The dangers of “Age is just a number”

Photo on 4-28-18 at 12.01 PM


As I sit here, left arm in a sling, waiting for the extra strength ibuprofen to kick in, I mull over some old sayings … “You’re only as old as you feel” and “Age is just a number” and have the strongest feeling of deja vu.

I’ve been here before.

Last time it was the naive exuberance of a first time skier, spinning and crashing across the ski run into a fence, resulting in a couple of cracked ribs and a moment of clarity.  Age might just be a number but it was also a reality – a painful, cracked ribs reality.

Still, I kept my age blinders on, recovered, went skiing again the next season and – yes – repeated my fall and cracked rib routing.  I have been skiing several seasons since with all bones intact, although I stay within my limits and on the green slopes.

During the rest of the year, I kept to more benign activities … or so I thought.  Another saying bubbled up from the depths “… as easy as riding a bike” indicating some task or other, once learned, is a mere trifle to resume.

Perhaps …

I’ve been cycling with intent for the past couple of years, even though I’ve been riding bikes since toddlerhood.  Recently, however, I’ve taken it more seriously, upgrading over the years from beach cruiser to hybrid although I’m far from those “Tour de France” wanna-be’s that shoot past like fighter jets on wheels.  My speed and style is more akin to mom and dad towing junior behind them in that little covered carrier.  I have been passed by joggers.  Still, there’s nothing like a leisurely cruise down the WO&D bike trail … with only the birds for company.

What could go wrong?

Several things, actually.

Aside from mechanical failures, punctured tires, chains jumping of the sprockets as if possessed … there’s the ever present specter of human error.  One error in particular has been the culprit of my “age is just a number” fantasy meeting “you’re not twenty something anymore” reality.  Short of running into a car, another biker, or a cellphone distracted walker, the one thing you don’t want to do, at speed, is engage the front brake. Google Newton’s Laws of Motion.

The bike comes to a sudden and complete stop.  The rider, however, does not.  The first time it happened, I suffered only minor cuts and scrapes and the embarrassment of falling off one’s own bike all on one’s own.  The second time it happened, which was two days ago, was a tad more serious.  Added to the cuts and scrapes and embarrassment was a broken shoulder and a minor concussion.  It was as if the entire left side of my body checked out and refused to take orders from the brain, preferring instead to curl up in a fetal position yelling “Pain Pain Pain Pain Pain…”

They will likely never know how it all turned out, but the 7 or 8 (maybe less, I was seeing double at the time) kind strangers who broke from their activities to pull me and my bike out of the turn lane and onto the soft green grass.  I was less than coherent but remember stating (slurring mostly likely) I’d be find in a minute.  Fall, schmall … no need for an ambulance, ignore the pain shooting from my left shoulder and the double vision, it’s nothing.  I’ll walk it off.

Time to acknowledge reality … and accept a ride from a lovely good samaritan to the nearby Urgent Care center.  Time to admit I needed help.  Time to accept help.  Time to put aside that annoying southern tradition of “don’t want to be a bother, really …” to however many of you are standing/swaying in front of me”.  People genuinely want to help … it’s a refreshing reminder that, while we may live alone or feel alone, when push comes to shove … we are not.  When I needed help, it was provided.  I really felt God was looking out for me … it could have been so much worse.  I could have broken my wrist too, it could have been my right arm (and I’m right handed), it could have been on a lonely stretch of road with no help in sight.

I don’t yet know how long I’ll be in this annoying sling and trying to live life with only one good arm.  But I have kind and available neighbors and a bottle of 600mg ibuprofen. And, yes, once healed up … I’ll be back on that bike!  Trying to remember NOT to engage the brake unless I really really mean to!

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