Monday, January 18, 2010

Perhaps We Need an Elevator

We moved into this house ten months ago. It’s been over 20 years since St. Pauli Girl or I had lived in a house with stairs. But this shouldn’t be a problem. We’re two adults able to walk and chew gum at the same time. (Actually, I hate gum; maybe I can’t do that.) Regardless--other than the fact that we’re getting older and tend to tire more easily--we should be able to safely navigate our stairs. There’s no need for a fancy chairlift, even if the manufacturer guarantees they will strong-arm Medicare into paying for it.

I needed no adjustment. I greeted the stairs like a long lost friend, quickly returning to the habits I had when I was a kid: dashing up the stairs two steps at a time, jump-landing from the bottom fourth step, sliding down the banister, or sledding down on a flattened box. (Okay, maybe at this house I just did the first two, for old time’s sake.) But a few months ago while running up the stairs, I took a mighty leap and slammed my toes into the step above. I keeled over in pain. Not one to give up easily, I did it again a few weeks later. This time there was blood and probably broken bones. This time I finally learned my lesson: I was going to have to start walking up the stairs like an adult.

Then I got new shoes. The shoes were slightly larger and clunkier than my previous pair. So of course the first time I went down the stairs in them, the heel caught the edge of the step and I promptly slid halfway down on my back. So the stairs have been a bit of a demon in our house.

Even our previously-stairless dogs have issues with the stairs. They will not attempt to climb them even while chasing a cat. We have to carry them up if we want to hang out with them in our upstairs den. At one point, in an attempt to teach them stair-climbing, St. Pauli Girl set one of the dogs down a few steps from the top. He instantly went limp, extended his four legs and slid all the way to the bottom on his tummy. We are considering a doggie stairlift, if Medicare will pay for it.

Last week, I was working in my home office. St. Pauli Girl’s daughter was also visiting, and I knew she was roaming about the house. I heard a loud thud, like someone dropping a heavy box to the floor. I didn’t even pause. That must be St. Pauli Girl’s daughter moving some stuff around, I thought. A few minutes later St. Pauli Girl came into my office. “Did you not hear me fall down the stairs?” she asked.

“Um, no. You fell down the stairs?”

“I hit my back, hard. I laid there for like, five minutes.”

“Oh. Are you all right?”

“I hurt my back. I’ll bet the bruise will be this big,” she said, holding her hands about two feet apart.

“That’s awful.”

St. Pauli Girl slowly limped away.

Now this is where some marriage advice would have come in handy. Unfortunately, we were married by Elvis in Vegas, and the only advice I got was never double down against an ace and always split your eights. The proper response would have been for me to come running when I heard the thud, carry St. Pauli Girl down the stairs and offer her first aid and comfort. At the very least, a shot of whiskey. But I’d had my own trouble with the stairs and hey, I lived to tell about it. (This is the kind of dumb guy thinking that should go away at some point after the age of 16.)

Later that night, St. Pauli Girl casually mentioned, “So if I’m out in the garden some day and just keel over, I’m going to die out there, right? Will you even bother to look for me if I’ve been gone for several hours?”

“Of course I would. No later than sunset.”

She just stared at me.

“Yelling would help. If you yelled, I would definitely come running.”

Somehow one of us skillfully changed the subject. But she couldn’t resist needling me, “If I fall down the stairs but no one is around to hear it, did I really fall?”

A few days later, the bruise finally appeared, and she had her sweet vindication. So I have learned not to ignore things that go bump, bang, or ka-boom. But hopefully, everyone has learned that a yell, shriek or moan, if physically possible, is the best way to draw attention to a medical emergency. Even old people on those medical alert commercials yell, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” when it’s obvious they aren’t getting up.

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