Tuesday, September 13

CDP Top 30 Of All-Time ('08-'10) - #18.


#18 - 'The Broken Elbow Quadrilogy.'
(Originally published 4/6-9/09.)

Part I.

As some of you may know, the Missus broke her elbow a few weeks ago at the Roller Rink. Inspired by the awesomeness and recent stratospherical growth of the local Roller Derby squad, she decided to strap on the skates and give it a go, with the hopes that she may one day join the elite ranks of the female rink warriors.

And no, this is not a CDP Flashback Essay from 1977. This new Willennium has been a bust since Day One, so it stands to reason that we would take pride looking backwards for something fun to do on the weekends, and we’ve already thoroughly mined the 80’s and 90’s for fuzzy nostalgia. The jetpacks are still decades away; tough girls, roller skates and Pabst Blue Ribbon are empowering, sexy and forever cool.

Anyway, like most of us have done at one point or another while skating, the Missus forgot to wear protective gear and took a nasty spill. What most of us haven’t done, however, is snap your radius in two. From what the Missus and Wikipedia tell me, the radius is a bone attached to your elbow that hurts like hell when broken. The prognosis is typically a sling, truckloads of Vicodin, and if you’re really lucky, a surgery where they have to pin everything back into place. As a woman who has to pass through a metal-detecting weapons screening booth every day at work, you can see why this would be a serious conflict of interest.

On the day that the Missus decided she no longer wanted to use her right arm for three weeks, I took an uncharacteristically solo trip up north to visit my folks. I left town because I had no intention to ever set foot inside a roller rink again, as I still harbor deeply-rooted fears that alter my decisions to this day. More on that tomorrow.

I spent most of the day thinking about her, as we typically don’t spend weekends apart. I hoped that she was having a good time with Ben and Sherry, and assumed that if anyone got hurt, it would most assuredly be Ben. Seriously, dude’s about 6’2” and his center of gravity is somewhere between his first and second vertebrae. I predicted some sort of concussion or blunt trauma to the back of the head, and waited patiently for the text message while sitting at an Italian restaurant with my mom and sister.

When my phone finally chimed, I got a relative first-glimpse as to how the Missus likes to break bad news:

‘In Urgent Care. Broke my arm :)’

You read that right. She took the time to tack on a smiley. Either because she wanted to downplay the severity of the incident and didn’t want me to worry, or because she was hopelessly in shock.

After cleaning up the spat Killian’s Red from my polo shirt, I hit the road and headed for home. My feelings were mixed. First and foremost, I wanted to make sure that my wife was okay. Secondly, I wanted to passively scold her for not wearing elbow pads, as I had stressed since Day One. Finally and most selfishly, I wondered if this meant I had to drive her to work and make dinner for the next few weeks.

All of these racing thoughts made me feel like a parent who just watched their child lock themselves in the family minivan and pull the shifter down, careening the vehicle into the street. Once you make sure they’re not dead, you want to instinctively hug and strangle them at the same time. Fortunately, she looked so damn pathetic with her sling on, I just shook my head and tried really hard not to cry.

Hey, you know what goes really well with Vicodin? Jameson.”

Oh, you’re hilarious.”

That first night, she slept for fourteen hours.

Part II.

I will never roller skate again. I’ve come to terms with this years ago, for three very distinct reasons.

One, I’m terrible at it, and I refuse to evolve for an activity that has remained relatively unevolved since its inception. As a child, every time I was invited to a birthday party at a roller rink, I grimaced and attempted to lie my way out of it. I never wanted anyone to know that I sucked at skating, and saw no purpose in spending my afternoon unintentionally doing a newborn Giraffe impression in front of my friends. At the bulk of these parties, I would play video games and hide in the bathroom during the ‘All-Skate.’

Yes, I’m serious, and yes, I know how sad that is. Besides, you weren’t the one that was crying in the handicapped stall while ‘The Limbo Song’ blared over the rink PA system. Those are memories you tend to remember, particularly when you’re quartering a prostitute in your basement.

In 1994, my next-door neighbor suffered the most disgusting arm breakage I have ever seen as a result of Rollerblading (a craze that died out almost as instantly as Hypercolor t-shirts and PM Dawn, I might add). The image of her laid-out on the sidewalk, screaming bloody murder and clutching her S-shaped right arm is etched into my brain forever, as it should be. That is something that I do not want to happen to me as a grown man with a job and mortgage, and nothing short of a full-on Knight costume is going to prevent it from happening.

The main point here is probably my endless attempts to save face in public while simultaneously embarrassing myself in tow. It literally frightened me as a child to risk a pratfall in front of my friends, no matter if everyone else was doing it and nobody cared. Ironically, I was always more than willing to take a pratfall if it was the punchline of a joke that I was telling, but we’ll save the deep psychoanalysis for another time. I ain’t drunk enough.

Two, the last time I skated, I severely sprained my wrist. This happened in gym class, of all places, and I didn’t know what had happened until hours later. Sure, my wrist had turned black, hurt like a Fungo Bat to the gonads and I threw up twice immediately afterwards, but I ignored it and continued on with my day until I could no longer hold anything or move it properly (ever try to work a combination lock with the same arm you’re clutching four textbooks in?). When I finally went to the nurse’s office, I was all but thrown into the car and rushed straight to the emergency room. Protective gear or otherwise, my brain will not let me forget that roller skating is a recipe for humiliation, pain, and limp, black wrists.

Three, and this is purely the Elitist part of me speaking…it just ain’t my cup of tea.

The bad 90’s dance music (or worse, the token ‘Wedding Reception’ music), the 30 children flopping themselves around the rink while celebrating a birthday party, the token old guy that’s all by himself and way too good at it, the fact that every roller rink is in a part of town where people get stabbed hourly, the nostalgic, teenage Roller Rink flashbacks to every failed relationship and nonreciprocating glance…why would I subject myself to this? As an adult, I’ve built my life around protecting myself from the things that destroyed me as a child, so why would I willingly step back into the Time Machine of Failure? I write essays about stuff like that so I don’t have to re-live them in a literal sense. A roller derby is where I want to be; throwing myself onto the rink is an entirely different bear.

Because it’s fun!

Sort of, I suppose. But if I really wanted to strap wheels to my feet and crash into shit, I could just get drunk at my house like an adult. And I wouldn’t have to hear the Chicken Dance, either.

Part III.

No matter if you’re going there for your own problems or the problems of a loved one, a trip to the hospital is a generally unwelcome day out of the house, validated parking or otherwise.

As we walked through the waiting rooms adorned with expensive chairs, exotic aquariums and majestic water fountains, I briefly wondered why a hospital would spend so much money making their entrance look so spectacular. Then I remembered that, for most of us, it’ll probably be the last thing we see before we die, so I guess the more lavish, the better. I always donate money to HospiceCare, because I really don’t want to die in a hospital bed. Don’t get me wrong, I’d certainly like to die in a bed, but I’d like for it to be my own, preferably free of handles or mechanical devices of any kind.

Maybe a cat or two would be nice, though.

The Missus was there to get the diagnosis on her elbow. Specifically, if it required surgery, or just a little rest, relaxation and horrid daytime television. This meant a trip into the ‘Orthopedics and Podiatry’ wing of the hospital; a place that I was previously unfamiliar with. Basically, what ‘Orthopedics and Podiatry’ means is that everyone there, and I mean everyone, is limping. Whether it was the click-clacking of aluminum crutches or the subtle groaning and shuffling of a new patient, they sprung for the soft carpet and extra-high Waiting Room chairs for a reason. I was stifling incredulous laughter for the entire duration.

I don’t know what I find so funny about a room full of people unknowingly doing the same thing at the same time, but I just can’t get enough of it. A couple years ago, I went to a training seminar for my day job, and during a break in the action, about 20 gatherers silently ate apples in the conference room. Never mind that nobody there saw the humor in it; the sound alone was so funny that I had to leave before I wet my pantaloons.

As I watched her purse and waited for the Missus to emerge with good news, I fiddled with my iPhone (absolutely no reception whatsoever inside of a hospital) and read hopelessly out-of-date copies of Newsweek and Time. I enjoy reading recently-dated news magazines, however, because it makes me feel like some sort of clairvoyant, like Dr. Manhattan or something. I pretend to myself that I’m reading a new magazine, and can predict the future with stunning accuracy.

Hmm…AIG is asking for bailout money. Something tells me that they’re about to face some powerful and necessary scrutiny for using taxpayer dollars to institute bonuses to several of their high-ranking executives. Time will tell; time will tell…

Then I’ll teleport to Mars while the whole matter gets sorted out.

Fortunately, the prognosis was good. The Missus didn’t need surgery, the cast came off, and a lot of low-impact exercises and suggestions were put into place for a speedy recovery. In two or three weeks, she might actually be back to 100%. We left the hospital feeling optimistic for the future, and she itched her arm raw for the duration of the car ride back home. Damn casts, not allowing for dead skin to naturally shed from your body.

So, the good news is that she’ll be back to normal in no time. The bad news is that she’s still in a lot of pain and sky-high on medication. The hilarious news is that she has currently adopted the body stance of Bob Dole, clutching her still-useless limb tight to her torso. She should really consider sticking a ballpoint pen in there, just to make it look like her right arm serves any sort of purpose.

I shook his good hand when I met him in Washington DC many years ago.

Bob Dole, not Dr. Manhattan.

Part IV.

Life around the house with a gimp is interesting at best, and it also allows you to re-evaluate your privileges and not take so many things for granted.

If you can walk upright, use all of your limbs in tandem and not spend every waking moment in either unbearable pain or a pilled-up stupor, you need to remember that you’re better off than a lot of people out there. The next time you run out to the mailbox in the pouring rain, cursing and complaining the whole way, remember that there’s someone out there who would gladly shoot someone in the face for that ability. This is also just a minor and temporary injury, which optimistically reminds you of how much worse it could have been.

As is always the case, it’s the little things that count. Last night, the pizza guy rang our doorbell while I was on the phone, and I silently gestured to the Missus to take care of it for me, completely forgetting that an 18-inch “Garden Of Eat’n” pie from Rocky Rococo’s with a 2-liter of Pepsi would probably be a little out of her range of motion.

Breadsticks and marinara sauce? Perhaps, but I wasn’t about to take chances.

In the bedroom, there is a stack of pillows in between me and her where she needs to rest her arm while she sleeps. No cuddle parties, no spooning, not even hand-holding. It goes without saying that Spring has gotten off to a somewhat frigid start at CDP Headquarters. Not to let you too far into my intimate lifestyle or anything, but the second that her arm is back to 100%, there’s a good chance it might end up broken again for completely different reasons.

The other day, I called her from work and told her to write me a grocery list, so I could go shopping without having to make her come along. I had forgotten that her broken elbow was attached to the arm that she likes to write with, so when I stepped into the kitchen, I was greeted with a list of foodstuffs that, to me, had been written by a epileptic three-year-old. It was the perfect childhood balance of trying extremely hard to write legibly, all while faced with the undeniable truth that you’re just not there yet from a developmental sense.

In the end, what has been reinforced the most from this accident is my love and respect for the Missus. She’s strong, fearless, does things around the house that I tend to forget about, and I can’t wait to see her back to her normal self. She’s also looking forward to skating again, too, which means that she must really be serious about this Roller Derby venture. Good for her, but I absolutely forbid it unless she remembers to protect herself during the next outing.

Mostly, I’d just like her to get around to hugging me again, but hey, one day at a time.


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