As I shuffled my way across the sheet of ice that passed for the grocery store parking lot early one morning last week, I felt as though I was about 300 years old. Each step brought me one step closer to a possible fall, with all of its ramifications for my no-longer-young body. I cursed myself for not having put crampons on my boots before leaving the house, questioned whether I really needed the three items I had headed out to get and generally bemoaned the perils of ageing. I found myself humming a few lines from Mary Gauthier:
“Baby, your mama’s getting old . . ./ And, honey, getting old, now there’s some fun”
Unlike my partner, who has had a few serious falls in the course of his work, I have never fallen off a roof or from a ladder. Nonetheless, as I get older, I fear even a minor fall, because I no longer just bounce back up and carry on.
A few years ago, I broke a couple of ribs when I stumbled over some broken pavement in a sidewalk. I tripped over a cleverly hidden tree stump on a hiking trail last year, and my body ached for more than a week. In San Miguel, where we used to spend part of each winter, walking was a high-risk activity, since giant holes appear frequently and without notice in the sidewalks. During my last visit in 2020, I tripped while walking on a steep cobblestoned street and then rolled several feel downhill. Once I realized I was not dead, which took a couple of minutes, I staggered up and carried on. The bruises to my body were dramatic and lingered for weeks, but somehow not one of the dozen eggs I was carrying broke.
A friend recently told me that her new year’s declaration for 2022 was: “Now, I sit down to do this,” which I have adopted. Top on my list of tasks that require me to be in a seated position: lacing up shoes and boots, followed by putting on socks and underwear. I now have to sit down to dry between my toes after a shower. Gone are the days of clipping my toenails in the shower. And on it goes.
I will admit that I have taken my body for granted for most of my life, so it’s not surprising that payback time has arrived. Honestly, I meant to stay fit, but there was always something that seemed more interesting or important than stretching, taking a yoga class, going for a walk, swimming or any of those other things that most people have worked into their lives. I’d like to think that a sincere apology to my body, coupled with a list of all the things I have done instead of tending to my physical fitness, might buy me a reprieve, but I doubt this is the case. And so, in addition to the list of things I need to sit down to do is the even more discouraging list of things I just don’t do at all.
There are the obvious ones like staying up late, but I don’t miss doing that, so it doesn’t really count. Ditto for bike riding; after a disastrous attempt about 25 years ago to ride a bike for the first time in years (thus disproving the oft-made claim that you never forget how to ride a bike), I swore never to try again, and I am sticking to that. The same for camping, especially the sleeping on the ground part. I have never liked it, and I don’t do it.
I don’t run. I don’t trip lightly down the stairs; my first descent each morning is a slow one, as my ankles, hips and knees try to remember just what their jobs are. I don’t get on step stools and have pretty much forgotten what I put on those top cupboard shelves in the kitchen when we moved into this house 11 years ago. I don’t get down on my knees, much to the frustration of our cat, who constantly knocks her toys under the couch and bed.
It’s not all bad. Thanks to the pandemic, I walk much more than I ever did when I was younger, which both my body and soul appreciate.
I am hoping, if I can find some inexpensive, used equipment, to try cross-country skiing this winter. This will be limited to flat, groomed trails with a good snow cover to minimize injuries when, inevitably, I fall. While my vision of swooshing silently and gracefully along the trail may be somewhat unrealistic, I do look forward to trying out this new activity.
And then, of course, there are cocktails. I came up with my new concoction in several months in honour of my partner’s birthday last week. We’re calling it a Pogo Sour.
Blend or shake together 200 ml. each Amaretto and bourbon, juice from 1 lemon and 2 oranges, several tablespoons cherry juice and one egg white until frothy. Add 3 – 4 ice cubes and continue to blend or shake. Pour into martini glasses and garnish with cherries and orange or lemon slices.
This cocktail packs quite a punch and comes with a sit before you sip warning for young and old alike.