Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


T'aint't So T'is Too

Jackie Spinks                                                          


  Chapter Ten

                               Doing Time

So this inactive soldier in the battle against medicine had to eat her words. She broke her arm and became a pill popper extraordinaire.

I can’t remember where these scalawag ideas about medicine and docs came from but it came from somewhere.  Maybe it was my huge bills when I was young that had gone through the roof and were keeping company there with the shingles. Anyhow, those one time magicians, who have been around for a lot of centuries, have  served some purpose.  And believe me if you’re drowning, you’ll grab onto anything and be grateful.  And that’s what happened to me, dousing all my politically correct sanctimoniousness.

And oh, the gratitude when I got in that ambulance and got to the ER room.  No conflict over should I or shouldn’t I go to the doc. None of this naturopathic, acupuncturist stuff for me, or I’ll cure myself with positive thinking and hydration.   It was “get me there quick and get me some pain pills.”  So once there, I got an MRI, a lot of X-rays, and even a shot of something in my hand that did zero good, and after I told them repeatedly I had broken my arm, they conceded, “Yes, I indeed had  broken my arm.” 

About the meds, my brother could get high on his Vicadin pills, all it did for me was give me a rickety self-pity.  Where was that clinical release into numbness I’d been promised and hallucinating about?
On one hand, I can now understand the meek part of the meek, the halt and the lame.  I was meek.

This broken arm hit was not my finest hour.  I was a yelling, complaining, pleading animal.  The break happened like this.  It was the day after Xmas and I was all eager-beaver to get the chores done, take out the garbage and get on with the celebration.  I was in that “Let the good times roll” sort of mood. 

The snow had stopped and my daughter had swept the back porch steps—she’d swept the snow, but not the ice.  Unaware of this, on my first step out the back door I slipped.  I had two thought as I slipped.  If I go over the edge of this high porch onto the cement below I’m going to die.  Then I thought,  “If I let the garbage go it will fly all over everywhere and I’ll be stuck picking it up.  Here I was realizing this might be my final Hurrah and I was worrying about garbage. 

What will I say when my time is actually up?  Will it be something like “Have the robots won yet?”   And what poet was it, whose last words were, “This wallpaper has to go.” Anyhow, I hit the floor of the porch and threw my right arm back trying to catch something to keep from going over the edge and as I did so, I heard a loud pop and immediately knew my arm was broken.

I let the garbage go and the spirits were with me, as  I didn’t go over the edge, but a year later I’m still gingerly feeling my way down the back steps.  And for some lucky reason the garbage stayed in its bag, if it hadn’t it would probably still be scattered all over the back yard.

Anyhow this broken arm hasn’t brought out my better self.  What it did do, though was bring out the clock-is-ticking, time-is-running-out scenario I’d been avoiding thinking about ever since I read “Enjoy Old Age,” by B.F. Skinner who advised us in our old age not to think about death.

My reaction after my ambulance visit to ER, was to return home and creep into my TV room, close the world out and alternate between watching TV, thinking about my pain and wondering if this was worse than driving a supply truck on a mountain road in Afghanistan?  Probably not.  Life does have it’s compensations.

After watching TV for a few minutes, I’d get up and spend a few more minutes watching my neighbor remodeling his house and than I’d be back to TV and cussing myself for not watching where I was going.

Sometimes, I’d get out of the house and I’d go around telling friends, “You’ll have to excuse me as part of having my right arm out of commission is silence.”  I’ve always loved dialogue, but for some reason after I broke my arm, conversations tired me out—maybe because my voice box was close to my broken shoulder and talking after a while made my chest hurt—or was that just an excuse.  Or was it that I’d stopped eating and didn’t have strength that came from this semi-starvation I had fallen into. Lost 30  pounds, but gained it all back—and then some.

Wild with recriminations I kept telling myself, why was I so dumb and why wasn’t I looking?  Ah, the regrets and “could have beens.” And so my life revolved around my broken arm.  Couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that.  Everything was innovate, improvise, and compromise and doing it with my left arm.  Can’t carry out the garbage, so I’d seal the sack and toss if off the porch. Then I’d creep down those scary steps and pick it up, meanwhile trying to cheer myself up.

“Quit your bellyaching, Jackie,” I’d scold myself, “Like what? Well, you could be living in a Tent City.” 
In the beginning when I first broke my arm, everyone was sympathetic and I got a lot of consolation—later I heard repeatedly, “You’re lucky, it could have been your hip.”       THAT’S SUPPOSED TO PERK ME UP? 

Yeah, I suppose so.  To be fair, I could have metastasized cancer and have a Hallmark choir singing over me.

I know a broken hip is bad luck multiplied and my broken arm is small potatoes in comparison, but to me I was in bad shape—mostly imprisoned by the sling.  The sling kept sliding up my arm so it didn’t do much good, most of the time.  It definitely needed a re-design.  So along with revisiting world affairs and the sorry plight of the soldiers, I redesigned slings and sympathized with torture victims.
At first, it was pain, pain, pain and I was totally preoccupied with pain.  I’d bitch to the doctors that Vicadin, Percoset, Oxy-Contin, etc., didn’t work.

“Are you giving me placebos?” I’d accuse them, as the above pills eliminated about 10% of the pain.
“It’s the strongest pills we have,” they’d reply.  Can’t imagine what advanced cancer is like with nothing more than these baby pills for the pain.

Also, can’t understand why I didn’t even get a pharmaceutical calm or rush from the pills, especially when told they were based on Cocaine, although I did feel more psychologically crappy with them (if that was possible.)  Guess it’s all in why you’re taking them.

So anyhow, against the advice of my brother, who had broken his leg the same week as I broke my arm. We must have had some kind of Zen moment to do it the same time, 400 miles apart.  I went cold turkey on the pills.

Wish I’d studied more chemistry, as I think I could surely come up with a better recipe for painkillers than these babies on the market now.  I know, for sure, I could come up with a better design for this sling.
Once I no longer had pain to pre-occupy me it was boredom, boredom, boredom.  My brother thought  I should get therapy for my arm.  “You’re just like Mom. Remember Mom refused to get therapy after her stroke and if she’d listened to us and done her therapy, she wouldn’t have been bed-ridden for nine years.” I didn’t want to go, but I did the therapy thing one time, after listening to my brother nag. 

But the therapy hurt so much, I quit after one visit.  I didn’t have to do everything my brother said.  I still had a few shots left in my fusillade even if I was handicapped. But I have to add, I still avoid docs like I do the present day stock market. And avoiding the stock market is probably just as stupid as avoiding pills.

I look at docs like ---- “If you went to a mechanic and he charged you a couple of thou and didn’t fix your car, you’d not pay up, yet we go to doctors, he charges us a couple of thousand and we, along with our insurance company pay thru the nose, although if our car ran as bad after it got fixed, well, you know the rest.  Or maybe it’s that belief system that believe some people can do magic.

But it was my family—that mistake prone, anxiety-ridden, little group that closes in when one of us is in despair. They rallied around bringing me a laugh, an understanding, a help and also I hate to admit this—a competition.  My broken arm healed before my brother’s broken leg—and he did therapy regularly. I won.   



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