When you’re young, you sometimes get hurt roughhousing, KA-BANG… OwwwCH! It hurts so bad you cry like a baby, even if you’re 10, but then in a minute or two you scrape yourself off the ground and start pushing each other into garbage cans all over again until the next accident. As you get older, you realize you’ll always have some aches and pains. The more active you are the more bangs and bumps and bruises you wind up with. You pull muscles, and have things go in and out of place, and sprain things, and it’s never any big deal, because you know you’ll feel better in a day or two. You know how to heal. You believe in healing.
Then occasionally something major happens. Bones break, or blood pours out, or you crack your head against an immovable object and outer space comes to visit, and you wake up in a bed with tubes sticking out of your arm. But when you’re young, even something like that isn’t the end of the world. You groove on the nurses’ outfits, and eating breakfast in bed, and walking around the hallways with your butt showing out the back of the hospital gown. Sure it takes a little longer to get your bearings back and get back out on the football field, or start jumping off roofs again, but before long you’ve forgotten all about it.
Then when you get fully grown, some ache or pain comes on suddenly, out of nowhere, and you didn’t even do anything stupid to deserve it. You didn’t go sledding on a garbage can lid, or try to jump over your dad’s car on your skateboard, or try to play catch with a bowling ball. You woke up one morning with this terrible crick in your neck and, damn, it just hurt all day. You couldn’t sleep that night and the next day it hurt just as much as before, and you even started to try things that old people told you to fix it. Put ice on it, put heat on it, have someone massage it. Ok, that was a good idea, even if it didn’t cure you, yeah, that masseuse was quite a babe, you might do that again after your neck gets better. But then you try all these liniments and pills and potions and diet changes and chiropractors and acupuncturists and voodoo doctors and Chinese herbalists and every damn thing imaginable and your neck still hurts.
Suddenly you have this awful realization: This may never get better! I may always have this pain in the neck. Crap, is this what it’s like to be old? No wonder grandpa is such a grouch. He sounds like he’s dying every time he even has to stand up from his chair. Now I’m hearing some of those same sounds coming out of my mouth when I try to brush my teeth.
But I’m too young to die! I can’t live like this. I always heal up, I’m a quick healer. Even that time I pole vaulted over the basketball hoop and broke my whatchamacallit, I was fine after a few weeks, I was back to hang-gliding and lion-taming in no time.
So how can sleeping wrong give me a pain that I can never get rid of? What’ll I do if this never goes away? Just take painkillers for the rest of my life? Medical marijuana cookies all day?
They replace knees and hips, but has anyone ever done a neck replacement? Maybe they’d have to replace your whole head to do it right. That might be interesting. Or maybe they keep your head and replace your whole body.
But what should I do now? I’ve tried everything, and it still…hey, wait a minute, it doesn’t feel so bad right now. Maybe it’s better! Whoa, thank God that’s over with. I’m going to call up the boys and organize a game of rugby.
So that’s how it is. It takes longer and longer to heal minor cuts and bruises and bangs. Aches and pains become chronic and nagging and you begin to see how getting old is just going to be one everlasting pain in the ass, and most other body parts. Maybe if everything hurts equally then you can function OK, only you’ll have to do it all in slow motion. Or maybe it’s death by a thousand cuts and at a certain point you just give up and ask for the really good stuff, the morphine and oxycontin and nerve disconnection surgery.
I can only hope that by the time that happens to me they’ve come up with some way to seriously reduce pain, or heal up all the worst spots with stem cells or transfer all your thoughts onto a hard drive somewhere and let you keep surfing the Internet while they cryogenically freeze your body until someday they find a way to give you all new pain-free spare parts.
Aches and pains, they’re now the things I’ve begun to fear the most. They’re like wild dogs or wolves or bears or mountain lions used to be a couple of generations back, lurking in the woods, ever-present, waiting to attack and have you for their lunch. The end of the line is always just around the corner. So if you’re feeling good, don’t take it for granted. Go out and get everything you ever wanted while you still can. Enjoy it and savor it and that’s about all I can think of right now, my wrist hurts and my back is getting sore from sitting in front of the computer for too long.