Saturday, November 13, 2010

About A Weak Back

The other day, after picking up baseball cards and missing socks and Halloween candy wrappers from my oldest son’s bedroom floor, I felt a thwack, like the give of a folding chair collapsing. Then I realized that I couldn’t stand straight, my back in the shape of a lower case r, hung over the bottom half of my body. It had felt like a giant punch landed on my lower back and tailbone. Crap. I don’t have time for this. I went to my knees and rolled over onto my back trying to stretch out my spinal column, arms and legs. Then I turned over and did the sleeping child yoga pose. Back to my feet and I could barely stand. I scurried around trying to complete a few more tasks before the carpet cleaning guy was coming. I couldn’t cancel – the rugs had been so neglected that I was quite sure I could start a plague from my kids rolling around on the floor. I pushed the vacuum cleaner, each tug a pierce jab to my back and tried to pick up a couple of chairs and an ironing board and place them on the tiled kitchen floor.

I knew how it started. The past weekend we had gone down to Corvallis for Sean’s soccer match. It was the largest gathering of soccer teams for the Special Olympics of Oregon. Sean was ready to go in his cleats, shin guards and a soccer shirt that fit him like an evening gown – if only he had the right belt and matching hand bag. He is by far the littlest on his team and was one of the youngest at the tournament. He had three games which his team managed to win two and Sean had three goals – unfortunately all goals were scored against his own goalie. Sean didn’t seem to mind as he rolled on the ground, hopped, cheered and clapped – I was certain he’d get a flag for over-celebration but didn’t know if it would count since the other team was already being rewarded by Sean’s misfires.

In between matches Sean would run up to me at full speed, then vaulting his strong, muscled body toward my open arms and I’d catch and spin him. My oldest wanted to get in on the fun and nearly mowed me over. We decided that he could hop on my back instead. So between entertaining Sean and trying to accommodate my growing oldest son by piggy back rides, I had pushed my back to the brink. It only took a few bend overs (BEND AT THE KNEES! I always forget this) the following week to find myself crumpled like a question mark.

I shuffled around the house, greeted the carpet cleaner guy as he surveyed the carpets.

“When was the last time you had these cleaned?” he looked up at me after finishing up in Sean’s room, the worst swag of carpeting in the house.

“A year ago.”


“Yeah. The boys drag everything in the house and with all the rain and pine needles it gets pretty bad.”

“Maybe you should do it every six months,” he said, checking off a million recommendations --- enzymes, extra spot removal, scotch guard...

“Yes, definitely,” I said crouched over like I was staring intently at my own belly button.

In the evening, I made it to my writing class and picked up my oldest from his hockey practice. All and all I muscled through, although my oldest looked at me strangely and asked, “Why are you walking like that?”

I thought of some smart ass comments, like, “trying to mix things up,” or “you don’t think this makes me look younger?”. Realizing it would be missed on him I said, “I hurt my back.”

“How?” he asked almost in disbelief. He might as well throw in, “because God knows you don’t do ANYTHING.”

“If you must know, part of it was from lugging you and Sean around at the soccer tournament. You guys are too big to be jumping on me. And I was cleaning up the garbage on your floor. Is it really that hard to put socks down the laundry chute and to throw out wrappers?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, and he did feel bad seeing me hunched over the steering wheel.

Luckily, today I am feeling much better. The back is stiff but at least I look closer to a forty year old than an eighty year old. I’ve done stretches, filled up a water bottle with hot water every night, took Aleve and slept one night on the floor (my husband suggested this but I think he just wanted the whole bed to himself because I felt pretty stiff the next day.)

It scared me though. What would I do if I was debilitated and couldn’t do the things that have to be done? Sean doesn’t have the capacity to understand that my back had gone out. He has needs and he is short on patience and understanding – it’s the nature of autism. My oldest has a schedule like a CEO of a major corporation. There are hockey games, practices, clinics and school, choir, homework, piano lessons, science projects, friends and birthday parties.
Seriously, there are times I feel like the activities director on a Disneyland Cruise ship. I have to be able to focus and react even though the years are ticking by and the paint is starting to chip.

So what if I did my college term papers with a Smith-Corona typewriter (the last two years we did have computer labs and I owned a couple of FLOPPY discs and printed out my assignments on a charming dot matrix printer); or the current kid-sitter who was born while I was in my early twenties living it up in Chicago. Yes I can get directions from an actual road map and dial a rotary phone and open my garage with my bare hands and drive a stick shift – these are feats my kids will never know as they push buttons, make voice commands and download information to their I-Pods and GPS devices. I didn’t even hold back on the middle school kids who showed up on Halloween night as “80’s girls”, big hair, tights and blousy shirts with large belts and lots of pink lipstick and sparkling eye shadow. I gave them the good stuff, the Reese Cups and Snickers. Secretly I felt really old and somewhat ridiculed and wanted to throw my head into my son’s pillowcase of treats and eat my way to the bottom but I managed to stop myself. It helped that he was in the room and that at first glance all I could see peeking out of his bag were Sour Skittles and an unraveling Tootsie Roll. There’s no saying what could have happened if I was faced with an Almond Joy and Kit Kat.

But I digress. We are all growing older. Each day. I can’t stop it but I can try to make the most of it. I just have to remember the boys are getting big and that I can’t be a human trampoline for them. Other than that, I’ll try to re-commit to yoga and continue to take my vitamins. And to laugh. Somehow that makes everything a lot easier.

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