My Bruised Derriere

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The left side of my derriere is a brilliant, nearly neon shade of aubergine.

I’m not usually inclined to examine that angle in the mirror, but the vibrant, contused color is pretty remarkable.

I took a tumble while walking two dogs, who were incited by a third. The instigating rascal was unleashed, but that doesn’t excuse my unruly pack, who have dropped and dragged me on previous occasions.

My lovely GP, updating records during my annual physical, asked me if I had fallen lately. How did she know? The hospital gown I was wearing didn’t gape, and I was quite sure I hadn’t been caught on camera. But then she referred to her chart and reminded me of a fall the previous year, involving dogs, a noisy dump truck and a trio of jammed fingers. So, I confessed all. She ordered a bone density scan, calcium supplements and a tai chi class. No RX for canine obedience training, but that’s in order, too.

My falls are epic. I don’t mean to bruise-boast, but I can sustain a spill longer than clowns on ice. If falling was an Olympic sport, I’d bring home the gold – and the black and blue – and then plunge inelegantly off the podium.

My kids call it the ‘mom fail’ – a slow motion reel of inelegance in which I trip … try valiantly, and in vain, to catch myself … careen, arms outstretched and whirling … grasping all the while at unattainable composure … mouthing ‘I’m fine!’ through smiling, tightly clenched lips (determined to save my teeth) … and then, following far too much fanfare and foreshadowing, I go DOWN.

Here’s the thing, though: my falls may take forever, but my recovery is remarkably quick. I can hurt like hell, but I will smile through bruised and bleeding lips. I am nothing if not determined to maintain decorum.

Years ago, following a wondrously rare snow here in the Carolinas, I encountered neighbors in the grocery store parking lot. It was icy, they called out to me, and in delight, I started toward them. You can imagine what happened next. What you can’t envision (and what I can’t forget, try as I might), is the look of helplessness and horror on their kind faces – and the eternity that transpired before I fell into Ken’s grocery-laden arms. (I really should have offered to pay for the eggs.)

Ah, so many memories! The wrist fracture … the scabs and scars … the knee-shredded jeans that I didn’t have to pay extra for. My father called me Daddy Longlegs, because I was skinny and gangly and, well, leggy. He would shake his head in wonderment that someone could trip over her own toes.

But when we’re young, bruises and scraped knees are badges of honor that we compare like trophies – rewards for dare-devil courage and feats of reckless valor. ‘That’s nothing – look at this,’ and we drop trou, count stitches or show off the glory scar. 

We fall. We get back up, brush ourselves off. And we learn: to walk, ride bikes, do handstands, swing from monkey bars, rollerblade and navigate the moving sidewalk of life.

But as we get older, falling takes on greater import. Doctors crease their brows. The bemusement of family members turns to distress. We don’t bounce back quite as quickly.

A friend living in Florida (where all hard surfaces should be replaced with playground-soft cushioning mats) experienced a series of falls – in the privacy of her own home. No broken bones, no concussions, no discernable medical symptoms that tripped her up – just three falls and you’re out. Literally out. She was moved to one of those very nice care facility apartments and lost her driving privileges.

You hear it all the time: Elderly friends or relatives who slip getting out of the shower, walking to the curb to pick up the paper, reaching for a cereal bowl. When a fall isn’t just a fall, but an omen. A precursor to broken hips, pelvic bones and clavicles. The admittance slip to a hospital stay – or a stay-out-of-harm’s-way order.   

And since my derriere is just a curvy turn from my hip, I will, reluctantly, follow my doctor’s orders. But there’s nothing I can do about my long, get-in-the-way toes. My proclivity to pay more attention to clouds and conversation than where my feet land. General ungainliness and high-spirited dogs.

Life is full of bumps in the road that trip us up, no matter how careful we are. We fall, all the time. We fall in love, in and out of favor, head over heels, ass over tea kettle. We fall. And we get up. It’s a law of gravity – and grit – and growth.

The adage ‘You have to get back on the horse that threw you’ can apply equally to bikes, stairs, flat pavement or high heels. I’ve been tripped up by all. 

Here’s what I’ve learned: 

  • Slow down, enjoy the view, and look down every now and then to make sure you’re on solid ground and even pavement.
  • If you’re traveling with dogs – watch out for squirrels!
  • When life throws you in the ditch you get back up, brush off your britches and carry on like nobody’s business.
  • Pulling in the reins to a canter or walk is fine, at times, but stopping isn’t an option. Keep on moving!

A bruised derriere heals quicker than bruised pride. And both recover faster the less you fuss over them.

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