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Prescript: Simply indulgent to keep me from going stir crazy while my ankle heals.

I am not sure how many people actually are the proud owners of their own set of crutches. I wonder even more so if they do own a set are they as worn out as mine? I have packing tape holding one of the rubber handles securely in place and the top rubber piece that goes under the arm flies off every two minutes. Bending over to put your crutches back together is not necessarily the best activity when one is on the damn things to begin with.   I have never broken a bone in my 60 years of pratfalls and pitfalls- knocking on every wood surface here. Spraining is my specialty. I seem to have acquired quite a knack for tripping and falling through my life. And let me just say that the drinking always occurred after the falls not before.

It started when I was 12 and slipped on the ice a few blocks away from school. I managed not only to pull the ligaments in my knee but also tear a 4-inch gap in my ring finger by grabbing on to the spikes of a cyclone fence on my way down. The bitter winter Bronx cold acted as an anesthetic and so I never noticed the trail of blood until the horrified teacher mentioned it as I was on my way to my desk. Interesting that it never hurt until she pointed it out and then my brain agreed and I damn need swooned waiting for my mother. This singular act I totally attribute to the fact that I have an irrational fear of anything that allows me to slide or glide. I never roller-skated or ice-skated or skied or slid down anything ever. And that includes a highly polished wooden floor in my socks too. The fear of sliding installed by the ice on Van Nest Avenue that day in the Bronx has stayed with me a lifetime.

Not long after in the summer of 1973, I managed to sprain my toe very badly falling into a hole in the ocean at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. You would think that would be a difficult thing to accomplish in water where you can actually float and sand is pretty soft in like two feet of water. But no, I managed to smash my toe just walking along in the water minding my own business. The damage was such that I had to be transported on the back of a golf cart used by the security people at the beach in those days. I believe that is where I first learned the parade wave.

Falling was not only a domestic event; I even took it international one year. It was 1982, I had just arrived that day in my hometown in the Dolomite chain of the Italian Alps. It was about 9pm and I went to say hello to my godchild and his cousin parents of mine. These buildings are old with concrete cobblestones making up the foyer area in a cave like setting before you enter the home. Well down I went like the proverbial ton of bricks as I knocked on the door.   No matter though, I visited with a few shots of something to drink for the pain. Wine and Jagermeister my poison of choice back then. Look at that, no pain!! Great! Should we go dancing cousins and friends asked next? Of course I can dance on this foot no problem and so we went for several hours. The next morning, my foot reminded me of the fall courtesy of an ankle the size of a bowling ball. I was staying at our ancestral home with my Mom and Dad who had to whisk me to the Italian emergency room. Now this is medicine as it should be practiced. No waiting for hours. My ankle was so badly sprained that they decided to put me in a cast. It is Italy folks, if anyone can do wonders with cement, we can.   They built this cast that looked exactly like a shoe with a heel and everything and just my toes open at the top. It went midway up my calf. They said after two days of complete drying I could then walk on it. It was amazing to be able to walk around normally on a cast built with a full platform.   I spent the next three weeks going about my fun Italy vacation business until it was time to go home. Apparently the cast had to come with me. I could not extend my stay for another week or so until it was time for it to come off, nor could they take it off earlier.   Home I went, cast and all only to hit the solid brick bureaucratic wall of medicine in the US. Apparently since the cast was not put on by any American doctor, there was no American doctor who would take the perceived liability to remove it. Not my own personal doctor, not an emergency room, not even the shyster clinics that sprout up in the poorest of neighborhoods.   No matter how I pleaded and promised that the day was at hand that the Italian doctors wanted it off, they would not do it. What now? A bathtub full of water and a bread knife, that’s what. After about five hours of cutting and soaking, my then husband and I got the damn thing off. Medical mission accomplished.

I managed to stay fairly upright for the next decade, which was my 30s. Even my 40s only contained one major mishap in the jet way at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. In my rush to make my connecting flight back to Los Angeles, I went flying literally up the jet way only to have my foot catch on the metal bar that connected two pieces of the floor. With paperwork that poured out of my briefcase scattered about me, I laid there until a wheelchair could scoop me up and take me away. I was adamant I was not going to any emergency room. I know a sprained ankle when I see one, damn it. Just get me on the next flight home and so they did after an hour or so of me being wheeled in and out of the airport with an ankle twice the size of what it should be. I smoked back then and so the main task of the nice attendant they assigned to me was to wheel me in and out of the building for a cigarette. Nicotine fits are not pretty. She knew this. My son was three at the time and for this one I rented a wheelchair at home and if not mistaken it was the fall that got me my very own pair of crutches.

My not so graceful falls took the form of trilogies in my 50s though. Yes these were the years when I managed to fall the same way or during the same event three times in a row! The first group was the Paradise Point Panther football weekend trips- literally. Every December my sons’ football teams from Torrance would take up residence at Paradise Point in San Diego in December for our annual bowl games. It was a blast from Friday to Sunday for kids and parents alike. We did this from 2009 to 2015. One of those years, I took my injury with me rather than acquire it there, as the two subsequent ones would be. I slipped down the step of my shower the day before we were to leave for the event and went with a sprained knee this time. I ‘ll leave out the details on this one for obvious reasons and not horrify anyone. So for this one I spent the weekend there already on the crutches. When we stayed at Paradise Point we had the bungalows on the bay with the beach right out our door but first there was grassy areas and a concrete sidewalk before the sand began. We spent a lot of fun nights out on the beach with bonfires and BBQs and kids playing football. The next year, I managed to miss the fact that the sand ended in a spot and so rather than lift my foot onto the cement sidewalk; I just slammed into it with my toe and went sprawling. There goes the knees and ankle I believe that year. Good thing we had burly big football coaches and parents to help me up, as I weighed about 60 pounds more than I do today. A year I believe later, I managed to hit that very same spot again and fall the exact same way. I don’t even know what to say about that one. All I know is I was there hobbling for so many of these events, one particular Dad named me Tiny Tim from then on.

Those were the early years of my fifth decade.   For the latter years, I managed to replicate the time of the year and event rather than the actual place of the fall. First came the time I was at a house concert in Monrovia where they had this nice flagstone patio that sort of didn’t really tell you that it stepped down. It was like a damn optical illusion. A few people I saw throughout the day do the little stumble step where you almost but then don’t really fall. I myself fell for it a few times that afternoon until the last time when I just said the hell with it, why stumble falsely when I could go down for real and so I did. I watched the concert with an ankle and two badly bruised knees. The show must go on after all. Out came those crutches again. The following year in August on the day that I was at a high school doing the usual Pop Warner football weighing of the players to certify them to play that season, I walked across the track on a huge area of sand that was covered with pieces of track held together with metal strips. Almost like a pool cover. But of course my feet see a metal strip and my mind immediately says DO NOT LIFT YOUR FOOT, just plow right into it with your toes. And so I did and up I came with two huge knees. They were still not healed from the concert fall and this did some major damage. I stayed and finished my certification with ice and all. The following August on the morning of the day I was supposed to go to the high school to do the same task, I was out on my daily walk. There was nothing wrong with the sidewalk. There was no metal bars or uneven surfaces. It was simply the sidewalk near the 7-11. I felt a strange push from the back and turned to see but nothing was there and down I went again. My knees smashed concrete with a slight back twist as I was turning when I toppled. Off I went with my bruised knees and some ice to do that day’s weighs of the football players. So ended the fifth decade of falls and what I hoped would be the end please. But I guess not.

Yesterday in San Diego- what is it about that city that immediately makes me want to fall down- I was having a perfectly lovely time watching a band play outdoors in the grass near a hole I saw the entire day as I was sitting there. But of course, the minute I get up to walk, the hole mysteriously disappears until my foot is in it sideways and my ankle goes again. I am happy though it was not my knees yesterday, as they have never recovered from those years of bruising. I have lost the ability to kneel altogether for any length of time. My sister, not so astutely pointed out, what’s the difference, it’s not like your spending a lot of time in church. Well, I’ll leave that one alone. So I sit here now with an ankle aced bandaged and softly splinted and hope against hope I can learn to walk properly by the time I am 70.