Monday, March 23, 2009

WHY I AM WEARING THIS SLING

Someone asked me recently how old I am and I said I am eighty-five but I only feel eighty-four. I am not complaining. I hope to stick around for as long as I can. Chances look good. Physically I am a pathetic old thing to look at, but the vital organs work as well as they ever did. Mentally I’m nothing to boast about, but I get by with what’s there.

Coping with old age can be a challenge.

Waking in the morning, if one is so fortunate, can be the most challenging part of the day. Just getting out of bed can be dangerous.

First, you really ought to be able to see. You feel about on the bedside table for your glasses. In doing so you knock over a bottle of aspirin, the alarm clock and the table lamp. Eventually the glasses turn up on page thirty-seven of “How To Improve Your Memory,” the book you were reading when you fell asleep.

Second, you need to hear. Hearing aids have a life of their own. Mine are little rubbery things with metal attachments that whistle. Often I can even hear with them, but mostly I rely on an ability to read lips that I have developed out of necessity. Frequently they develop legs and crawl so far under the bed that you have to kneel and feel about until you retrieve them. Don’t even mention changing their cunning little batteries. Once one of them escapes it rolls even further under the bed than its parent.

Oh, and teeth! Dentures restore a little of what I used to call “my looks” so the sooner the better. They are nowhere to be seen until you spot them in the glass of chardonnay you left half empty at bedtime.

Finally you get what I laughingly call my body dressed and go to the kitchen for breakfast.

The meal consists of one half of an English muffin for me, the other half for Peaches, acceptable to her only if it is generously smeared with extra crunchy peanut better.

You remember that you have an appointment at CBS to pitch an idea for a television pilot. It’s not like the good old days when you had two shows on the air and were making a million dollars a minute for them. The receptionist asks your name twice now and when you are finally in the presence of the twelve-year-old executive in charge he helps you to your seat and offers you a glass of warm milk.

You are half way to the appointment when you realize that you are still in your pajama bottoms.

You return home and are greeted at the door by a pretty woman who claims she is your wife. You decide you had good taste when you were choosing a mate, but you wonder what her name is.

This is also the time of “the fall!” Every family has a story of “the fall.” It is a landmark in the lives of most people in, what for some puzzling reason are called, their “golden” years.

“After Aunt Edna’s fall she never got out of bed again!”

“After Dad’s fall he was never the same.”

“When Mama had her fall she just laid there!”

I had my fall a few weeks ago.

Jane and I were going to the beach house for the weekend. It was one of those spring days when every plant in the garden was bursting with new life. The morning was cool and there was a special slant of light that illuminated earth and sky. It was one of those mornings when nobody is looking I cry out in awe and wonder: “Good Morning World!”

The car was mostly packed. Jane was trying to round up Peaches who goes berserk with excitement when she hears the word “beach.” She has a vocabulary of close to two hundred words so Jane and I have to spell things out a lot.

There are three steps from our front gate down to the road. I maneuvered two but missed the third one and went sprawling out onto the street.

I may have been unconscious for a few moments but when I came to I wondered what I was doing there. When I tried to get up nothing worked, and then I saw BLOOD!

It was then I started shouting for Jane, but she was at the far end of the house trying to lasso Peaches and did not hear me. When Peaches becomes excited she has running fits and has to be cornered before she can be hooked to her leash.

I decided that my only hope was if someone were to drive past and would have the decency not to run over me and quite possibly stop and ask if I needed help. Ordinarily vehicles race along our narrow country road at all hours of the night and day. Many of the drivers aim their vehicles at children, old people and dogs but so far the kids and old folks and our dogs have been nimble enough to avoid fatal injury.

Unable to reach Jane and still seeing blood I decided that my life was ebbing away, but I was consoled by the fact that my last living moments I would experience the jasmine that is in full intoxicatingly rich perfume by the front gate.

Finally Jane came to the back door and rather plaintively called, ”Earl, where ARE you?”

“Here,” I croaked in what I thought might be my final words on earth. I regretted the moment for I have often rehearsed what I want to be my final words and I certainly did not want them to be ‘here.’ And certainly did not plan to deliver them face down in some remote country road in the Hollywood Hills. One of my favorite last words I planned to deliver in Sweden when I hoped to accepts the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. Another was before the Virginia State Legislature when I extolled the virtues of my native Nelson County. For too long it has been associated with bootleggers and xenophobic hillbillies. There are people back there now who know how to read and write for God’s sake and I wanted to tell the world.

Jane rises to every occasion with grace and composure, but it is in the face of disaster that she amazes me most. I have seen her cope with fire, flood and famine and I am sure that when “the big one” comes, as we are promised that earthquake will, she will save us all.

Discovering me face down in the street, bleeding and broken, she helped me to a sitting position and assured me that I would live. All the while she was staunching the blood and cleaning it away from my forehead and hands. The injuries were not all that severe but I take a blood thinner and consequently I bleed alarmingly with very little encouragement.

Once on my feet and assured that no broken bones are visible Jane led me into the house. Peaches looks at me reproachfully. She expected that we would be on our way to the beach by now.

When we finally reach the beach it is late afternoon. Both arms, wrists and a finger or two were swollen and in pain. Jane decreed that we go to the Emergency. Daughter Caroline and her husband, Pepe, always reliable and supportive, joined the effort and delivered me there.

It is a facility run by achingly beautiful young nurses and female doctors. An excruciatingly beautiful young blond nurse gave me a tetanus shot and said it wouldn’t hurt. It hurt like hell, but there was no way I was going to cringe in front of such beauty. A stunning young woman entered and introduced herself as my doctor. Her touch was cool and comforting as she examined the effected areas. The only man I laid eyes on was a nice guy named Eric who took the X-rays and recommended an excellent book which I am now reading called “The Zoo Keeper’s Wife.”

After a few hours I emerged, forehead patched up, one arm in a sling, fingers in splints, both wrists in supports, and with a prescription for Vicodan. The folks at the Emergency had done an excellent job. I was instructed to see my orthopedic doctor as soon as I got back to town.

My family doctor gave me a number for a medical group called The Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery. I made an appointment for the following day.

When Jane and I arrived in the waiting room we surrounded by tall lanky young African American men who looked like basketball players I had seen on television. When their names were called to go into the examining room they walked with a kind of strut that I admired tremendously. Another young man who walked with a limp carried a tennis racket in a leather case. A young woman, one leg in a cast, sat across from us. And one mountainous guy with legs like oak trees engaged Jane and me in a mumbled conversation in which we were able to gather that he was a professional football player and was recovering from his fifth surgery on his right leg.

In the examining room I sat slouched, dejected and depressed. Frustrated that I could not use my hands to brush my teeth, comb my hair, or open a bottle of wine (that bothered me most of all). I sat and made little sobbing noises. I felt old. I reminded myself to check to see if the will was in order. I was in pain and wondered if I would ever regain use of my arms and fingers. And then a good looking young doctor breezed in. He took one look at me and said “What’s going on, Dude?”

It was the first time in my buttoned down, conservative, bookish life anyone had ever called me “dude.” It was a moment I will treasure forever. He had bestowed the mantle of “jock” upon me.

I sat up a little straighter and decided that there was no way I was going to tell this guy that I had simply fallen ass-over-tea-kettle for no reason and muttered something about slipping while shooting baskets at the hoop over the garage door.

“Stuff happens,” said the doctor. After consulting the x-rays and a physical exam, he said, ”Let’s get rid of all this crap.”

And with that he slipped off my sling, began cutting off the splints and discarding the wrist supports. He prescribed some exercises, told me to come back in a month, gave me a high five on my least injured hand and was gone.

I am happy to report that since that day getting up in the morning is a piece of cake. My glasses, hearing aids, and dentures are much easier to find. I have developed a little strut like the one I observed the other jocks in the waiting room had perfected. Swaggering down the hall in the morning I stop to look at my image in the mirror and a dude gazes back. I continue on to my Breakfast of Champions and when I see my wife I remember her name.

Don’t look for me on the sidelines, Sports Fans; I’m off the bench and back in the game!

18 comments:

  1. Mr Hamner - Sorry to hear of your injury! I only hope my outlook is as positive and humourous when I get to be as young as you are. Next time try falling on top of the executive - more cushion and less damage (who'd miss one less? )
    Keep safe :) and keep blogging. we do enjoy it..

    John

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  2. Mr. Hamner,

    I too was sorry to hear about the fall and agree with John. I can only hope and pray to have a life as long as yours and half of what you have experienced. I have so much enjoyed your blogs and look foraward to many many more.

    Tell us more about this television pilot idea. WE NEED your product back on the airways. There is very little of worth on TV these days. That is why I so enjoy my favorite show The Waltons, on DVD.

    May God continue to bless you with wisdom and talent to share with us.

    Randy

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  3. I am so sorry to hear of your fall Mr. Hamner and I so relieved that you have recovered. It sounds like a very frightening experience...long gone are the days when -as children-we would fall and jump right back up and continue on with our day.

    I enjoy your blog very much!
    Blessings,
    Robin

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  4. Oh how I enjoy your writing. You can make a fall and a visit to the emergency room fun. I'm glad to hear that you're doing better and that you know Jane by name :-)
    Marcia
    Blessedmom6x@aol.com

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  5. I'm sorry about your fall, and yet you seem to have more fun in injury than I do in health!! And although you mock your mind, it is a national treasure.
    I'm very happy you've made a full recovery, if only for selfish reasons... I need you to have both hands free for typing more of your great stories! Cheers, friend!
    Xavier

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  6. Dear Earl...
    Now that was something to experience but yet through it all, you managed to bring humour and your special touch to it, and came out of it like a blooming rose, stronger and more vibrant !

    Working with elderly, I do know of many who share your view of aging, and I enjoy the fact that they approach this point in their lives as something POSITIVE, and make the best of what they have and live it the best they know how and feeling great about it, I would encourage all seniors to engage their view of their lives much like the model Earl does, for it makes but many a smile on the rainbow of our hearts and sunshine in our laughter...

    Inspired Always
    ~ PoetryJax~

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  7. DUDE! (I mean that in the NICEST of ways...) You still have that wonderful sense of humor so at least you didn't break THAT. I am glad you're doing better. Please do keep writing. I look forward to your next blog and the promised writings on Schuyler. I will be up there next week. I'll check on the old homeplace for you. Keep blogging and keep me laughing. And I agree that we DO need you back on TV. You are a treasure,
    Peggy Carter Burke

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  8. MR.HAMNER,
    I am so glad to hear that you are doing "Great!"
    I am an 45 year old female that became disabled from a on-the-job-injury.I broke my lower back in two places and had to have interior/exterior spinal fusion...due to all my limitations I am unable to work...I fight daily battles with my body (numbness/tingling and "pain")etc...I too have feelings and thoughts as yourself...bottom line we take it one day at a time and make the bet of it :)I admire your courage and your sense of humor..I love all your books and especially watching the dvd's of The waltons.Hearing and reading your stories give me a wonderful feeling about the "Good Old Days" Family is everything.
    We The Fans love this Blogsite....Thank you so much for sharing all your stories about your Family....Now that you are all HEALED up get those hands to typing,we all know that you have sooooo much more to share.... You are, Truly One-Of-A-Kind! Always a Fan....... Yvette Marie

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  9. Mr Hamner, what a delight you are! I laughed until tears streamed, maybe because I could relate so well.It is much better to laugh at ourselves and take aging with a sense of humor than to worry and get all stressed about it.You seem always to view life with optomistic glasses. Optomisim,...... it keeps us young.So, Mr Hamner, you need not worry about aging. Youth is an attitude of the heart.Thankyou for sharing your gift of writing with us. It has made my journey in this life much more enjoyable....Patsy from Tennessee

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  10. Earl I LOVE your sling. I think you should own one in every color. Be sure to smile with your mouth closed and no one will be wiser regarding the dentures. A word of advice;

    A STAR SHOULD NEVER have their picture taken with an adorable dog. You'll be upstaged everytime.

    Gosh I'm glad I'm glad I'm all the way in Georgia and you can't hit me with your good arm. :) Hugsssss!

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  11. I am so sorry you were injured! You are in my prayers!
    I ~adore~ your writings! God gifted you with an amazing ability...this type can't be taught at a university! I get ~carried away~ when reading your entries...just like on "The Waltons" -- the GREATEST show EVER! No debate!
    Your friend,
    Bonnie

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  12. Dear Mr Hamner,
    You are one of the great people, that one can only hope to know in there lifetimes. I watched the Walton's growing up and at 53 years old now I've been disabled for five years now. Back trouble. Anyway I always start my day off by watching a DVD of the Waltons.
    My Favorite person is john Walton ( Ralph Waite), how john boy and Daddy always seem to be intune with what the family needs and wants. My family, although alot smaller, just one older brother, seems to be very similar to what you wrote. Nowa days, when I can get out I drive down to the local store in my 1931 Model A Ford pickup.
    I hope you always the best and THANK YOU for the Walton's.
    Best regards
    Jim

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  13. You and I.. not me as you see so well and write what people feel.

    Are you going to write about 1969 and Camile?

    Yes where a World Record amount, in all of written history, of RainFall fell.

    39 + SQ. in 5 hours ( Thats what I had measured there then ) and the day prior 5 inches fell in only a half hour ..we were up on the N.Fork of Tye River at Julian Parr's Camp there.

    We did loose a lot of kin.

    But not like my Cousin , who just passed away did.

    Frank (( TINKER )) Bryant Jr. of Bryant, (Roseland), Nelson County, Virginia 22967-9999 was a hero. He as well his Father Frank, Sr. Bryant both carried the US Mail for decades.

    My Grandmother Marion Belle Bowles Harvey was the postmaster in Roseland, Nelson County, Virginia 22967-9999 too where my Grandfather Thomas Bland Harvey, Sr. built the US Post Office which was washed away in the Flood of 1969 A.D. he had/was the Worlds First Dodge Brothers Dealership.

    His words were seen Worldwide.. (( Its GODs Will )) on most Front Pages in the Newspapers.

    Please tell the stories of the Virginians and Nelsonians!

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  14. My fingers are so tempted to write "Hi John boy!" :-)

    For Mothers Day my children (9 of them now) bought me Waltons Season 9. We ~love~ watching them and going back in time, even if only, for a bit.

    You've encouraged my children and awed them with your (John boy's) eagerness, gentleness and helpful spirit. We've enjoyed watching John Boy grow up and are all a bit saddened that Season 9 marks the end of our time travels back to when you were a boy.

    Just a friendly comment from a large family that enjoys the Waltons an awful lot~

    ~Cinnamon

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  15. So happy you were not seriously hurt with the fall you took. I can surely appreciate your views on our bodies not behaving as they once did. I just finished radiation for parotid cancer just two weeks ago myself. Looking for the humor in a subject can bring one great pleasure. I thank you for that. Also thank you for many years of your fine works. I grew up with The Walton's & loved every minute of the show!

    My hubby & I were just by your homeplace a few days back. We met the nicest man in the store there by the Baptist church. He told us about your web site. Had visited the museum some years back & I just wanted to see the beautiful country again. Looking forward to keeping up with you via the website & maybe even having the pleasure to meet you one day.

    All The Best To You & Yours,
    Mary T
    Hampton, Va.

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  16. Mr. Hamner, to read the words you write, takes me "there"... I get lost in your writing and I love it. I have been reading everything I can find on you and about you, after this wonderful lady here in Dalton Ga. named Cathrine Rogers sent me a link to your wonderful site. It is a pleasent distraction after a long night of work and 3 small children, to slip off and read some of you work, I am working on getting more of your work so i can go "there" again... an often.
    Thank You
    "the dr."
    Mitch Walker

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  17. Glad you are recovered from your fall. It sounds like what my mother at times would go through. one time in the early 1990's she fell outside in her door yard, my sister lived with her she could not get up, she waited for help which was my sister and asked her what happened she laughed about it and said she was making the best of it till helped arrived. This was when she could get around better. She had dentures too. She did not loose them but one time forgot to put them in and when she got to church she remebered and laughed and wnet home and got them. as was other things she would forget and laugh about and go home and get. For her last 8 yrs. she had demetia and some alzehimers & heart condtion, she would make jokes about it all and getting old. The last week of her life, which was a fast aggresive cancer one moment we assisted her with rensing her false teeth and she did not want us to touch them she was afraid we were going to steal them. we had a good laugh I am sure if she was not suffering and dieing she would of been laughing with us as that was her humor.
    Tauna Faulkner
    taunamaree@yahoo.com

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  18. I love your writing. It hs really ne inspiring to me. I feel our world needs a dose of simplicity. We need to find a way to help our kids learn to live within our means and just try to enjoy life.

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