‘Falling Down Syndrome’ needs a celebrity spokesperson
Discovering oneself on the floor without knowing how it happened.
Last week I fell two times in our condo. Once down, I am girthed for permanency. So twice three strong men from emergency services paid a social call to uplift my spirits and my “tookis,” a much nicer Yiddish expression for butts than the Italian. That was their 5th visit in three years, which made them eligible for my Christmas card list.
Luckily, I never took the advice of my friends and doctors. I remained morbidly obese with an “in your face” vengeance. All my falls have been on hard floors and the proverbial broken hip has eluded me…thank God or whomever. This I attribute to the cushioning effect of human adipose tissue. The older one gets, obesity is good. Skinny people die younger … mostly from falls and related infarctions.
I live a choreographed life. There are certain routines that engage me in our condo when I’m not sitting … routines that mean going from one seat to the next … bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and back, multiple times. With a few bedstops in between. An early riser, my first coffee, usually instant, is on my own. Olga leaves every item in a predetermined place. And I move from in a counter clockwise direction along a path that leaves me sitting (again) before a steaming aromatic brew. My expectations of a few accompanying cookies are always met. What a woman!
The first time I fell, tripping over a molecule of heavy air, involved carrying a cup of coffee in our Durham NC lake house. That was more than 10 years ago. Carrying a pod brewed mug into the living room one morning, squeezing between the coffee table (stupidly unused) and the bookcases, I suddenly found myself heading floorward, my mind focused on the about-to-be wasted coffee and that precious pecan pastry. (I love alliterative foods.). What a way to introduce Olga to the hapless new man in her life. This proved to be the last time I could get up from a fall without assistance.
Since then, I’ve fallen about once a year (except 4 times in the last 12 months). I never feel dizzy. Nor do I feel unbalanced by a few pounds that shifted left to right. I feel that most older people just must be genetically wired to embrace the earth, or whatever is beneath their feet. One day, after some practice at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, I decided to put myself down rather than fall. This I did. Everything I had learned failed. It was back to 911. And an extended Christmas list.
The nicest falls are the ones outside on a beautiful Spring day. Suddenly you’re on your back in a lush carpet of green. It’s a position I never would have willingly assumed. So why not just lie there in the warming sun, fresh breezes wafting over me, and an occasional tick that cannot believe its lucky day. So after the “Houdinis of Lift” have done their job, it’s off to the shower to excommunicate the bugs.
Weirdly, there was a TV commercial featuring an old lady saying, “Help. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” At first it was funny, then disturbing. But I never realized that she was talking to me…that I should get this special call button. I did buy one for my 90-year-old aunt. My consciousness would not accept whom I had become.
That is the saddest part of the falling-down syndrome. By the time you admit it, you’re on to the next syndrome - rattling cups and saucers in your hand, frequent changes of underwear, answering door bells that never ring, watching a TV rerun with fresh eyes. Believe me, it starts slow and turns into a horror show. That’s why old people are not afraid of death.
Throughout history, falling down has been a mysterious badge of courage. Thrice by Jesus is an object of devotion on the Catholic Stations of the Cross. From Caesar to Humpty, falling down was a matter for the gods. Others who went down in seizures were Peter the Great, Dostoyevsky, Mohammed, Socrates, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Newton, Nobel, Edison, Carroll, Byron, Dickens, Paganini, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, DaVinci, Michelangelo, VanGogh, Napoleon, Lenin, Flaubert, and Stendhal. However, my wife Olga Timofeeva, a well referenced epilepsy researcher, tells me that I deserve no place on that list … in more ways than one. Milton famously wrote, “They also serve who stand and wait” - to which I would add, “…or through no fault of their own, fall down.”
It ain’t so bad for me yet. I run a business on line and invite others to share my thoughts and my experiences. Some people don’t want to hear what old people have to prattle on about. So let me leave you with this thought, “Breaking up is hard to do when you’re staying alive by holding on to what you’ve got - a firm position on the ground.”