Sunday, November 13, 2011

Even high mileage vehicles need a tune up

You know how cars get to a certain point where everything starts to fall apart? That’s usually the moment when you start thinking, “I need to replace this car.”

Well, apparently, I’ve reached that certain “mileage” in my own life. The bad news is I’m stuck with the original model for the duration. And it seems to be breaking down quite a bit lately.

It started back in July when I simply reached out to lift something heavy and a muscle pulled in my shoulder. I babied it for a few days, assuming it would go away like most aches and pains.

Little did I know that the It-Will-Go-Away-Like-Most-Aches-and-Pains Ship had left the harbor, never to return again. (Take note: It happens at 44 years and 8 days. Don’t say you weren’t warned.)

What used to take a few days to feel better now requires a physician, massage therapist and physical therapist.

I started with massage therapy. During the first session, the massage therapist asked me “Did you dislocate your shoulder as a child?” I hadn’t, that I could remember, but figured that was something I’d remember. A few minutes later she asked, “Is this shrapnel?” when she saw an odd birthmark I have.

Seriously? What the heck happens when I’m asleep? Am I sleep walking down the street to the park and dangling recklessly from monkey bars by one arm? Am I involved in combat of which I am not aware?

And I know why she asked about the dislocated shoulder. My right shoulder hangs a few inches lower than the other. This situation elicits a fear in me that one day I’ll be known as Monkey Girl when I finally start dragging my knuckles of the right hand along the ground while the left shoulder remains as perky as ever. Believe me, my mind has been taking me places that are the stuff of nightmares lately.

Anyone remember the Sea Hag character from Popeye? She was the one on Goon Island who was hunched over, cackled, and had a hump for a back. (She also had pronounced chin hairs, which haven’t shown up yet, but really, it’s only a matter of days.)

Yep, the Sea Hag is pretty much what I imagine myself become, slowly but surely.
I started physical therapy after the massage therapist suggested I might need a little more than she could provide. The physical therapist thinks I have tendonitis in my rotator cuff and an impingement behind my shoulder. I have no idea what an impingement is, but my husband often tells me I’m tightly wound, so it probably has something to do with that.

The physical therapist also added that I had inherited a dowager’s hump from my mom (see: “hump for a back” in the Sea Hag description above). I told him that “dowager’s hump” is an awful term, and asked him if we could call it something else.

“Well, it’s technically degenerative arthritis. Do you like that better?” he said with a smirk.

I don’t think I like my physical therapist very much.

But he’s only there to help me deal with the physical pain and it’s so much more than that. It’s the lack of independence. I now have to solicit the help of my family members in every little task. I can no longer go to Costco on my own without the help of my husband to lift the 98-pack of Diet Pepsi into the cart. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but seriously…does Costco think we are feeding entire armies in our homes? Instead of carts they should issue each shopper a forklift. I’m just saying.)

This lack of ability to fend for myself is taking its toll on my psyche and weighing heavily on my dowager’s hump.

In fact, just last weekend during our Costco excursion, while Craig was hoisting another 80-pound item into our cart, our daughter Lily pointed out, “It’s like Dad is Superman and you’re his little sidekick.”

Sigh. As endearing as that is, I’m seriously losing my street cred as an independent woman.

But what else do you expect from a Sea Hag with Monkey Girl tendencies?

Eileen Burmeister lives, writes and drags her knuckles around Roseburg. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com.

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