A Dog, a Screen, and a Bed

 Let’s talk about pain.

Young people tend to be reckless because they haven’t experienced real pain. There was a time when, one a scale of one to ten, I would have rated my chronic back pain as a nine; but I’m old(er) now. Chronic back pain is a four. A pulled back muscle is a nine, as is a migraine. A kidney stone is a fourteen out of ten.

I’ve talked to people who suffered through both a kidney stone and childbirth (not at the same time–wow), and it appears childbirth is a fifteen out of ten.

And there you have it: Older people need a whole new rating system.

I was told by hospital staff that I handled the pain from my kidney stone remarkably well. This surprised me, because I distinctly remember curling up in a little ball of agony, begging for pain meds or at least a large hammer, right now.

 When you get old(er), you realize why older people didn’t want to do stuff back when you were a kid. You could find out the same thing by just listening to their conversations:

“My knee says it’s going to rain.”

“Really? I can’t feel my knee because of the lumbago.”

“Oh, I haven’t been able to lumbago since I was twenty.”

“That’s limbogo, moron.”

Enjoy it while you can, kids.


(By the way, I Googled “lumbago” to make sure I got it right, and found out … I got it.)

I told you all this to explain how I injured my neck by–wait for it–turning.

I once fell all the way down a set of stairs inside a house that was on fire, and all I got was a skinned knee. The next day I danced the lumbago.

We got a new radio system at work, and because I wasn’t familiar with it I turned my head a lot more than usual to make sure of what I was doing. There are seven screens at my dispatch console. You have to be an owl to see everything.

“As long as I pay, my chiropractor doesn’t give a hoot.”


Neck pain level, after ibuprofen: maybe six, as long as I didn’t actually turn my head. But I’d forget–and turn my head.

The neck pain caused head pain, and I was down for about a day. The day after, my wife and I decided to move furniture. This was a coincidence, but also related to pain: The dog’s.

Beowulf is closing in on being fifteen years old, which in human years is something like 90. So he has trouble getting up and down stairs, but when that’s where we are, that’s where he’ll be. The obvious solution: Move our bedroom downstairs, to where our office used to be. Let’s face it, I do most of my writing work on the couch, while icing down various body parts.

My bed hasn’t been moved in fifteen years. Why? Because, although we now use air mattresses, the frame is designed for a California King waterbed. Picture something the size of an aircraft carrier, strong enough to hold the contents of Lake Michigan.

It took two hours just to take it apart. Then we had to make multiple trips carrying pieces up and down  those narrow 1879 stairs with the sharp turn at the bottom, and now I know why the dog kept wiping out.

But we did it, and I once again got to dance the lumbago. When it comes to pain, how high can you go? Also, I can now tell you exactly what muscles are needed to haul something up and down stairways. The first day the pain level was about nine, but only when I moved, and as I write this it’s down to a much more manageable seven. Ice is my friend.

And that’s why none of you have seen me all week. Or Emily. Or Beowulf, who managed to slip by my makeshift barrier and come upstairs to see why we were cursing and throwing things during deconstruction. The next day Emily worked on one of our book projects, while I worked on a different one, and you know what they had in common?

They could be done without moving.

The lesson? I dunno. Don’t grow old? Meanwhile, if you see an older person who isn’t moving very fast, cut them a break: You don’t know if their day involved a screen, a dog, or a bed.

“A Walk? Nah, I’ll just wait in the car.”


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4 thoughts on “A Dog, a Screen, and a Bed”

  1. I’m so old I remember when New Year’s Eve TV was hosted by Guy Lumbago.

  2. I have hope that the young will not feel real pain. The closer we get to removing Bon Jovi, the closer that dream becomes a reality.

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