I’ve had a persistent low-grade ache in my right thigh for over a year now. I wrote it off to too much running and not enough stretching, but lately the pain has gotten worse. So I started getting regular massages, switched from the treadmill to the elliptical trainer, and did flexibility exercises hoping to erase the problem, but nothing changed.
Then, like Ebenezer Scrooge, I had a Christmas Eve miracle and revelation.
Every year we host an elaborate Christmas Eve feast featuring all sorts of seafood as well as fresh, crisp-crust bread and exquisite pastries from the local bakery. But to get any of those goodies without waiting on line for an hour, you have to get to the bakery as soon as they open on Christmas Eve morning. My over-50 body forces me to toddle out of bed every night in the wee hours to use the bathroom, so I’m the natural for that crack of dawn bakery run.
When I got there at 5:50 the lights in the main serving area weren’t on yet, but I saw activity inside. My right leg tends to stiffen up if I’m sitting still for a while, so rather than leaping out of the car and running across the street as I would have years ago, I carefully eased out of the driver’s seat and stood for a second to gauge the pain and let the stiffness dissipate. Not too bad – after a couple of seconds it felt fine, and I walked into the bakery with only a slight hitch in my step.
Incredibly, there were already three people on line, waiting in semi-darkness for the women bustling behind the counter to recognize the start of business. By the time I had my three dozen rolls and box of pastries ten minutes later, there were eight people behind me on a line, growing by the minute, that was snaking out the door. I’d dodged the bullet.
When I got home, because of my achy leg and partly out of just plain laziness, I decided I’d carry everything (including my convenience store coffee and newspapers) in one trip.
That took some planning: first I put the coffee on the hood of the car, leaving the house keys hanging from my left pinky. Then I put my left arm around the bulging bag of warm rolls, and with my right hand folded the newspapers under my left arm. I slid my right index finger under the red and white twine on the pastries so the box dangled below my hand, then carefully kicked the door shut using my pain-free left leg.
My left hand was still free (except for the keys on my pinky), so I used that to awkwardly reach down and grab the coffee cup from the hood while still hugging the bag of rolls and squeezing my armpit on the newspapers. I figured once I got up the steps, I could put the pastry box on the side table by the door, take the keys from my left pinky with my right hand, and unlock the door. Mission accomplished!
But my hip had other plans.
I began to climb the steps, but because of the pain I failed to raise my right foot above the riser, and tripped. Because I was walking so slowly, I fell in slow motion. The box of pastries rocked, my finger released the string, and the heavy box slid away across the step, unharmed, as my right hand came down to break my fall.
As my left side came down, I somehow placed the tall Styrofoam cup of coffee onto the porch without spilling a drop. Simultaneously, my arm splayed out and the bag of rolls plopped onto the step ahead of me – remaining upright and jostling, but not dislodging, any of the rolls sticking out of the top. Even the newspapers had fallen from under my arm onto the step in a neatly folded stack.
I stood there, feeling foolish, with the house keys waggling on my pinky.
The Christmas Eve miracle: I’d spilled nothing and was unhurt. The revelation: I’d fallen climbing my own front steps, and could have been badly injured. So I made an appointment with my doctor, got an x-ray, and a week ago was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the right hip. So now I’m officially old, with an old person’s chronic ailment, an old person limp, and maybe a need for an old person remedy: a new hip. We’ll see.
But it’s all good. Like Scrooge, I’m thrilled to be alive — even if it means hobbling around like Tiny Tim.