Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Iron Man. Or, how much laundry can I actually lift.

Perhaps I should have titled this post "Wonder Woman," although the super hero attribute I was thinking about this morning wasn't blocking speeding bullets with my cuff bracelets. Having said that, it would be a cool skill to have. Today I'm thinking more about brute strength. Again, I need to qualify—not bench pressing hundreds of pounds, but shlepping unwieldy piles of laundry, managing finger breaking bags of groceries, backpacks and all the additional stuff of children who are too tired to carry themselves and look to me with little faces full of exhausting, needing my help.

What does any of this have to do with aging, you might be wondering on day 2 of my WRINKLE commitment?

I'm getting there folks.

This morning I hoisted a bag of laundry over my shoulder. That is, I went to hoist it and it barely moved. I moved. I sort of fell back on the dense mesh duffel that was filled to capacity with all our laundry plus a weekend's worth of ski clothes Jon threw in last night. Bending at the knees, I put more energy into it and got it up on my back, the strap cutting deep marks into my shoulder within seconds. I managed to get out my front door and to the elevator, half carrying, half sliding along the hallway. Another quick note, I live in an apartment building and we have a newly renovated laundry room in the basement. I also have a small washer/dryer combo in my apartment which is convenient for hand wash-y sort of stuff, but with 4 people, I'd be doing loads 24/7 to keep up. So, when we're running out of cool t-shirts and jeans that aren't shredded at the knees, I load myself up and head downstairs.

I know, I know we haven't gotten to the aging part yet.

I'm getting there.

Right now, I'm strong. I practice yoga 4 times a week. I walk for miles in the city. I lift, hoist, carry, stretch, balance, shlepp more than most would think possible. Sometimes more than I think possible. I've hit the outer limits of what I can carry home from the supermarket. Bags so heavy my fingers shake with the effort of keeping them curled so groceries won't spill across 6th Avenue. When I dump out clean clothes to fold on my bed, there are so many, piled so high, you can't see the mattress, blankets, pillows anymore.

But, I won't be strong forever.

What I do, and take for granted now, will one day be memories of the past. My back won't always be this tough, my legs this conditioned, by heart, my lungs in such good shape. Right now, my body can take it. Take the extra effort, manage the increased stress, rise up to physical challenges. I haven't noticed anything slipping away. Yet. But I know it will happen.

Over the holidays we visited my mom in Florida. All Iz wanted to do was bake with her and one of the things they made were Grandma Rose's butter cookies. My mom still has her mother's cookie press, the one Rose had baked with for years and years. I sat, away from them, watching, listening, appreciating that this tradition was continuing—Iz cutting cherries for her grandmother exactly the way I did for mine. When I walked by, to see how it was going, I noticed my mom was having trouble holding her hands steady. The cookies, basic butter cookies we made in circles, or ribbons, or flower, were a mess. I offered to take over and continued piping the rest of the dough out onto the baking sheets.

Iz and I finished up and while part of me was happy to be part of the process, part of me ached. How could it be that my mom couldn't make these cookies? I'd always been neater than her, but I get anal that way. My cookies always needed to be as perfect as possible while she gave herself more leeway. This was beyond that though, her hands just didn't work.

In that moment I wondered if one day I'd sit with my granddaughter and not be able to do what used to come naturally. If my hands would curl and hurt. And that no matter how hard I'd concentrate on holding them steady, I wouldn't be able to. I already have arthritis. It showed up on an x-ray I had taken a few months ago. So far all I feel is a strange pain in the top joint of the pointer finger on my right hand. It throbs, it swells, sometimes I can't bend my finger all the way. It's not a big deal in any way.

But one day it might be.

One day, some day, things will slow for me too. I'll want to do lift, stretch, move and even though in my head I'm completely capable, my body won't respond. Perhaps these changes will happen so slowly I won't really notice in the moment. It'll only take someone else looking in to acknowledge the tremendous changes.


Day 2 is appreciating what I can do today, because one day I might not be able to.

1 comment:

Thy said...

Mom has always had bad arthritis. She told me she's never not had it.
She told me in her 30's she already had severe pain.
So I do think you and I both aren't that bad at our respective ages. Yes, I have arthritis. But not like mom had at my age!