At Our Age, An Important Warning

Falling is a serious matter for us elders.
Photo by bennett tobias on Unsplash

The other day we met a woman in the elevator and we compared canes. I have a new one constructed to support my forearm and recommended it to her. She had a regular one but declared she never goes anywhere without it.

I commented that my main purpose in using a cane was to prevent falls, especially on snow and ice.

“I fell two years ago and ruptured my eye,” she said.

“I might get one for the other side to use around here in the winter,” I answered.

Obviously, the danger of falling is universal but much more so in our seventies and eighties. The medical assistants ask, “Have you fallen since your last visit?” Plus they remind us that “almost” falls count.

A couple of my falls were almost humorous had it not been for the red-flag dangers they represented. I was lucky they did not result in hitting my head or breaking any bones.

One of the most embarrassing was the time I came out of a convenience store and missed the step down at the curb. My Diet Pepsi went flying and I dirtied the knees of my pants. A couple of concerned people came right over to help me and I will always remember one of the guys asking, “You OK, pops?”

Another time, shortly after back surgery, I was sleeping in my recliner in the living room. When I came back from a bathroom visit, in semi-darkness, as I started to sit down, the chair swiveled causing me to fall right down between it and a bookcase. Since I was unable to get up, I used my cell phone to call my daughter upstairs. She jumped out of bed and came down to rescue me.

The other silly crash was when I tried standing on the scale and fell straight back. I sat down hard on my rear and thank goodness the foot of the mattress kept me from hitting my head. My wife tried to help me but I had to crawl to a chair before she could do it.

More consequential was the fall my stepfather had several years ago shortly before his death. He was pushing back from the dinner table and the chair caught on the rug causing him to fall straight back, banging his head on the floor.

Unfortunately, he was a stubborn but fearful guy and after refusing the logical medical intervention, risked a fatal accumulation of blood in his brain. He didn’t die but had symptoms similar to concussions for a long time.

His story is a good segue to some serious facts. A simple Google search with the phrase “falls in the elderly” reveals what a huge concern falls are when we reach our 70’s and 80’s. The Centers for Disease Control has a big list of factors that helps us consider the issue.

The very first item on that page caught my eye. One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones. Plus, each year three million older people are treated in an emergency room for injuries from a fall.

This essay is not designed to frighten anyone but on the contrary, to make us conscious of a serious danger we can avoid. If it means getting a cane or two, then do it. I walk around looking down, which is counter-intuitive, but I don’t want to be surprised by strange bumps in my way.

Be ready next time the nurse at the clinic asks “Have you had any falls in the last ninety days?” The answer has to be a big “NO!”

Silly but fun

The Bailey-Turner Four have a first-day-of-the-month tradition that is supposed to bring good luck. In August 2017, saying, outloud, Rabbit Rabbit, at 12:01 AM on the first, failed us miserably. The only luck we had was bad luck(?). But that didn’t stop us for September. We tried it again this morning.

I am not sure how we got started. Maybe the Bailey clan did it. I know there wasn’t anything like that in my childhood. Wikipedia says “…it may originate with a North American First Nation story about smoke resembling rabbit fur.” It might be related to the rabbit foot but when you think about it, that is definitely not lucky for that particular bunny.

Of course, the whole thing is just for fun.  In the 1990’s Nickelodeon hyped holidays of all kinds for the kids. They even made up holidays if none were available. Rabbit Rabbit was a big the last day of the month celebration.

Luck or karma or fate or any of those kind of things can be fun or reassuring. But there ain’t so such thing. It doesn’t take long to think of people who were not very lucky at all to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or how excruciatingly long it is taking karma to kick with this Administration. Is it my fate to be sitting here, with my fellow aging feline, staring out at Minneapolis skyscrapers?

So what? I say I am lucky to have the other three B-T’s. It was lucky for Matrika to find that little kitten named Zinn (Formerly Clay) in a Twin Cities shelter. Joe luckily landed three part-time jobs to make a whole. Carla is lucky that..well, she should add her comment here.

Calling things lucky may be simply a figure of speech and saying Rabbit Rabbit may be silly but it is fun. Why not? Having fun is essential for life.

A few vital minutes in the morning

“Jane and I have always professed different philosophies about language: she will use meditation while I use prayer for the same set of words.”
-Mark Belletini in the Forward to Jane Ranney Rzepka’s FROM ZIP LINES TO HOSAPHONES

As soon as my Macbook comes alive every morning and I sign into my Gmail, I read three daily posts.

Most of the time, the first one is Today’s Gift, a subscription from Hazelden, the famous treatment center based in Center City, Minnesota but now with locations around the country. These are excerpts from a variety of 12 Step daily meditation books.

Then I usually go to the Stillspeaking Daily Devotional, meditations written by a very down-to-earth and wise group of United Church of Christ ministers.

Finally (I should say “for now”) I open up the Daily Compass, readings submitted by Quest for Meaning, the Church of the Larger Fellowship, Unitarian Universalist Association.

Sounds like a major task, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. I would guess that even with pauses to think about what I just read, it may use up 10 minutes of what time I would probably just waste playing Bubble Witch Saga on Facebook anyhow. That little bit of time could be compared with brushing my teeth or showering, things I need to do to maintain my body. These emails are in fact things I need to do to maintain my soul.

This is not all that meritorious. I am not in the least trying act holier than thou. What I am saying should be pretty obvious: there are certain exercises that I must do or things deteriorate. I hope this mental or spiritual activity each day helps keep me emotionally balanced, maybe even make a little progress.

What are these readings anyhow? Are they religious, maybe propaganda or just more of the flood of Internet postings? Are they meditations, words of guidance, centering readings or….? They help me so what difference does it make? I don’t care what they are called if I find the needed nourishment.

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