Gaining Insight From A Pain In The Back


November 12, 1990|By ALICE STEINBACH

MY WEEKEND OF THE BAD BACK begins not with a whimper but a bang:

Saturday -- I wake up, startled by loud noise outside bedroom window. I jump up, rush to window, find I have shrunk three feet overnight and can't see over window ledge to street below.

This discovery followed by three important insights: One, I can't stand up straight; two, someone during the night has inserted a number of long, sharp knives into the lumbar region of my back; and, three, my cats, Max and Fluffy -- reverting to primitive instincts -- sense my helplessness and move in for the kill, heading right for my Lalique crystal collection.

Decide only thing to do is distract Max and Fluffy with food. But how to get downstairs? Once down, how to bend over to fill their dishes? Manage to get to kitchen, where I am visited with another important insight: Sliding down banister is not as much fun as remembered.

Solve problem of filling cat bowls -- rather brilliantly, I think -- by simply standing above cats and pouring dry cat food from boxes into two piles on kitchen floor. Max and Fluffy ecstatic, running through cat food raining down on them, their little faces upturned to catch as much Meow Mix as possible before it hits floor.

One problem, though: Hadn't thought about how to clean up mess afterward. Can't bend down to plug in vacuum cleaner or sweep up. Worry rest of day that I might die and when firemen break into house, my obituary will read: Cat Woman Found Dead in House Littered with Meow Mix.

Medicate myself with two double-strength pain killers, a muscle relaxant, a Coors Lite Beer and an ice pack placed on back. Try to watch public TV but am in no shape to make tough, critical choice between show called "Cats and Dogs: Maintenance of Litter Boxes; Differences Between Collies and Shelties;" or "The Firing Line," which features Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr. discussing economics.

Walk around house or lie on floor for next four hours. Decide to eat something but can't reach anything in cabinets except pickled beets. Spirits soar, though, when mail arrives along with a sample box of Raisin Nut Bran cereal. Eat it out of box, standing over sink. Discover that milk poured into cardboard box tastes funny.

Go to bed at 6 p.m. determined not to spend the night worrying about how Max and Fluffy seem to be having territorial fights over who gets to use the new living room sofa as a scratching post.

Sunday -- Wake up from dream that Saddam Hussein is residing in my living room, which has been redecorated with sofas shaped like huge cats. Gingerly test my back. Ouch! Get up. Decide to dress and go to convenience store for necessary supplies: ice cream, peanut butter, fudge brownies, National Enquirer, etc., etc. Manage to get into front-zipped dress by throwing it on floor, then lying on top of it and zipping it up.

Shoes present a problem. Can't bend over to select appropriate pair. Spy high-heeled black pumps on floor, the ones I'd so wantonly kicked off on Friday night, and slip into them. Have a sudden insight: To avoid back attacks, one should probably never kick off high-heeled pumps the way chorus girls do in old, bad movies.

Catch glimpse of myself in mirror on way to bathroom and decide that my crawl-walk gait has dramatically affected the way my clothes fit. But surprised at how good pumps look when worn with red knee-hi socks.

Trip to store a disappointment. Discover I can purchase items displayed only at elbow-level height. Scrap plans for peanut butter (at floor level), fudge brownies (overhead rack) and ice cream (freezer door impossibly heavy to open) and return home with such items as Knorr's Fish Flavored Bouillon, sauerkraut juice, canned succotash, Kipper Snax and jumbo jar of Old El Paso Refried Beans.

At home I am hit with a deep insight and decide to work on incorporating into my novel the new angle of a woman who comes home from the opera one night, kicks off her high-heeled, black pumps and wakes up an invalid the next morning. Make some notes about metaphors and similes that could be used to demonstrate how we are all at risk, how none of us know what the future holds. Came up with good stuff about "walking a mile in the other guy's pumps," etc., etc.

Think about calling the son who's studying Buddhism in Japan and sharing insights with him. Decide instead to break up cat fight in kitchen sink, have another Coors, kick off pumps and go to bed.

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