Thoughts from the ammo line

For reasons that will become apparent, Ammo Grrrll MY GOOD RIGHT ARM. She writes:

When I was a kid, I remember hearing my father refer to Lil, the senior sales clerk in his drugstore, as “my good right arm.” I figured out it meant a very valuable person without whom he could not get along. Little did I know how apt that phrase would become.

You know how sometimes people sustain injuries either in brave or humorous ways that make good stories? This will not be one of those.

My good right arm is semi-disabled and in pain from a deep bone bruise and blows to both my bicep and tricep. The bruise – pretty much in the shape of Texas across my entire right bicep – is black, blue and green. It is painful enough that it makes raising my right arm, or using it in a variety of ordinary ways, difficult to impossible. For example, I could sell tickets to have people watch me brush my teeth with my left hand. Now would be a good time for John H. to organize a target-shooting rematch. I’d have to rely on ricochet shots.

OK, I’ll just go ahead and tell you straight up what happened. I walked very rapidly (F=MA) into a sliding screen door that had been open just moments before and that I thought was still open. At least it wasn’t the glass door. I bounced like a kid on a trampoline and was flung into a solid metal doorjamb, whacking my arm in two places and, for extra style points, coming back for another bounce to my shoulder blade. I said to myself, “That’s gonna leave a mark.” Good call. By God’s grace, I did not also fall down.

Here are some fun facts associated with the accident: I was in Alexandria, MN for my mother’s memorial service and to help out Daddy. I had flown to the Twin Cities from Phoenix and then had driven a 14-year-old beater we keep there for just such trips. Which meant that I not only had to drive back to my sleeping quarters from the friend’s house with the Vicious Attack Screen Door, but that two days later, I had to drive the 138 miles back to the Twin Cities. With one good arm. The WRONG one to boot.

And then figure out how to negotiate the plane trip with carry-on luggage back to AZ. Fun!

Pain is a curious teacher. You learn just how many traumatized little muscles and tendons and ligaments are necessary to towel dry your back after a shower. (Ans: too many to do it.) You learn you can flip a fried egg without pain but practically fall to the floor if you try to stir scrambled eggs. You learn which shirts you can put on with one hand and which you cannot put on even with help. (“It takes a village…”) And you learn how bad guys are at putting a Scrunchie in your hair.

You learn that pain alone doesn’t kill you. I already knew that from when I took karate. Our instructor, a combat veteran Army Ranger, would make us do 40 pushups, 10 each of four sadistic kinds. When students would groan and complain, he would say, “Could you do one more pushup for a million dollars?” “Yes, sensei!” “Could you do one more pushup if a knife was coming through the floor?” “Yes, sensei!” “Well, then you can do one more pushup!” Point taken. However, I was 25 then. Now, I am…not.

I thought sure my absentee hostess would have some Advil around or failing that, heroin. No. All medicine cabinets empty. Uh-oh. Didn’t feel like doing any extra one-handed driving in the dark to locate pain meds. I had the baby aspirin I take every day for my heart. There were 3 left in the bottle. I felt like I was in a cowboy movie where they take out a bullet with a shot of whiskey and a piece of wood to bite down on. Sadly, no whiskey either. I lived.

With a disability even as minor and temporary as mine, the pain comes also to one’s sense of self. A veteran cook who can whip up a good meal in 20-30 minutes, I found myself trying to make a Smoothie, adding a tablespoon of flaxseed with my left hand and spilling it every place but into the blender. Sigh. I have learned to do everything more slowly and carefully.

The weekend also brought lessons of perspective. Driving back into the Twin Cities with my one good arm (no AC, no horn, crappy power steering…), I spent the night at the home of dear friends who were waiting on information about whether their son’s cancer had spread. Baruch Hashem (thank God), it had not. Perspective.

Naturally, I have many friends and relatives who live with long-term or permanent disability every day. I salute you one and all for your grace and courage. May medical miracles come quickly.

Oh, I also learned just how many people have walked through sliding doors: everybody!


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