I don’t know if this sort of thing happens to you. It never used to happen to me except in this last year, as I come within a month of my 84th birthday on November 6th. (Dear Reader, this particular blog will become available to you some weeks after that date.) So, picture this. I wake up in the morning at, say, 6 a.m., on most days a good hour before my alarm clock is scheduled to go off. Then I discover some strange, often unpleasant new pain or itch that wasn’t there the night before. Okay, so growing old, as the saying goes, is not for sissies. Still, it’s not so much this unwelcome new arrival that upsets me; it’s the fact that, unlike when you trip and cause your knee to bruise, bleed, and hurt, you have no idea what caused this latest arrival in your life to happen...
In the case of an itch on the leg, was it a spider that lived between your sheets and decided for reasons of its own to bit you? Or what about when you put your house shoes on, and the top of your left little toe complains of a splitter-like pain? So you check the toe. Nothing! You run your finger up and down the inside top of your left slipper. Nothing! Good! So you return your left foot to the slipper, and there it is again. Ugh! You suffer a double hurt. First, there’s the physical pain. But then, even more painful in its way is the mystery of how this discomfort came to be and, despite your best effort to remedy it, it’s still there and refuses for some time to go away.
My most recent encounter with this sort of thing happened yesterday morning. I awoke from a perfectly nice night’s sleep and discovered a severe pain at the base of my left thumb. Now I have finger arthritis, it’s true. But generally, the pain level is a 1 on a ten-point scale. Moreover, when I do swimming aerobics three times a week at our local YMCA, I am careful to keep all my fingers on the same side of the swimming noodle or the bar of the rubber or Styrofoam dumbbells that we use. I’ve been taking this class for almost 14 years without incident, so why now? Yet there may be some other source of the pain, which wavers between a 6 and an 8 on the pain scale—a source that remains mysterious and adds to my discomfort. I take two ibuprofens, double the recommended amount, and repeat this dosage four or five hours later—all without much relief. I try alternating hot water with an ice pack, Again, no joy! Before bed I’m in an I’ll-try-anything mood and smear on some generic Voltarin. Happily, there’s some relief this time. Then I fall asleep without trouble and wake up eight hours later. And mirabile dictu, the pain has gone as mysteriously as it came.
Life is full of mysteries, both good and bad. Nowadays I remember my Jewish grandmother from Odessa, Ukraine, who would say, “Tatale, it could be voirce!” And she of course was right. Thank you, God, for the fact that it wasn’t—and that the owies eventually do go away.