By Evelyn King
How easy it is to take our good health for granted. How surprising it is to suddenly not be able to do those things we have always been able to do.
I have been sidelined for six weeks so far with a knee injury. Everything I do I must do slowly with a lot of preplanning to minimize covering the same ground twice. I have had to ask for help more times than I am comfortable doing. It is exhausting.
I sure do not remember it being this way when I was 14 and injured the other knee. I became a celebrity of sorts since the school’s star quarterback and I were hobbling around on crutches at the same time from the same type of injury - mine from basketball.
This time, however, it’s from age. Only my peers have any sympathy for me. The rest of the world would prefer I move over and let them get by me so they can get on with being fit and busy. I am not complaining, just making an observation about stages of life.
Since I worked for years as a recreation therapist this is not new territory to me. I have helped the aged, the injured, and the developmentally challenged to discover ways to be independent within their limitations. My cohorts and I were leaders in the movement to bring handicapped accessibility to the forefront of planning.
That is why we designed our retirement home fully accessible. This time, while in the wheelchair borrowed from Hospice (thanks to their medical supply closet), has been the perfect test of our design. It all works well to get around. But it is still exhausting. Yes, I said that already. But I say it again because that is the part of this I was most unprepared for.
I am way too young to suddenly feel this old. I have miles to go before I sleep, haven’t I? What do I do about this sudden feeling of vulnerability? My kids have stepped in for the first time to look out for me rather than the other way around. And worse, I cherish their help and advice.
Passing from one life stage to another can happen smoothly; but more often we go kicking and screaming. We can grieve what is being left behind or shake it off. We can fear what is up ahead or look forward to new challenges. The only thing we cannot do is stop the clock. It is best if we can hold fast to the knowledge that there is “a time for every season under heaven.”
Each season has its own rewards and opportunities to push the envelope: like the friend who, at 85, tried skydiving for the first time; or the post polio friend who was hospitalized for 20 years in a respirator. At 25 he enrolled at UC Berkeley and moved into an apartment, portable respirator and all. From his electric wheelchair with his paintbrush in his teeth and a canvas to fill, he had 10 good years of challenging independence before his body succumbed. We should all be so lucky.
Evelyn King is a preaching elder at the Community Presbyterian Church with graduate work in values education from San Francisco Theological Seminary and a BA in psychology/social science. She is a past director of the Healy Senior Center and the facilitator of senior fitness exercise.