“Dad, my back is hurting,” Herbie said a few days ago.
Welcome to the club, son. Everybody I know is hurt. Hank’s got a finger, Paul’s got an elbow, Brett’s got a face and Scott has a shoulder.
Now, you have a back. You’re in good company. Bad backs are as common as double chins.
It’s almost embarrassing. Almost funny. Almost surprising that Sacramento hasn’t had a run on blue, handicapped placards.
“Hey, we’re out of blue,” Sacramento said. “That and we’re out of parking places.”
Injuries are divided into three categories. Dumb, athletic and “where did that come from?” Dumb and athletic can go together like ham and cheese.
Dumb and athletic may include trying to stretch a single into a double in a softball game, jumping over somebody in traffic during a 3-on-3 game or running into the fence in an effort to chase down a topspin lob.
The “where did that come from?” injury can happen in your sleep. Although it doesn’t seem possible to pull a groin while resting comfortably under the covers, it is. Sleeping can be more rigorous than it appears.
One injury can lead to having two at once. Look at it as if you are a professional athlete. Imagine you are getting paid for being hurt. Two injuries is something of which to be proud rather than bewildered.
My father died a thousand athletic deaths. Wrists, ankles, knees, hips. Doctors said the last rites over his tennis career more than once and more than once he rose from the athletic ashes to body surf or play another two sets of fun.
His tennis bag was filled with neoprene sleeves, braces, wraps, Band-Aids and lots of Advil. His bag has now become my bag.
For years, it was easy to skate along in injury-free bliss. You'd look at getting hurt as something that only happened to other people. Weak people. People who were not made of the same sturdy stuff that crisscrossed your own frame.
Then, one day, your hip starts to ache. You walk funny, as if you have become the second hand of the clock swaying back and forth, unable to make a decision which way to go.
Surgery is helpful but choosing surgery the first time is like opening Pandora’s box. We might as well give our bodies permission to collapse, and collapse they do.
It is the first verse of the children’s song —
“Well, your toe bone connected to your foot bone
“Your foot bone connected to your heel bone
“Your heel bone connected to your ankle bone
“Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone.”
A couple weeks ago, I couldn’t lift my right arm over my shoulder. Should I call my doctor and ask for a referral? Have I waited long enough since the last time or should I plan on apologizing?
“I know I was just in there but do you mind giving me a referral to the shoulder guy? This will be the last time. I promise.”
Once you reach 50, they ought to just give you an MRI machine. When you reach 60, your own private surgeon who lives in the spare bedroom.
Herbie, I don’t know what to tell you.
All my friends are hurt. The ones who aren’t hurt are trying to bubble wrap themselves in order to not get hurt, but that doesn’t work either.
One thing I do know: Keeping a good attitude doesn’t hurt. It’s safe haven when everything else does.