Fragile, handle with care

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Foster Park, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Foster Park, Fort Wayne, Indiana

When Thurgood Marshall retired as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, reporters wanted to know why he was leaving the bench.

“Well, I’m old and I’m falling apart,” he explained.

I’m always reminded of Marshall’s exchange with reporters when I develop some new ailment or health problem. Slowly but surely, at 76, I too seem to be falling apart. This time it’s Plantar Fascitis in the heel of my left foot.

The other day when I was jogging in Foster Park, the heel got to be so painful I had to call my wife Toni to come with the car to the church parking lot and take me home.

A day later, Dr. Muhler carefully examined my foot and pronounced my diagnosis. He’s probably the smartest family doctor in the city. And I’ve listened to his medically technical explanations for so many years, I’ve probably learned at least an associate’s medical degree.

This time I got an even more authoritative diagnosis than usual. Turns out, a few years ago he also developed Plantar Fascitis. He not only understood my suffering. He knew the sure-fire treatment – including the likely number of days it would take, providing I followed the Rx, before I could jog again in the park.

Dr.Muhler demonstrated exercises and printed out a 2013 four-page report on this diagnosis. The report also featured photographs of the prescribed exercises. Glancing at page one, I learned that the diagnosis occurs most commonly among runners.

I found this interesting. When non-runners advise somebody my age to give up running, they warn about the inevitable knee or hip pain. I have yet to develop either of these ailments. I don’t recall anyone warning about Plantar Fasiitis.

One good piece of news about this condition is that fixing it doesn’t require surgery. Since I was in no shape to fix dinner – Toni is away at a church conference – I invited my son, his fiancee, my daughter, her daughters, one’s boyfriend to join me for dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Nice visit.

Today, Toni’s sister Patti stopped by with homemade cookies and offered to bring dinner over this evening. Boy, do I ever feel pampered!

It gets better. Here it is late April when it’s usually chilly outdoors. But today, in northern Indiana, the temperature feels more like mid-May. So where do I park myself with my left heel resting on a bag of frozen green beans? Easy choice. I’m now sitting in a cushioned deck chair on our screened-in back porch. So I’m now looking up our half-acre hill blooming with yellow, white and amber flowers.

Still, I know that before long summer will be here in full force. Some days, say by my birthday in August, it’s likely to be too hot to sit on the back porch. After that, it will be fall. Then we’ll be carting porch furniture to the garden house at the top of the hill and storing cushions in the garage. Then comes winter and I’ll situate myself by the fireplace reading a book.

I love the change of seasons, the predictable rhythm, the variety of tasks, from raking leaves and within weeks shoveling snow. Meantime, for this older person, I know if it’s not another bout with Plantar Fascitis, another ailment will assault in due course.

In those years I taught English, I often came across poems composed by people who might have been about the same age I am now: “Grow old along with me/The best is yet to be,” and “Do not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Well, I usually don’t take the advice of old poets. As a rule, I suppose I handle aging the way most people do. I go to the doctor when something isn’t working right. Whatever the pain or discomfort, I try not to complain too much.

So I try not to make a big deal out of everything. But I’ll deal as best I can as things come along. To be sure, aging has its challenges. I’d have to say that for me, so far, the blessings outdistance the challenges. Yes, by quite a long way.

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