What Doesn’t Kill Ya…

For the past couple of weeks, my back has been twinging. On a pain scale of 1 to 10, it’s always at a number five, something I’ve got used to over the years. This morning, up a bit early to get a few things done around the house in anticipation of nearly 20 people stopping by, in brushing my teeth bent slightly over the sink. Pain level at maybe a 6.

I cough.

Sonofafuckingbitch, as someone sticks a hot knife in the spot where my spine meets my pelvis. The toothbrush rattles around the sink bowl as my hands clutch the vanity and I try hard to not drop to the floor. I can’t feel my legs, the pain has sky rocketed well beyond the 10 mark. Happy fucking Thanksgiving to me…

I know in a couple of minutes I’ll get some feeling back below my hips and be able to put my weight back on my legs, albeit tentatively.

The first time this happened I was 21, 35 years ago. I had bent over to pick up a pair of pants and the next thing I knew, my head was meeting a concrete floor. Doctors visits, x-rays, inconclusive. That was the beginning of the constant 5 on the pain scale.

When I was 31, picking up another pair of pants found me head first in a laundry basket. I somehow hobbled down some stairs, sat down in a chair and blacked out from the pain. For the next 30 days my legs were useless to me and the pain was at a constant 10. At some point three people carried me out to a minivan and laid me in the back of it for a trip to a doctor. Lifting legs, twisting and turning, ow, son of a bitch don’t ever fucking do that again… inconclusive. Take some Advil, it will go away.

On the 30th day, I’d had enough. Over the next 30 days I had to teach myself to walk all over again. After another 30 days I was able to finally walk without a cane. For the next seven years the pain level was always somewhere between 5 and 10. I refused to let it stop me from doing anything I wanted to do and at times, I paid for it.

At 38 I went and saw a chiropractor. There had to be something I could do. A series of x-rays and I get a phone call…

“Did you fall on your back when you were about eight years old?”

Yes I did, it was intentional. I remember knocking the wind out of myself and then going back to play.

“Well, you broke your back and it never healed correctly.”


At least now I knew what the problem was. To fix it, according to the chiropractor, they would have to go in through the front, put all my intestines on the table next to me, saw off the broken vertebra and… Stop, stop, stop. That’s never going to happen.

“Then I’ll do what I can do to take the pressure off and you should be fine.”

For the most part, that’s worked out pretty well. Minor setbacks now and then, but generally things go back to normal relatively quickly. I could live with that.

“You do realize that someday an incident might paralyze you.”

Hopefully when I’m too old to care anymore.

This morning, I got some feeling back in my legs. I looked at the pain wracked face in the mirror. I tried to stand up straight and from my waist up, I looked like the tower in Pisa. Sonofafuckingbitch, it was going to look like this for a good two weeks and hurt like hell.

I forced myself straight and felt something shift in my pelvis. Suddenly the pain disappeared and I was standing perfectly straight. This had never happened before. I had already resigned myself to a few weeks of pain and leaning. It was gone, only, I had no clue what I did to fix it. I wish I could write down what I did so I could remember it for next time, there will be a next time.

And that is what will kill me some day.

I refuse to let my back limit anything I like to do. In this case, fishing. I like to explore and get to those isolated spots where no one goes. Hiking deep into the woods, along overgrown small creeks. I follow the paths that critters make,

forgetting that at times the critters only range from one to four feet tall. I wind up on hands and knees crawling through the woods,

getting extremely familiar with what grows on the forest floor.

The creeks are so overgrown, with trees arching low over the surface, that even then I have to get my nose within inches of the flowing water to continue down stream.

One of these will some day destroy my back. I’ll wind up face down in the dirt incapable of moving. Or worse, face down in the creek, knocked out by the boulder my head happens to meet.

For this reason I always carry a cell phone with me. My wife always knows where I am. As she says… Great, I’ll know where you’re car is, now you’ll be within a two mile radius of it somewhere…

The price you pay for being stupid.

And no, what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger. In my case, it seems to make me dumber. A couple of weeks after recuperating from one of these incidences and I’d be out there again. On hands and knees, sliding down steep embankments, hitting creek bottoms with a thud, tripping and falling over unseen objects that reach up and grab you by the legs and throw you to the ground.

What doesn’t kill ya is just another story to tell on how stupid you can be just so you can go do a bit of fishing, or maybe some hunting.

And if it does kill ya some day, that will be one hell of a story.

6 thoughts on “What Doesn’t Kill Ya…

  1. bob

    yeah, well, what? at this point in life you do finally, really, truly realize – time is finite. Period. The clock is winding down. Not a reason to cry, nor rejoice. So, savor what you have – pain, uncertainty, yeah. but still – joy, discovering the new, revisiting the familiar, crawling in the muck they will one day find you face down in.

    It will beat ending up as patient #238 in room 13a with a visitor who comes to see you now and then, their hating to see you in such shape, almost as much as you hate being in such a state waiting for the end.

    You write with a smile on your face, in spite of the pain of living that crawling about the muck, executing ungainly slides down hills, and all the rest. Let the smile, smile on.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Bob, I was reading some Henry Miller this morning that echoes your hospital reference perfectly.

      I smile the whole time. I’m at my happiest in those moments. It’s probably not much of a challenge to the physically perfect, but I’m far from perfect. My daughters always comment on how I laugh when I get hurt, even cutting off the tip of a finger one time. The younger one reacts the same way now. What else are you supposed to do? Wallow in self pity?


  2. Ricky Anderson

    Back pain is one of the worst kinds of pain someone can live with. I have had my fair share though not quite as severe as you describe. I feel for you and agree with your philosophy in dealing with the pain. Live hard and die happy, everything else is just a distraction.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I agree Ricky. I’ve figured out all kinds of work arounds so I can continue to do what I like to do. But I’ll tell ya, every year those work arounds get a little harder to figure out.

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