It’s funny how certain patterns recur in life. Not comical, necessarily, just odd.
My first piece in The Forecaster, even before The View From Away, was about attending a performance by my daughter’s special-needs dance class in Falmouth. This one touches briefly on the always inspiring STRIVE Rocks! Dance Marathon at the Maine Mall (go next year; you won’t regret it). I went into both events feeling pouty because my hip hurt. I left both events a little embarrassed by my own weakness and impressed by what I saw around me.
My story starts the Monday before the event. We had returned from a week in Denver. Either the semi-arid environment of the Mile High City, or the few days’ break from winter, or the fact it was in the 40s, I was feeling good. Digging the snow away from the trash bins and from around my wife’s car was a breeze, 10 minutes of easy shoveling before popping down to the Old Port to meet the accountant. I thought signing our tax returns would be the most painful experience of the day.
What had felt like just enough exercise to get the blood flowing turned into an excruciating pain in my hip that landed me flat on my back. Worse, it was on the same side as my hip replacement (the reason I was cranky going into the previously mentioned dance concert). Even worse than that, the hip doctor wasn’t available. For almost three days, I was forced to perform one-legged gymnastics to complete even the most basic bathroom functions, my own personal Cirque du Soleil, if you will.
“How dare he fix other people’s joints when I am feeling pain in mine?” I thought. Yes, I know these operations are scheduled months in advance. I fail to see the relevance. He was my doctor before he was theirs. I’m pretty sure that is in the Hippocratic oath.
I finally got in to see him, he couldn’t have been more helpful, it’s just a groin pull, nothing to do with the operation, blahdeblahdeblah, like that’s an excuse.
My first lesson in humility came from my father. He is 91. He lives in the high desert in New Mexico. Where, you ask? Well, when Billy The Kid fled into the desert to escape Pat Garrett, at some point he stopped and said, “OK, we’ve gone far enough. Nobody in his right mind will come this far out into a godforsaken wilderness to look for me.” He should have added, “Or retire,” because my father lives a solid 40-minute drive farther into the desert than that. No joke. The cabin Billy hid out in is still there. I was tempted to deface it by writing underneath, “If only I’d stuck it out until I got to Don Langworthy’s place, I could have died a free man.”
So my father goes out for his daily drive on his ATV. He’s bone-on-bone in both knees for 40 years, needs to pack a lunch to get from his garage to the front door, but driving around a trackless desert, that’s no problem. Of course he never takes his cane or a cell phone. Being prepared is for Boy Scouts and civilians, not Marine Corps pilots who served in two wars.
Of course the ATV stalls, he decides to walk back to the house, falls down and lies in the gravel until one of the network of neighbors we’ve set up to look out for him noticed the ATV was missing from the garage and went looking for him.
Why doesn’t somebody live with him? Good question, but not for this piece. The point is, this incident was a family of hungry coyotes short of the nightmare I have about three times a week about my father, a terrible experience, much worse than mine, and he treated it like a “so what?”. His big complaint was it itched where the scratches were healing, and I’m complaining about a groin pull? (A potentially life-threatening groin pull, regardless of what the so-called “medical professionals” say, but still …)
If my father’s experience was the coffin for my self pity, an incident in passing as we left the dance marathon was the last nail.
I wanted to get off my leg because it hurt, and because it is awkward to walk. Everything is harder with a cane. On the way out, a young guy on crutches and his family passed us going the other way. The kid was in his 20s, had multiple disabilities and crutches on both arms. He probably will for the rest of his life. His parents (I assume) could barely keep up with him, he was that eager to get to the dance floor. They kept telling him to be careful, to slow down. He was having none of it.
I cannot conceive of what this kid’s life is like. To my shame, I know I would not want to trade places with him. But I sure wish I had a little of whatever was making him motor past the Apple store that night.
Mike Langworthy, an attorney, former stand-up comic and longtime television writer, now lives in Scarborough and is fascinated by all things Maine. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @mikelangworthy.