Now I’ve had stiffness for virtually most of my life. When I was a little kidlet, I remember my mom stretching my feet upwards and back to stretch my Achilles’ tendons and calf muscles, which until this day remain pretty much rock hard. I would cry because those “exercises” hurt like the devil. Imagine trying to bend a piece of hard, stiff rubber hose. Yeah, pretty much like that. Unyielding to say the least but mom still pressed on, torturing her young daughter in the name of “therapy.” Uh huh. It was a real riot while I just knew and waited for my little legs to break off at the knees.
So I couldn’t claim that I was unfamiliar with stiffness and pain. Still, when I felt that first twinge in my mid-back when I was about 30 years old, I didn’t think much of it until I bent to tie my shoes. Holy cow! That HURT! I quickly straightened up and I’m sure I must have howled loudly too.
What’s with her, Mark must have wondered. Little did either of us know that this would be a pattern, once about every six months for the next twenty some years. I will say right here, while at first it was confusing to him, Mark has always adapted to my aches and pains and has pretty much been my rock down through the years. Oh there’s been whining here and there but generally he GETS IT. Even now, sometimes, I feel he’s the only one that truly understands and I love him for that.
Describing the indescribable is always a fun thing. All I knew at the time during these flares was that by the time my back got good and wound up, I was walking like Frankenstein. Rigid and straight. Spasms across my middle back sent me into howls of pain. As long as I didn’t have to bend, I mastered a straight up Frankie walk that would, somehow, get me through the work day. I didn’t miss much work in those days. Just suck it up with my chin held high…literally.
I have never driven a car due to low vision so walking to the bus or just walking was my main mode of transportation. I can imagine people’s thoughts as they snuck a glance as they sped by me during any morning or evening commute. That woman walking looks like she’s got a pole up her back. Straight as a statue. Wait! Maybe she is a statue on a holiday. Or a mannequin, like in my favorite episode of The Twilight Zone, The After Hours, where Anne Francis is a mannequin allowed to sample human life for one week out of the year. Even as a “human” her character, Marsha, has that stiff formal quality as she wanders aimlessly through the department store from where she came from. That was me. I was a mannequin on my week off. Only I was more statue-like during my “weird back” episodes, as I came to call them, and usually was a mannequin for about three painful months.