Although the afternoon temperatures today got up into the forties, they were still in the thirties (Fahrenheit) when I set out for the library this morning. I had to pick my way over some slick spots, but for the most part, it was an easy walk, even with a heavy load of books in my pack. It was actually a lovely morning — blue skies and still air — and I was bundled appropriately in winter gear, so when I got home, I dropped off my books and went for a longer walk.
I noticed that I walk slower than I did a couple of years ago, but I moved well and with little effort, so I felt pretty good about myself.
For a while, anyway.
I was reading one of the books I picked up today, a mystery about a woman who researched personal histories for people. The book started out fine, with a lot of the history of New Mexico (before it was named New Mexico), but then the character got in too deep. At one point, her room was broken into, and her new friend (who just happened to have been in Special Forces) told her to stay behind him. Worried about people with guns, he said, “If I tell you to drop, you immediately hit the floor.”
I laughed out loud. So much for feeling good about myself! The character was young and could do what she was told, but if I were in her shoes? Well, first of all, I wouldn’t be in her shoes. I’m not that interested in other people’s histories so I wouldn’t be ferreting out their secrets. Second of all, I can’t imagine ever knowing someone that young and capable who was interested enough in me to make sure I was safe and on the ground when bullets began to fly. And third of all . . . um, hit the floor? If I were ever in such dire straits, I’d be done for. By the time I managed to get down on the floor below the level of gunshots, I’d be riddled with holes. Even assuming adrenaline would be rushing through my system, making me feel as if I could do anything, well, the truth is, I couldn’t. There’s too much I simply can’t do, and quickly getting down on the floor is one of them. It’s the same if I ever were in a situation where I’d have to run for my life. Hobble for my life? Possibly. Walk faster than normal? Probably. Run? Definitely not.
I don’t know why I laughed at the bit about “hit the floor,” because it really isn’t funny that I wouldn’t be able to drop quickly in an emergency. Still, I don’t generally end up in situations where a gun is pointed at me, and I do try to be careful and to be cognizant of people around me. Nevertheless, it’s a sobering thought (as well as a laughable one, obviously) about how age has caught up to me. I realize there are people my age who can drop to the ground and/or outrun larcenous folk, but I am not one of them, and though my knees are doing well and acting the way knees are supposed to act, they are, like the rest of me, not young.
I won’t have to worry about such things tomorrow, that’s for sure. With the winter advisory and wind chill warnings, I doubt I will be leaving the house. I’ll still do my knee therapy, of course, and spend a couple of minutes on the elliptical, but that’s about it.
Mostly, I’ll spend the day reading about younger folk getting into — and out of — trouble, and hope I don’t hurt myself laughing.
Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.