Saturday, May 07, 2016


“ You really have to go see your doctor about this.”

“ I just don’t understand why it hurts the way it does.  Something’s not right.”

“That’s why I’m saying talk to your doctor.”

This conversation went on for the better part of a year, maybe longer.   Every chance I had, I would put my hand—either one of them—into Joe’s and practically beg for a massage.  He never resists.  (That’s a big advantage in any mate.) 

I began to notice a perennial soreness—not really pain—when I was doing some full body weight exercises under the guidance of a trainer several years ago.  I would finish pull-ups or pushups on a bar and the palm of my hand would hurt.  Then it would go away.  But the sensation kept returning even after I no longer was doing the regular exercises that had first seemed to cause it.

“We know what the problem is,” my young doctor told me after he had quizzed me and looked at the X-rays.  “Severe arthritis.” 

Severe?”  I asked.   “Why severe?  The pain isn’t great, if indeed it’s pain.” 

“A lot of people come in here with far less arthritis than you have,” he said, pointing to the absence of cartilage between bones in the thumb, “and they’re complaining of pain that is nearly unbearable.” 

Wow.  I’d better be thankful for a high pain threshold, I suppose, that I don’t exactly believe I have. 

So my primary care physician was correct.  Arthritis, he had said, was the probable cause.  And here I have prided myself for so long that I’ve had none of that ugly stuff.  Should I be surprised that, after years of running, my knees pop and crack like kindling?  Should I be shocked that when I do yoga my spine now speaks to me in unmistakable tones of bone rubbing on bone?  Or that my hands, incessantly typing, washing, playing piano, needlepointing, would finally say farewell to the last traces of cartilage?

Entropy.  Things tend always in the direction of disorder, decay, disarray.  Refrigerators, cars, toys, human beings:  nothing excepted.  I am lucky to have come this far with so little worn out.  It won’t go on forever.  And there are things to take to make it somewhat better, or at least endurable.  Ibuprofen.  Cortisone injections if need be.  Surgery if it really gets past bad. 

What is much less easy to take are the daily reminders that I live in a society that really cannot stand old, worn-out things—or people.  If I am praised it is because I look younger than I actually am or because I am “so active” at my age.  Passivity and dependency are not only unfashionable but unthinkable.  There are exceptions, of course.  Once in awhile someone recognizes the value of experience.  Some actually respect wisdom. 

There are things more painful than arthritis.

© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2016


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