When they tell you about the things you are going to miss when you get older, they don’t often mention your back.
No, mostly it’s other things. Young love. Carefree days. The unlimited ability to eat junk food. Things like that.
But love stays with you no matter what, and if you’re lucky it turns into friendship, which is just a different form of love. Your days are as carefree as you choose to make them. And honestly, the luster of eating sour cream and onion potato chips by the bag wears thin even more quickly than your stomach lining does. Nobody really misses that, even if they think they ought to.
But the ability to stand up straight? Yeah, that’s a loss.
My back decides to go out on me about every eighteen months these days, and it has reached the point where I don’t even have to be doing anything notable for it to happen. In order to achieve this level of pain back in the day I would have had to have done something that I would still be talking about, probably in hushed tones, but these days? All it takes is rounding a corner. Or attempting to turn off a light.
Such things do not compelling stories make.
I was 29 when it started, and the first one is always something to remember. I’d just finished moving into our apartment here in Our Little Town, a process that involved recruiting several friends to haul all of my belongings (and remember – I was in graduate school at the time, so that category included some two-dozen boxes of books) out of my little fourth-floor walkup apartment in Iowa, stuffing them all into a rented truck for the drive to Wisconsin, and then hauling them back up to the second-floor walkup apartment where Kim and I would be living. A week later I helped my soon-to-be father-in-law get a refrigerator in place.
It was a few days after that when I was shifting a box and all of the sudden every muscle in my back decided to move one step over to the right, leaving the one on the far right to scurry all the way to the left to fill the space left over.
I remember lying there on the bed and thinking, “well, I can just have my meals sent in here, I suppose.”
But eventually it faded and I got on with my life. The thing is, though, once you start down that road every subsequent step gets easier and requires less prompting.
Last night I walked into Lauren’s room for our goodnights and suddenly the world was a place of sharp angles and sucker punches. The air had bones. Fortunately there is ibuprofen, the king of medicines, and by this morning I’m feeling about as fine as I ever do. There will be a few days of moving a bit more gingerly than usual, and then it will be over.
I have a process for these things now. That, more than anything, lets me know how old I am.