Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Seeing the Past and Future Me

Anybody who has followed this blog for any time knows my basic theory on life is that everything is a pain in the ass (EIAPITA).  This was never more true than when I completely tore my achilles tendon two weeks ago playing tennis (in this case, the last A in the acronym becomes ankle, hey-o).  When it happened, it was very confusing and disorienting, as you can imagine it might be when you are convinced you took sniper fire to the leg.  I thought my doubles partner had hit me with his racket, although he was at least fifteen feet away.  Imagine your tendon being an electrically charged guitar string that is pulled 6 inches to the side and then released, allowing the electrical charge and vibration to course through your body while you try to figure out who the sadistic devil is that would do such a thing.  It was all three of those things.  Surprisingly, the pain only lasted about 3 hours, although the thought of the  immediate sensation I felt still makes me quiver from time to time.

The unexpected part of this experience is that it has allowed Nikki to see me both as a 5 year old and as a 75 year old in the span of two weeks, each persona intermingled with different experiences so that it becomes difficult to tell which one I am.  I suppose this  makes sense since it's been said we become child-like in our old age, sort of charming in the quaint and gregarious things we say, but ultimately dependent on others to get through our daily life.

I noticed the first chuckles from Nikki when I was hobbling around the house.  I didn't have the pre-surgery walking boot yet and the only way I could move was to lock the knee of my injured left leg so that it became rigid.  This becomes necessary when you don't have an achilles and you cant bend your foot up or down.  The net effect is that the injured stick becomes the equivalent of a pirate's wooden leg.

"Oh my god, I just saw my life at 75", Nikki said.  "You look like our neighbor Ken when you walk".  Ken is an 85 year old man with Alzheimer's and a bad back, who I've written about here before.  Because of these two conditions he hobbles panifully to the mailbox 10 times a day, including Sundays.  I'm guessing he doesn't remember how painful it was the last time he checked the mail ten minutes ago.  Even after I got the walking boot she continued to laugh at the site of me walking because I still had a pronounced limp for the next week.  Anyone who is or has been married has heard this from their wife at least once, "I can't imagine what it was like for your mom to take care of you".  For Nikki, this rhetorical question became a reality the minute I got home from surgery.

By the time I got home from the procedure, 14 hours had passed since my last meal.   I couldn't wait to eat and Nikki quickly cooked me up a grilled cheese sandwich.   I took a couple bites and these charming bits made a brief visit to my stomach, introduced themselves, then quickly hightailed it back out  of there and into the trash can.  I estimate their stay to be between 10-15 seconds.  Damn you anesthesia!  I'm pretty sure I could still taste the gas.  Now Nikki was seeing what it was like for my mom.  Surely I must have performed that very act hundreds of times for her in my childhood.

The next day Nikki came in the room said she was pretty sure she had stepped in a puddle in the bathroom.  In my narcotic induced situation, I'm not sure if I responded to her or only answered in my head "I'm not surprised".  I'd be surprised if I actually hit the toilet considering the delicate ballet required to perform this act while in a drug induced haze.  Not only was I dizzy, but my ankle felt like a 20 psi tire that had been inflated to 100 psi.  It can't bear any weight, so it has to be suspended slightly behind me, making me crane forward and have to use my left hand against the mirror for support.  I now have  only one hand available for the rest of the logistical details and my leg isn't getting any lighter.  Oh, and by the way, the urgency is only increasing.  Having never taken target practice in this fashion, the end results were quite predictable, about the same as a 5 year old with no directional control.  I don't think she had the heart to chastise me in my condition so she told me I'd do better next time.   Just as with a child in potty training, encouragement  for the effort is always the best tactic.  I was waiting to hear that I would receive candy the next time I hit the big boy potty.

After the first three days it became abundantly clear that I needed a shower.  By this time most of the latent pain had subsided, though it still hurt when I got up.  It's extremely difficult for me to accept the fact that I need physical help, so I waited until Nikki went to work to give a shower a try.  I bagged up the leg, put the chair in the shower and made the hop up the step and into our shower, whereupon my bare foot immediately slipped on the shower floor and both of my legs splayed forward into the wall.  Much like the scenario I described with the cows, the time-space continuum evaporated and everything sort of went  in to slow motion and I had an internal conversation while falling.   Here's the conversation:

Me to Myself:  Boy, Nikki is really going to be mad at you for this one, you should have waited for her help.  I know, but it didn't seem like that big of a deal.  Oh no,  I hope I don't break the shower door when my back hits it.  Ohh, that really was jarring when my buttocks just hit the tile, and that little ridge at the shower entrance doesn't feel good on my lower back.  Your splinted leg hit the wall pretty hard, do you think you tore the achilles again?  I don't think so, but my toes are numb from being jammed into the wall.  Can you get up?  Yes.  Ok, get in the seat and proceed as if nothing happened.  Ok.

Amazingly, the next morning this scenario repeated itself when I got up to go to the bathroom in the dark and I fell over again.  And I had virtually the same internal conversation on the way down.    When I fell I felt like a 75 year old man about to break his hip, but then I felt like a 5 year old when Nikki ran in and asked "What the hell is going on"? It was just like when I had slumber parties as a kid and we made too much noise.   I am happy to report, however that I was 95% accurate this time.

Nikki has been an absolute angel through this whole ordeal.  She has taken excellent care of me and I couldn't be more lucky to have somebody as patient as her in my life.  She has seen what my mom experienced, and she has seen what our future may hold and as far as I know, she plans on staying with me.  It can't be easy living with the proverbial bull in the china shop, but I hope in some way I make it fun.

Last night Nikki got me squared away in bed and shut the door to go sleep in peace in the other room.  I had to get up and grab my water bottle and I loudly banged a crutch against the dresser.  "What the hell is going on in there?", she yelled from the hallway.  I giggled like a 5 year old.