Five minutes ago, I was feeling just tickety boo, thank you very much. Not a care in my little world to furrow the brow. I had just eaten a fantastic (if I do say so myself) salmon fillet with porcini risotto while watching the news in my living room. The sun was slowly setting on the western side of Bowen Island, and through my patio doors I could see the resultant pink tinge on the Eastern mountains across Howe Sound. The day was slowly drawing to a close. I was about to have a cup of Earl Grey tea and read a chapter or two of the Count of Monte Cristo before drawing the curtain on this idyllic scene and retiring peacefully to bed. I was content.
While making my way to the kitchen to put on the kettle, I first placed one stockinged foot and then the other onto what I am now declaring ‘ground zero’ – that demilitarized zone where the safety of walking on carpet meets the deceit of slippery linoleum. As soon as the left foot had joined the right foot and abandoned the relative safety and kindness of full-pile carpeting, I could feel the hot breath of doom on my neck. Nothing expresses pure menace quite like a freshly waxed kitchen floor. I could almost hear the tiles giggling in delight as my feet shot out beneath me in a totally inappropriate manner like some ballet movement gone terribly sideways. Next thing I knew I was face-planted on the floor, the breath knocked out of my gasping lungs, my legs sprawled out uselessly in every direction, and my pride, like a burst balloon, flying about in embarrassed rubbery bits.
When you are perilously close to entering your seventh decade, falling is a traumatic event. As a kid, not so much. In fact, it is practically mandatory for a child to fall down every day as often as possible. There are usually a few tears, but nothing to excite much comment. Let’s face it, how much can a fall from the staggering height of three feet hurt anyway? “Get over it, and don’t be such a baby!” was how my mother used to handle it. “Quit snivelling or I’ll send you back to the Workhouse!”.
Oh, how I miss those days of gentle nurturing.
As I lay there snivelling, my entire life having flashed before my eyes in the tiny but horrific moments before I hit the ground, I found myself doing some serious reflection. This was not good. I had just fallen, and, as the old cliché says: I wondered if I could even get up. When you live alone these sorts of thoughts become immensely more terrifying. I had this vision of myself lying there for days, various limbs in broken disarray, unable to get up or move. How long would it be before someone noticed I was missing? Days? Weeks? Would all of my body fluids have to leak through the floor onto the cannabis shop below before someone began to wonder where the crochety old coot that lived upstairs was? It was too terrible to think about.
A quick body scan seemed to reveal that nothing major was irreparably damaged. The old noggin seemed intact and relatively still usable. But a noggin is one thing-valuable for sure, but not terribly helpful in the act of becoming upright. If I suddenly decided in that moment to recite the entire Periodic Table, then, hooray for the noggin! But for now, other items were needed. I felt that the old legs might have survived okay. They weren’t bent into odd angles as you see on EMERGENCY – 911, the kindly paramedic saying “Never mind, we’ll have you up and dancing in no time!” while her newbie trainee is puking his guts out in the bathroom. My arms, too, were looking hopeful, even somewhat promising. As much as arms can look hopeful and promising that is.
It was time to get off the floor.
Well, maybe not quite yet. Let’s just have a little lie-down here because, frankly, I am feeling a tad wonky.
After a few minutes of doing absolutely nothing, I tentatively stretched my right leg out and then my left leg so I could kneel and pull myself up using the handles on the cupboards. So far so good. With one fluid, if rickety, movement, I was standing once again, albeit hanging onto the kitchen faucet for dear life. Carefully, one timid step at a time, I made my way into the bedroom and collapsed onto the bed. I was immensely grateful that I had survived another one of life’s traumatic events: The inevitable fall of an elderly person.
It was time to have a serious looksee at things. If I had fallen a quarter inch the other way and clipped my head on the edge of the counter, it could have been much worse. Or, “Yikes!” what if I had fallen backwards and thus tumbled down the stairs, landing in a crumpled inert heap on the ground floor?
Once I caught my breath and was a bit calmer, I phoned my friend who also lives alone and who is even older than I am – an entire month in fact – to ask his advice. I was sure he would be encouraging, emapthetic and assure me that I was still a vital human being and not yet ready to be carted off to The Home!
Slowly and carefully, putting on the bravest possible front my quavering voice could muster, I unleashed my sad tale. He listened quietly and, once I was finished, there was a long pause, as he gathered his thoughts:
“Quit your snivelling! Get over it! I’ll buy you a helmet!”
And so, it has come to this.