People of a Certain Age

This week an email discussion centered around a friend’s husband (friend and husband both being people of a certain age) who had taken a tumble. In the aftermath of the fall, although his hip was bothering him some, the husband refused to go see his doctor to have it checked out. Of course, I was part of the chorus saying he should definitely visit his primary physician.

Not long after stating that opinion, however, I remembered something my mother, Evie Busk, used to say. “Let he who is without sin” etc., etc., etc. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t have a leg to stand on, as it were.

In 1976 I was living in a mobile home near Bisbee, Arizona. (Yes, I lived in a mobile home once—a 14 X 70 single wide.) It was parked on my folks’ lot near Bisbee Junction, where their back fence—of the barbed wire variety—was also the border fence with Old Mexico. So yes, I know something about living in mobile homes, and yes, I know something about living on the border, and yes, we did have break-ins. And before you send me an irate note informing me that there’s no such thing as Old Mexico, remember I grew up in Cochise County where Mexico is directly to the south and New Mexico is directly to the east. That’s how real life Cochise County residents differentiate between the two Mexicos—New and Old. But I digress.

One weekend I was supposed to spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday attending a crash course for an upcoming CLU exam. CLU stands for Chartered Life Underwriter, and passing the series of ten exams gives you the equivalent of a college degree in life insurance. On my way through town on Thursday morning, I stopped off to deliver a policy to a client who lived on Quality Hill in Old Bisbee. By the way, Quality Hill is just that—not only a hill but a steep one at that.

I parked in front of the client’s house, went inside, and delivered the policy. This was back in the old days, when the City of Bisbee actually resurfaced the streets each summer, putting down a new layer of black-top with some loose gravel thrown into the bargain. Eventually I came back outside—wearing heels and hose, of course. (These were the seventies after all!) When those high heels hit the layer of loose gravel, what do you suppose happened? I went ass over tea kettle and ended up lying on my back, halfway under the back bumper.

Eventually I managed to drag myself out from under the car and limped around to the driver’s side where I got in and drove to Phoenix—four hours away. The ankle was swollen, all right, and it hurt some, but I had paid good money to take that class and I wasn’t about to miss it! Sunday night I finally drove back to Bisbee with my ankle still swollen. The next day, Monday, I drove myself to Douglas where one of my other clients happened to be a guy named Dr. Vineyard. He X-rayed my ankle, told me it was broken, and said he needed to put a cast on it.

My folks 40th anniversary party was scheduled for the following weekend. Did I want to go to that wearing a plaster cast? Absolutely not! “Wait,” I said, “it’s pretty swollen right now. Maybe we should put a cast on it later.”

Dr Vineyard was not amused. “I know you,” he said, “if I let you walk out of here today without a cast, you won’t come back to get one.” The upshot is, he applied said cast. In photos of my folks’ anniversary party, there I am standing in the back row so my glaringly white plaster cast doesn’t show.

Fast forward four years. I’m now living in Phoenix, still selling life insurance, and am recently divorced. When Christmas rolled around that year, my former mother-in-law, Mary Grandma, begged me to come to Las Vegas for Christmas. My former husband was living with her there, and at that point the kids were too young to travel on their own. So I went.

One evening, Mary Grandma and I decided to dress up and go out for dinner while my ex took our two kids and their two cousins to a drive-in movie a few blocks from Mary Grandma’s … well … It turns out she lived in a mobile home, too, only hers was a double wide.

When she and I got back from dinner, we discovered that the kids may have been drinking sodas at the movie, but their father had been imbibing something far stronger. At that point I decided to drive the cousins home. On leaving their house, one of my heels stuck in a crack in the driveway, and down I went. I drove back to Mary Grandma’s house and limped inside with my panty hose torn to pieces and both knees bleeding. My ex thought it was hilarious. “And you thought I was the one who was drunk!” he told me.

My wrist hurt, true, but not that bad. Once Christmas was over, a day or so later, the kids and I drove back to Phoenix. In bed that night, I noticed that when I tried to move the covers, my right wrist hurt enough that it woke me up.

Once the divorce was final, things inside the house started breaking down, including the toilet in the master bedroom. You could push the handle to flush it, but in order to get the tank to fill, you had to whack the tank cover with your fist. The next morning, when I tried that stunt, I ended up in tears, so once the kids were off to school, I went to see yet another client, Dr. Ranjit Bisla, an orthopedic guy. He looked at an X-ray of my wrist and said, “Yup, it’s broken all right.” I snuck a glance a my swollen left ankle, neatly concealed at that moment under the legs of my pantsuit. “Maybe you should X-ray my ankle, too, “ I suggested. I went home that day wearing a cast on my left ankle and another one on my right arm.

By now it was the early eighties, and wearing pantyhose to work was required. I was a district manager then, and I remember one hot summer day when one of my agents asked me if he had to wear a tie to work. I told him, “As long as I have to wear pantyhose, you can damned well bet you have to wear that tie!” He was not a happy camper as he left my office.

So now that I was wearing a cast again, I had to go to work, and heels and hose were still required. What to do.? I was a single mom. Money was tight; pantyhose were expensive. Whenever I got a run in one leg, I would cut that leg off and keep the top. Down the road, when I had a run in another pair, I’d do the same thing and then wear two tops with one good leg each. Believe me, those really were NO NONSENSE pantyhose! They were absolutely pinch-proof!

With my new cast on, when it came time to go to work, I would cut off the foot part of one of those previously damaged panty hose and stuff that into the bottom of the cast. My skirts or pantyhose hid the bare knee part of my leg above the cast, but the covered toes made it look for all the world as though I was wearing a full pair of pantyhose.

Over the next six weeks, whenever someone asked me how I managed to put on my pantyhose I had two stock answers: #1. “I was wearing them when I broke by ankle.” Or #2. “I put them on over my head.”

I hope you’re laughing by now, I know I am. But please remember, I was only in my thirties when all this happened, but the next time someone of a certain age refuses to visit a doctor to have some supposedly minor injury checked out, I believe I’ll just keep my mouth shut.

Because, as Evie, would say, I don’t have much room to talk.

As for my final word of the day? If you’re someone of a certain age who doesn’t have grab bars in your bathroom, get some. Have them installed. I believe Evie would file that under “An ounce of prevention…!”

31 thoughts on “People of a Certain Age

  1. I’m of a certain age and also wore pantyhose to work. I always bought a nude shade where runs weren’t very noticeable. At my last job I could wear slacks and switched to knee highs. I guess I could have gone bare legged, but don’t like to wear shoes without socks. I had several problems with narrow heels getting stuck in grates so never step on one.

  2. In 2013 I was scheduled for a cruise around the British Isles. The morning that my friend and I were leaving for England I went out onto the back porch to make sure that the door was locked. You guessed it, I tripped on the threshold and came down hard on my left wrist. With much cursing I got myself up off the porcelain tile floor and wrapped my wrist in an Ace bandage. Two hours later I drove to the drugstore and bought a splint. After all, I had just really badly sprained it, right?
    Flew to England that night. My wrist was sore but Tylenol kept it in check. For the next week I wore a brace/splint and got myself a harness that would keep my arm up.
    The evening of the day that the ship ported in Dublin (and I walked around on my scheduled tour) I finally went to the ship’s doctor to have a look at the wrist. My friends had convinced me that MAYBE I had done some worse damage than a sprain. Sure enough, I had a badly broken wrist that required immediate surgery. The next day I got to experience the wonders of British medicine at a hospital outside of Glasgow Scotland. I had diagnosis, surgery, and spent the night. The ship went on without me. The next morning I checked myself out of the hospital, got a cab, and flew to Belfast, Ireland to catch up with the ship.
    I can’t say enough good things about my experience with the NHS. The bill, which I paid myself, came to just under $3,000 for my surgery and overnight stay in the hospital. My physical therapy, once I got home, was a lot more than that.
    The rest of the trip is a blur of nausea and sleepiness from the anesthesia (I don’t react well to that). I did manage to go on a tour of Buckingham Palace and see paintings I had seen in textbooks. The docents took pity on me and sent me up in a private elevator rather than the stairs.
    So, I know whereof you speak…. The doctor told me (ship’s doctor) that the bones were starting to heal already and they would have to re-break a couple of things. I have a titanium plate in my wrist and some screws but it works.

  3. I am dying laughing! When I was 25, I had just graduated from college after working my way through as a bartender in a big restaurant. I had just been hired by the law enforcement agency I would work for for 25 years, and was to start in the Police Academy the next morning. My fellow employees at the restaurant wanted to have a going away party for me, and since I often went roller skating at the local rink, that’s where they decided we would go. You guessed it – while showing someone how to skate backwards, a child fell behind me and over I went. I kept skating, but by that night, my wrist was swelling. I went to the E.R. and walked out with a cast on my arm. Fortunately, it was my left one. They still let me in the Academy, I had to shoot and drive with my right hand, and I still graduated top in my class!

  4. Judy, I am still roaring over the cleverness of tucking your hose into the shoe toe! I still wear knee highs under my slacks. Like your fan, Carolyn Ann, I don’t like to wear shoes without socks. So, of course, I never get to wear sandals. Going without socks of some kind always gives my feet blisters. Yes, I have the ugliest feet in the world.

    • Janice, I, too, cannot wear shoes without hose, and I love my light-compression knee highs. I will politely disagree with you, as I have the ugliest feet in the world, partly due to surgery in my youth that didn’t heal well. Sandals do not exist in my world, and the ladies at my nail salon are used to my toes when I treat myself to my monthly pedicures.

  5. I am right there with you! A few years ago, I was sitting in a Sky Chair swing in my lanai when the eye hook it was hanging from unexpectedly snapped, dumping me unceremoniously onto the concrete floor. I managed to get my self up and walked back into the house and cleaned up my bleeding knee. My ankle, my shoulder and my elbow all were hurting and bruised but I thought that was all, maybe a sprained ankle.
    I continued doing what ever I needed to do around the house, including moving giant concrete plant pots around in the yard, for the next week. Each night, however, my ankle would hurt enough to keep me awake for hours each night.
    After about a week like this I had a preexisting appointment with my doctor for a routine check up. At the end of the appointment, she asked if there was anything else that I wanted to discuss medically and I mentioned the pain that was keeping me awake at night. The doctor felt the ankle, determined that it was warm, and sent me shuffling off to ex ray where they determined that the ankle was indeed broken in what they called a “green twig” break. The staff couldn’t believe I had been walking on a broken ankle for a week. I got the cast and it eventually healed but that ankle still hurts in the cold weather.

  6. As an 85 year old woman living alone, I am doing some SERIOUS thinking about having a grab bar installed aside my shower, as well as buying a shower CHAIR. Your column today may help me over the hump on this decision!

    Looking forward to your next book!

    • Jane, please get the grab bar and have someone professionally install it for you. A friend of mine (70-ish) fell in her tub, and could not get out until her husband came home several hours later. Luckily, nothing was broken. The shower chair is also a great idea!

  7. I’ve never broken a bone but I pinched my sciatic nerve raking the yard. OMG I have never had such bad pain. For six weeks I could lay on the couch or bed or sit in my chairs but not my typing chair. I had no idea I moved that much when I typed. Labor would have been less painful and more productive!

  8. I’m officially becoming “of a certain age” in a few weeks and will take your advice to heart. I’m also chuckling over your use of “ass over teakettle”. My father, who passed away on Good Friday this year, used to say that all the time when I or my siblings took a tumble, so instead of reading it in your voice, I read those 3 words in his! He almost always had a chuckle in his voice, because our tumbles were never more serious than maybe a skinned knee. I do remember one time that “ass over teakettle” did apply to him, but when it did, he came up laughing because it was his foolishness that caused the mishap!

  9. I SO get this. Two years ago (and I’m ‘of a certain age!) I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair and decided to clean the shower while I was in it. I scrubbed away with my yellow Scrub Daddy and when I went to change positions, I slipped in the conditioner that hadn’t washed away yet, flew into the air, and landed on my left hip. I still remember the instantaneous, quizzical expression and the ‘oh shit, THAT’S not good!’ My granddaughter’s playpen was stored in the bathroom as was my laundry cart. I wear glasses having 20/800 vision and I couldn’t see my glasses in order to find my phone. Finally saw a shoe, threw it at the phone on top of a storage stand and was able to call my son, water still pouring from the shower. He said “MOM! CALL 911!” I did and when the ambulance guys got here,they couldn’t get me out because of all the other things in the bathroom. Nor would they get me a towel to cover up with! Eventually they got a sheet out, rolled me onto it and slid me out. I was taken to the hospital where I was told I had broken my femur where it connects to my clavicle. After surgery I had a metal plate and five screws and spent two weeks in a care center!
    GET THE GRAB BAR!

  10. And I thought I was the only one who did the two panty hose tops with one “good” leg on either side! Now I feel lots better!

  11. You sound like my grandmother. She broke her ankle and was casted BUT the doctor refused to add the rubber accessory so it would be a “walking cast”. When she got home, Ma simply fashioned her own attachment which worked fine until she slipped on some spilled water and broke her knee.
    It took threats from my mother to turn her out of the house if she tried walking again until the doctor said it was OK.

  12. how did I reach age 68 and have never worn heels? I stopped wearing pantyhose in the early 80’s. And ugh, remember garter belts? and half slips? and whole slips? are they extinct now? and sanitary belts or whatever they called them before pads had stickum on the backs….. what a bunch of stuff to wear around one’s waist in the late 60’s early 70’s. A half slip, a garter belt (before panty hose) underwear, and sometimes a sanitary belt. Bleah. Things are much easier now

  13. Had to laugh because I remember the cutting off the bad leg of panty hose trick. And yes, I is usually wait a day or 3 after a fall to make absolutely sure I need to go to the doctor. Only time I go right away is when I require an ambulance.

  14. Love today’s blog. I did laugh several times. Your pantyhose stories brought back memories. Grab bars in showers are so important at any age. Also, hand rails whenever there are six or more steps, are also of importance just in case you lose your balance for some reason. I was walking down some outdoor steps that unknown to me, had black ice on the steps. Luckily, I was holding on to the hand rail which I quickly grabbed even tighter and which prevented me from experiencing a bad fall.

  15. I always enjoy your blogs; thank you for sharing every week! I especially laughed at your expression “ass over teakettle.” I used that myself a week or so ago, and , for the first time, I stopped to wonder how it originated. I remember my Mom saying it as well.

  16. If these blog posts get any more entertaining/insightful, it’s going to hurt your book sales. I love getting the posts each week.

  17. Thank you for educating we newly “of the certain age”. I do have the grab bars, and I use them all the time. I got the phone hanger, “Gear Beast” sure gives one a sense of calm.

  18. Jane, please get the grab bar and have someone professionally install it for you. A friend of mine (70-ish) fell in her tub, and could not get out until her husband came home several hours later. Luckily, nothing was broken. The shower chair is also a great idea!

  19. I worked from the mid 60s into the mid 90s. I too remember cutting one leg of my panty hose. Those were also the days of dresses or suits only—such fun

  20. LOL.

    In NEW MEXICO I wore a black t-shirt that said “NEW MEXICO” on the front. On the back it said:

    “It’s NOT NEW and it’s NOT MEXICO!”

    I loved hearing people laugh the second they passed me read the back of my shirt!

  21. I had grab bars put in our shower when my husband became ill and starting losing his balance. I myself didn’t really need them at the time, age 71 then. Now three years later, but in good health, I find I’m so glad I have them. Once you hit that “certain age” it won’t be long until you find the security of having them is really a necessity. Also, so ingenious of you to take care of the need for stockings, when most would think it was an impossibility.

  22. I agree with many of the people commenting that bathroom grab bars are worth getting. A thought to keep in mind first before installing is locating them at the right height for the person using them. As a therapist doing the bars’ location for my patients, I have the person simulate reaching for the “spot” which feels right for the most control. That becomes the mid- point of the bar once it is installed. Hope this is helpful.

  23. I have beeen a fan of yours, Judy Jance, for a very long time…ever since I first discovered you in my local Edmonton, Alberta, Canada public library.

    I have also been financially quite poor…until recently when my husband died and left me the sole beneficiary of his estate…a log house and eight acres in Southern Oregon. As I live in Canada I have had to sell his home and transfer the asset into cash.

    Your books and blog have been constantly inspiring me in all kinds of ways.

    Now that I am financially comfortable it is my plan to purchase from Amazon my very own new copy of your latest book featuring Ali Reynolds which will be available in about six weeks.

    I was reading the introductory paragraphs of the plot which discusses Ali’s involvement with the Amelia Dougherty Askins Scholarship fund.

    Ali’s on going involvement with this scholarship fund has inspired me to set up a Scholarship Fund in honour of my late husband, Dr. John Herbert Stelzer, a Stanford graduate and long term Umpqua Community College professor.

    No one in my family has ever set up a scholarship fund let alone an endowed scholarship fund so this is an interesting adventure on my part. I really do not know what I am doing but there is a voice inside my head saying that if my “friend” Ali can run a serious scholarship fund, I can organize a very modest fund.

    However, I am not sure that I would moved from thinking that was a good idea that I should do some day…to planning to have a lot of action done by the time the latest Ali book will be on its way from Amazon to my residence in White Rock, B.C.

    Thank you Ms. J.A. Jance for constantly being an inspiration in my life…both by the strong and interesting woman in your books and by writing a thought provoking blog on a weekly basis.

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