they'd believe my "black ice made me fall under my car" story.