Question: How do we know when we are old?
Answer: We know we are old when we wake and find that almost everything hurts – and what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work anymore.
About 15 years ago I recall laughing my head off when I had read this somewhere. It isn’t so funny anymore now, I assure you.
About a week ago, I woke up to my usual aches and pains: nothing spectacular, just the usual burning sensation in every decrepit joint of my even more decrepit body. Then, when I reached for my Winstons on the nightstand – POW! – it hit me like a KL Metro bus. It was as if everyone who had ever wished me any harm had all worked together and wrenched my entire left arm out of its socket – and were gleefully jumping up and down on the pain-stricken joint.
It was – how shall I say this? – not a very pleasant experience at all.
So, off I went to see my good friend, Dr N (of Clubman swimming-trunk fame). As usual, there was a big smile on his face. Somehow, his smiles are always bigger when he knows I’m in pain.
His diagnosis? I’ve got what common people call a frozen shoulder – or what doctors call Adhesive Capsulitis.
Dr N: The good news is that recovery usually takes12 months – and don’t forget to double that for an old fart like you.
Bangkai: (Sarcastically) Spare me the good news, OK? What’s the bad news?
Dr N: Have you had a good look at you life lately?
That’s Dr N for you – he’s got the knack for making me feel good. Maybe I need to widen my circle of friends, eh?
In any case, life with a bum left-shoulder isn’t a stroll down Oxford Street. The simplest of things, like slipping on a T-shirt or towelling yourself dry after a shower seems like walking through a wall of fire. And let’s not even talk about manipulating a non-power steering car into a tight parking spot; or even something as simple as changing gears on a non-automatic transmission, pre-war Proton Iswara. It makes your eyes water.
After about a week of living with this condition, I’ve come to the realisation of how I’ve taken so many things for granted for such a long time. I used to go to sleep thinking that whatever I’ve been blessed with will still be here when I wake up. Not necessarily so, my friends. Just because we are healthy today doesn’t mean we will still be healthy tomorrow. Just because we have tons of money in the bank today doesn’t mean it will still be there tomorrow. Just because we are on the top of the world today doesn’t we will still be there tomorrow.
And the upside of all this is? In a weird kind of way, I am thankful for the pain I get when I try to turn the steering wheel of my car. This means at least I still have a car so that I can go to work and feed my family. Just how bad can that be?
And so what if the recovery process is likely to take 24 months? I still have one good shoulder that I can get up to all sorts of mischief with. After all, I still can reach for my Winstons first thing in the morning with my right hand, can’t I?
Life is more fragile than we think. So let’s not stop to smell the dog-shit while we’re at it. Dog-shit will always be there. We can choose not to take any notice of them.