Feeling overwhelmed – I was thinking it was just me, but then I looked up the dates: Aug. 31, Hurricane Harvey devastates Houston; Sept. 11, Hurricane Irma devastates Florida; Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico; Oct. 1, Citizen exercising his 2nd Amendment right to own combat machine guns, murders and maims nearly 600 citizens who were exercising their 1st Amendment Rights to Peaceful Assembly; Oct. 8, Santa Rosa Wildfires devastate 180 acres, killing 40.
That’s one Armageddon just about every 2 weeks. And sure enough, precisely 2 weeks after Santa Rosa, we got an Extreme Fire Warning here in my hometown. It was 102 degrees with wind gusts of 50 mph – my friend said he felt like the wind was going to sheer the door off his pickup when he opened it. Fear aside, I was surprised at how devastating the heat was personally to me. I grew up in Florida without air conditioning, and here on the coast we don’t have it because you only need it a handful of days a year. Nobody has it, it’s a badge of honor. But for the first time in my long life, this heat wiped me out.
That was the first lesson from this experience, pointed out to me by my friend Ann, also 71, who was also feeling heat depleted. “You know how how they always say that the elderly are more vulnerable in heat waves,” she said. I nodded wondering where she could possibly be going with this. “Well that’s us,” she said and my jaw dropped as an ugly splash of understanding washed another layer of denial off my windshield.
The second lesson had to do with another thing that we get more vulnerable to the longer we live – which is falling. At the height of the fire scare, I decided to use an old trick from my Florida childhood. What you do is you block up all the sun-facing windows with white (reflecting) sheets. I went at this with every ounce of my impaired strength, climbing on handy end tables and sofa backs resting one foot up on the window sill for balance. I have always been a climber – rock walls, wood stacks, tall skinny trees, I could always see where to put my feet next. But struggling with those sheets I felt less surefooted, a little tippy, even. And it was kind of devastating to think that I’m coming to the end of my climbing days. So many things one has to climb for in any given day – books, plates, lemons on a tree. I’m mostly alone all day, but even if my daughter’s around, I don’t want her to think I’m getting old! Same with my husband although he’s getting old too. I don’t mind getting old, there are tremendous benefits. But I still need to climb.
However – if I misjudge my actual abilities, if I try to cover up, or pretend I’m the same as I was as a kid – I could fall and break something that would really set me back. Talk about Armageddon! That’s the one I’ve really got to look out for! I went online and found a stepladder with rails that’s lightweight and sturdy. Good start.
Still, my heart breaks with the growing understanding that I’m not the Tom Boy I used to be. I’m going to miss her…
For Crying Out Loud, The Tom Boy We Used To Be didn’t go anyplace. She just got smart enough to swallow her pride and go looking for a step ladder with rails!
Ok, but she was always so fearless, clambering over anything in her way, with never a care. She took us to so many great places.
She’s still here! She’s still capable of taking us to all kinds of places. But if we fall down from straddling a sofa back and a window sill in 102 degree heat and break our hip and have to spend the rest of our days limping around and kicking ourself for not being more careful – then where can she take us!? Yes, we are aging! Yes, we can’t do everything single thing exactly like we used to! But to pretend that any need for cautious behavior is some kind death nell!? That’s a misery that is totally recreational!