Once upon a time, I was, let us say, less cautious. It's not that I threw caution to the wind, exactly, but very few things were so daunting that I dared not even think about them. And that's not a bad place to be in your early sixties: I had bested the dreaded Debt Beast, which left me with actual disposable income after a fashion, and the only significant deterioration of my physical self was an occasional lurch in some unexpected direction. No big deal, I reasoned, so long as I'm not actually falling.

And then I was actually falling. I didn't feel out of equilibrium or anything; it's just that I fell down. A lot. This could not possibly be good, and sure enough, it wasn't. A rather complicated and hideously expensive surgery later, I waited for the return of my former self.

Three years later, said self hasn't been seen or heard from. Wearing a bracelet that says "HIGH FALL RISK", as I did for about three weeks as an inpatient, is a really good way to discourage one from pushing the envelope; why, I might fall or something. And I haven't had but a couple of serious spills in those three years. But actually walking, the way I did from ages two to sixty-two, is evidently permanently out of the question: I can shove the walker aside for a few steps, but only a few. Then I lurch in some unexpected direction, and those words "HIGH FALL RISK" appear somewhere in front of my retinas. I catch myself, retrieve the appliance, and try again.

Being frightened by simple movements, I figure, has cost me dearly in self-confidence. I once thought nothing of knocking out a 4,000-mile road trip in two and a half weeks. Now, the eleven-mile commute, each way, five days a week, seems daunting. Curiously, I drive better with one hand: the left. I cannot explain this in any convincing manner: I drove a stick shift for the better part of two decades, which requires a fair amount of left-hand steering-wheel twirl, but the last time I stirred my own gears was back in the middle 1990s. Still, if I'm approaching an intersection where I expect the lights to change any second now, the right hand comes off the wheel and on to the shifter handle, even though it's not going to do anything while it's there.

For sheer amusement value, it's hard to beat watching me pump gas without actually pulling the walker out of the back seat: I stumble along, one hand or the other always holding on to something, and it's even a strain to shove the old Mastercard into the slot. (Pulling it back out is not so difficult — yet.) Earlier this week, I tried something I hadn't done in a couple of years: pick up the squeegee and loosen some of the dirt on the glass, which had somehow cemented its way in place despite a quarter-inch of rain that day. I could reach only two-thirds of the way across the windshield, though: I stretched a little, felt suddenly unanchored, thought "HIGH FALL RISK," and declared myself beaten.

About the only good thing about being in these particular straits is the fact that it discourages me from doing things inappropriate to a person at my level of decrepitude. It's just as well; I was never less persuasive than at those times when I was trying to appear flirtatious. Summer's nearly here, and eye candy is there for the savoring, but I just look the other way. Physical falls, after all, are not the only risky variety.

The Vent

  1 June 2019

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