Ask Uncle Dave
Uncle Dave Broke Himself (again)
You can usually sense ahead of time when your temptations of fate are going to come out wrong. "There seems to be a lot of people getting old man injuries lately." This statement felt harmless. Innocuous. But there it was. Just noticing the pulled muscles and the bad backs and the torn Achilles tendons was enough for things to turn on me.
It didn't even take 24 hours. We had a bit of time to kill and it was a nice day out, so we thought we'd go hit the tennis ball around. We shanked a few balls, and were barely even at the point of "warmed up." One of the 6 balls that I managed to hit was out there a tiny bit further than I needed it to be. "Did it feel like you got shot in the leg?" was what the physiotherapist would ask me later. "Yes! Yes! That's what it felt like. Not like a major gun shot. But a minor gunshot. Like a really large pellet gun, or a really small cannon."
I hobbled over to the side of the court. I sat down for a while. The courts were pretty busy, so there were people everywhere. So I tried to do what everybody does whenever they get injured in front of others; get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. I hobbled away, and then I hobbled right on back. Okay. You go get the car. I'll wait here.
We debated going to a walk in clinic. It seemed like a bit of a hassle, but things started to feel like they were going to hurt a hell of a lot more, very quickly. We made a joke about knocking on the door of our slightly anti-social physiotherapist neighbour. Which turned into a pretty good idea to phone around and see if any physio clinic had a last minute appointment on Easter Monday. One did, so that's where we went.
"It looks like you tore your calf muscle. It's not too bad. You'll have to keep your weight off of it for a week or two. Try to come back in the next few days." He laughed when I asked about riding bikes. "You shouldn't even be driving."
In the grand scheme of things, this was pretty decent news. Shit, I almost looked forward to a couple of days on the couch, not moving. He hooked me up to some machines, blasted me with different forms of electricity, and then I hobbled off on crutches.
The next day sucked. I could barely do anything for myself. I had a relay system worked out for whenever I wanted to carry something across the room. I'd place it right over there, then hobble on over. Then I'd move it over onto another object, and hobble on over. I'd get to the couch and realize that I'd forgotten something and then I'd repeat. I can't imagine keeping this up for an extended period of time.
I had another physio appointment lined up for the afternoon. Much of the morning was spent mapping out a bus route that limited the amount of crutch work necessary. The end solution involved a couple of buses and a few waits. The 100m crutch over to the bus stop was way harder than I anticipated. How the fuck do people live with these things?
Physio was more prodding. More electrocution. More slimy gels. He dug a new machine out of storage that did something else. Things felt okay. He told me I could put some weight on it if it didn't hurt too bad. This was progressing nicely.
I repeated my bus ride home. Even in this state, I have a hard time treating myself to a cab ride. I thought it was interesting how everybody just avoids the guy on the crutches. Like the weakness took me down a few notches in their estimation. Not that I really needed the help or anything, but you'd figure a pair of crutches might earn you the right-of-way in most scenarios. But, being me, I was almost happy for the anonymity. Then the guy started talking.
"What'd you do?"
Well shit. I don't want to admit that? I mean, people have worse stories for their injuries. Warming up to play tennis isn't the worst of them, but it's not a very good one either.
"I hurt my calf playing tennis."
"Oh ya? I live across from a tennis court. People seem to injure themselves all the time." We would soon figure out that it's the one where I hurt myself. "I just got off crutches myself. Started off in a wheelchair. Moved to a walker. Then to crutches. Now I'm walking on my own."
He showed me his medic alert bracelet.
"I have to wear this all the time. Severe brain trauma. I was in a bike race and I crashed."
He didn't really remember the details, but it was enough to put him in the hospital and into a wheelchair. He told me a bit about his recovery. I asked him if he was back on his bike yet, and he told me that he can't ride or drive because he has no peripheral vision now.
I felt even more embarrassed about my crutches and my tennis injury. It was like bumping into Wayne Gretzky at a party and then having him ask you about your beer league hockey games. Our two injuries were just not even close to being in the same league and I had no right to be talking about mine.
He told me about how thankful he was that he was getting better. About his new appreciation for things. About how hard he had to work to just do something basic that he had taken for granted. Then he got off the bus and walked over to his apartment. It really was directly across from the tennis court. He had probably chuckled a bit when he saw me hobbling around the day before.
Our conversation had touched on themes that had been bumping around in my head that day. About how I'm lucky that I have a job that won't fire me if I don't show up for a couple of days. About how lucky I am to have somebody that can cook me dinner and fetch things for me around the house. About how lucky I am that I'm probably only going to be put out for a couple of weeks due to my stupidity and my shitty exercise regime.
But I've read this story before and it's kind of... How many times have we heard about this new appreciation for life after something impacts it? Why does it take talking to some guy on the bus who has come back from the worst of it to do any sort of soul searching? Why does it take experiencing something ourselves to generate any real sympathy for others who have lived through/are living through, way worse? And even this is a really poor take-away. We tend to only notice major incidents. We only pay attention to something that is a big fucking deal, and we walk right on past the day-to-day. And that goes back to my initial observation. There's a lot of dudes experiencing old man injuries these days. Slip on some ice and blow an achilles. Sleep wrong and mess up your back. Play some tennis and tear your calf muscle. The truth is that most of us aren't more than a few decisions away from having a really shitty year of recovery. My 3rd physio appointment proved as much, when I again asked when I would be able to ride my bike.
"Your bike? Jesus. Give it another week, at least. You're really lucky you didn't tear your achilles tendon."
Do your stretches, kids. Or something. We haven't reached that point yet in my treatment.
Uncle Dave's Music Club
A few months ago, I asked one of my younger co-workers what music he thought old people listened to. He didn't understand the premise of my question. So I had to paint a picture of an out of touch thirty-something... a balding hipster, pushing a baby carriage down Main Street on his way to a kid friendly microbrewery tasting lounge. I asked him what he imagined that guy listening to.
"I don't know... Some like...old Kanye, or something like that?"
This didn't help me, at all. I think this is the wrong guy to be looking at though. I probably should have described a pot-bellied guy in a blue jays hat and a Burrows jersey. I can imagine the balding hipster listening to Animal Collective, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Either Dave is too injury-absorbed to answer your questions, or they weren't good enough. Knowing Dave I'd say it's door number two people - so get your act together so we can give out some prizes! We'll have some sweet adornments from Renthal for the next Ask Uncle Dave, so entertain the man through his convalescence with your questions. Send 'em here...