The realities of age and an abused body came into focus Wednesday while shooting video on the Blue Ridge Parkway. My lower legs gave out a short distance up the trail that leads from the Saddle Overlook to the top of Rocky Knob.
I muttered a not too quiet “what the hell?” We had been on our feet for close to an hour at that point, shooting interviews but nothing more strenuous, but pain below the knees of both legs brought me to a stop while looking for a place to sit down.
Eight years ago, the cow-motorcycle crash at the bottom on Bent Mountain on U.S. 221 fractured the right leg in multiple places, along with other injuries considered more serious, and kept me hospitalized for nearly two months at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke.
Two years later, I laid my motorcycle down after a car pulled out in front of me on Route 8 south of Floyd and walked for two months on what I thought was a severely sprained ankle until a routine x-ray found a broken fibula in the left leg. The break had not dislodged and was healing, the x-ray said, but it still gives me more pain than the right.
Pain is handled daily with Tramadol and Acetaminophen (Arthritis formula) but I actually walked better eight years ago after release from the hospital and several months on therapy so the docs are ordering up more MRI’s and scans to see if there is a problem.
Doctors lately finish most of their sentences with “for your age” as an explanation of the aches, pain and weaknesses. At less than three months from birthday 73, I suppose age can be an acceptable excuse but I admit having trouble doing so.
When one reaches the presumed last quarter of life, thoughts of what hasn’t been done or should have accomplished linger. Too many “what ifs.” What if I had not been a heavy drinker for 32 of those years? Yes, I’m sober now for 26 years, four months and eight days but what could have done without the blur of alcohol and the too many mistakes made during that period.
What if I had not wasted seven years as a political operative to serve philosophies I did not support while drowning those worries in booze and excusing them as the necessary means to an end, which was making more money than I have had as a newspaperman?
It was no accident that when I walked away from that life, my first stop was a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, but that was only a first step to try and correct too many wrongs.
I can’t blame everything on alcohol. Still hurt and let too many people down while sober. It took too many years to accept who and what I am and that perception is not pretty.
The motorcycle accident in 2012 also cause what the doctors call “massive brain trauma,” which was also called a “closed head” brain injury but those who have known me for many years say the dark side of my brain controlled too much of my actions too often in life.
Add a history of broken bones, damaged and discarded organs and a misspent youth and adulthood, I’m lucky to be alive, but is the time that might be left enough to try and make something good out of a sordid time on earth?
I have a good marriage to a loving woman who stuck with me when she could, and almost did once, walk away and say “goodbye and good riddance.” Friends who know of far too many transgressions remain and have provided support I didn’t and still don’t deserve.
The pain that hobbled me Wednesday was physical but what about the mental anguish that keeps one up at night? Am I dealing with that as well as I should?
Probably not. Will try to do better. Must try. Time is running out.