Thursday, April 21, 2011

That Which Doesn't Kill You...Makes You Realize How Old You Are

Last night was horrible and I got less than two hours sleep.  My right shoulder has been bothering me for the last few days and after being ignored, it decided to try to kill me.  I slept for about thirty minutes and then awoke feeling an intense pain when I tried to roll over.  I couldn’t adjust my blankets, move my pillows, or even sit up without almost crying.  I tried to just find a comfortable position and ignore it, but nothing seemed to work.

Every now and then it flares up, but it goes away within a couple of weeks.  Several years ago, it got pretty bad and I mentioned it to my chiropractor.  After an examination, he told me I had tendonitis.  He even showed me where the swelling was.  It hurt to the touch and that was just what he did to fix it, he touched it, a lot.  I laid back on the table as he dug his fingers deep into my flesh.  It was one of the worst pains I have ever felt.  I honestly did not know he was only using his fingers.  I thought he had some kind of sharp tool.  I knew he had not actually cut into me, but it felt like it.  It was horrible torture and I left feeling much worse than when I had gotten there, but it got better within a few days.  Whatever he did fixed it, but I do not care to ever go through that again.

As I was laying on the floor thinking about how I need this pain to stop without having to face any type of ancient Chinese torture, I reflected on why my shoulder was hurting in the first place.  It started on Sunday night.

Sunday afternoon, I was at home working on my biblical research paper proposal when my phone rang.  Jayson Ferguson called to ask what I was doing.  I told him I had to finish my proposal, so I was unavailable.  He suggested whenever I finished we should all go to the state park in Shelbyville.  I only had about an hour’s worth of work left so I agreed.  Two hours later, Kirsten and I were in Shelbyville with the Ferguson’s.

Notice how steep this is
While the adults talked and enjoyed each other’s company, our kids were running up and rolling down this insanely steep hill in the park.  The Lake Shelbyville spillway is located there and we were at the bottom.  The road wraps around to the top and there is a huge hill in between.  This is one of those hills where you have to lean way back in order to walk down and it is steep enough your feet will slip out from under you without good footing. 

We were enjoying watching them roll down the hill and making fun of them because they were doing it wrong.  As they rolled they would slowly turn and end up sideways on the hill so they weren’t rolling down anymore.  They would then have to readjust and start again.  I told them to cross their ankles so their legs would not cause them to turn.  Alex, Kirsten’s boyfriend, challenged me to show them.  At 39 years old, I do not feel the need nor any desire to roll myself down a hill at breakneck speeds.  Despite my reasonable protests, those obnoxious teenagers started to make fun of me.

Now, I do not succumb to peer pressure and was not about to get covered in grass and be itching for the rest of the evening, but I did have a point to prove.  I challenged Alex to a race down the hill on foot.  I tried to make it clear to him that this 17 year old boy was about to get beaten by a 39 year old man.  He would be shamed for thinking his youth was so wonderful.

I chose the steepest part of the hill to run down to display how fearless I was.  After looking at the hill for a moment, we took off.  I immediately took the lead.  Although I knew how steep the angle was before we started, I totally underestimated how quickly I would achieve an unstoppable speed.  It quickly grew very scary, but I was winning and intended to keep it that way.  As I felt the muscles in my legs start to knot, I suddenly started thinking about my grandmother.

When I was in junior high, we had a large plastic barrel my brothers and I loved to play with.  It was the size of a 55-gallon drum, but it was thick plastic.  Our favorite thing to do with it was take it to the top of the hill in our back yard, crawl inside it and roll down.  It was wonderful fun and we would be so dizzy when we got out we could hardly see or walk.  One day, my grandmother came home and saw us enjoying the fun of the barrel.  After watching for a while, she said she wanted to try it.  As much as I wanted to see that, it scared me a little.  What if we broke her?  However, my dad was there as well and didn’t seem to have a problem with it, so we helped her into the barrel.

Grandma was not as small or limber as us and had to get down on her knees, lean forward, sit back on her feet and then slowly shuffle into the barrel.  She didn’t even fit all the way inside and her head stuck out the end, but she said she was ready so we pushed her down the hill.  I will never forget seeing her hair bobbing up and down and she rolled to the bottom.  Once she came to a stop, we had to help her out of the barrel the same way we helped her in.  She was very dizzy and stumbled around for a while.  She said it was fun, but did not opt for another turn.  It is one of my favorite memories of her.

My mind snapped back to reality as I approached the halfway point of the hill.  This section straightens out for about fifteen feet before dropping off again.  I was grateful for this section, because I had reached a speed where I did not know if I could stop and was going to use this opportunity to slow down a little before taking on the next section.  Unfortunately, my muscles had already grown accustomed to stepping down to maintain balance and the first step onto the flat ground jarred my knee.  As much as that really hurt, my momentum was way too much to slow down and I went airborne off the next drop off.

For perspective on the size of this hill, notice the small spots that are actually Taylor and Kirsten.
With a new wince of pain and an impacting of my spine, I was amazed that I had landed on my feet.  As much as I wanted to win, my new goal was to just stay upright so I wouldn’t break anything.  However, it didn’t look like that was going to happen.  My velocity had dramatically increased to a radically uncontrollable level.  As the trembling in my calves reached a level where I swear I could hear the vibrations, I actually reached the bottom of the hill.  It took about forty feet to come to a stop and when I looked back I saw that I had at least a seventy-five foot lead.  This old man had beaten a teenager and was not going to let him forget it.  However, since my lungs were still on fire, I couldn’t talk to rub it in his face.

Since this was the close of the day, I crawled to the car and celebrated in my mind.  I got into the driver’s seat and discovered I could barely lift my arms.  I sat there puzzled as to why my arms would be hurting.  My legs were obvious, but my arms did not make sense.  As I recalled the death race down the hill, I remembered how fast I was going and how tense I was.  I was moving at such a rate, I had my fists clenched and my arm muscles were very tense.  They were moving so fast back and forth while being tensed, I think I pulled something.  Later they felt better, but were sore like I had experienced a strong workout.  However, by bedtime my shoulder had started to throb.

While my arms have gotten less and less sore as the days went on, my shoulder has intensified.  The pain is tolerable if I just let it rest by my side, but it must be supported.  Letting it hang seems to be a problem.  It is also not happy to move forward or backwards, and strongly protests at the mere thought of  being lifted.

However, as a man, it is my responsibility to deal with it until it either heals or falls off.  What else am I supposed to do?  With my 40th birthday a few months away, I am not giving any doctor an opportunity to put on his latex gloves.  My preacher once sunk a hatchet in his shin bone while on a mission trip.  In true male fashion, he pulled it out, wrapped the wound in duct tape and kept working.  I have never seen him in shorts, but as far as I know he still has both legs.  Therefore, I will ride it out.  What's the worst that could happen?

As with most experiences, I have learned something from all of this:  It takes significantly longer to type with one hand.