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Sue Carlton: Lessons from a fall

On a recent fine fall Saturday much like this one, I was hanging holiday decorations in the yard. My sister came with sandwiches from a local deli to eat outside, and my good and faithful dog was there, too.

The rest makes for a pretty inglorious story.

I decided the tall wooden frame around the backyard swing would be an excellent place to drape a festive holiday garland. So I climbed up on the swing's seat, then onto the armrest. Emboldened, I put a foot atop the swing's back.

And, with that, I flew too close to the sun, figuratively and otherwise.

As it turns out, there is a good reason it is called a swing and not a bench, or even a "stable object upon which it is safe to stand." The swing swung, flipped and sent me into an Olympic-worthy summersault, except mine ended with me flat on my back in the grass.

My good and faithful dog immediately ran over, stood over me and peered intently into my face with her expressive Lab eyes, assessing damage. Then she turned and scarfed down my fallen sandwich. As I was slowly helped to my feet, I was later told, she helpfully licked from my ankle a last bit of tomato.

So I had a shoulder that no longer shouldered. This means inevitable ice packs and medical appointments, including a memorable one in which the doctor described the picture of my muscle and bone on an ultrasound screen as "flank steak." Somehow my ankle got involved, maybe in solidarity with the shoulder, and so there is some hobbling to go with the lack of ability to scratch my own ear. I am reminded of an old Mary Tyler Moore Show episode in which she has a terrible cold, something wrong with her hair and a twisted ankle. This, she keeps telling everyone, is not how I am.

People are empathetic when you are suddenly both stiff and limping, with an ever-present ice pack stuffed under your sleeve. A kind colleague told me he too had suffered the same injury, except his happened when he was, impressively, boxing. There is just so little swagger to the story of how you got hurt when the main action involves trying to hang a shiny garland.

My good and faithful dog is willing to go a little slower on her daily constitutionals and is always beside me when I get up in the night. Though more than once I have returned to bed to find her already there, nestled under pre-warmed blankets, head on my pillow.

If I am looking for a larger lesson — beyond: Don't do something this dumb — maybe that's it, that dogs will be dogs.

Or that even four-star generals fall, so to speak.

Maybe it's seeing that all around you people are dealing with serious health situations, and you, for all your boneheadedness, are lucky.

Or maybe it's that everything passes eventually. Not so long ago the Republican National Convention bore down on us, as inevitable and unknowable as a hurricane, but it's over and we're here. We moved through a vicious political season that seemed without end, re-elected a president and we're here. We are (again) the butt of national jokes, this time as the town that brought the world Bayshore socialites and misbehaving military. We'll survive that, too.

In the meantime, I have learned my lesson. And I can tell you without hesitation that, from here on out, I am definitely going to be doing a whole lot less boxing.

Sue Carlton: Lessons from a fall 11/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 6:30pm]
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