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…!”