if i knew then what i know now

i can remember exactly where i was when it happened…

…every time.

it was 1983. springtime – a week before field day. and for once, i was actually in good running condition. i was doing the relays, and damn it i was READY. i had tried before and sucked, but i was a lean, mean, running machine…or at least as close to it as this tubby bastard ever got as a child. and then i was running around at recess between the lockhart intermediate school (now “navarro elementary”) and the lockhart primary school (now “clearfork elementary”). it’s all cotton dirt that’s as dry as…well…cotton. as a result it’s got HUGE cracks in it. we’re talking chasms that drop down almost a foot. and i was running to catch a pass playing nerf football or whatever when PLOP – my foot went down into one of those holes. my body wrenched sideways, but from mid-shin down, i didn’t.

on the upside, my leg was deep enough in to where by ankle and even my knee, to some degree, were protected from the jolting halt and twist. problem was, my lower back wasn’t.

i thought i was going to die.

there i am, nine years old (just before my tenth birthday) and i felt like i had been stabbed in the back – literally. in fact, as i had never really been big on doctors or hospitals i could only think of anatomy in cartoon from…like what you saw on looney toons. and from how it felt, i thought i had (literally) ripped one (or more) of my ribs from where they mounted into my spine and they were now jabbing at my guts from behind whenever i moved.

seriously – it hurt THAT bad. and in my nine-year-old brain, that just HAD to be what happened.

but there was a problem…a couple weeks before i hadn’t been able to sleep, so i had gotten up in the middle of the night to cuddle with my dog and try to chill out…and when i did i had overheard my mom talking to my grandmother about how broke we were, and how she didn’t know how she would make ends meet, etc, etc. i had seen enough shows on tv to know that the sick kid can easily cripple the family financially.

“well, we lost the house ’cause we were living paycheck to paycheck, then little timmy broke his foot, and the doctor’s bills were more than we could handle, and we had to sell the farm and go work four jobs a piece to try and make ends meet…”

so i kept my mouth shut…but it was AGONIZING. the next week was field day – and my relay team came in eighth place out of eight teams, because of me – more specifically, ’cause of my back. went till almost july of that year (happy birthday to me) before it felt even remotely normal again.

“there, that’s behind me…”, i said – too early in life to get the pun in the statement…let alone the inaccuracy.

i don’t remember any time it messed with me through grade school, junior high, or high school. if it did, it was minor enough to where it didn’t strike me. all that biking and skateboarding and NO issues. whenever i thought about that shit-brown eighth place ribbon i thought that was the last shit-ass back issue. graduated in 1989, and had to unceremoniously leave college for a couple semesters in fall of ’91.

a police officer named jim gillis (now the municpal judge here) had a gym called “the lockhart athletic club” that needed volunteer staff. i had no job, and didn’t have shit to do, so i joined up on staff. a few months i was there, after-hours, doing arm curls when an old friend from my grade school days came to visit…


i barely made it down the THREE FLIGHTS of fucking stairs to my car. limped out and to the house. took a month for that one to heal.

and so on and so on…not very often, but often enough to remind me it was still lurking. the last time (before two days ago) was crouching down to plug in an iPod in august of ’07 – the only reason i remember this date accurately was ’cause two days later i went on the first date with a girl i went out with for a little over a year, better knows as the “non-girlfriend”. she thought i was cute and funny, but walked weird…

…when she found out that last one was (hopefully) temporary, all went well. and then i REALLY got into strength training my lower back to make sure it never happened again; but lately i’ve gotten lazier about that, and ironically tuesday i was trying to ramp back up and pushing 125lbs ON a lower back machine when (and for the first time it made sense) WHAM!

i barely made it to the car…but then walking around helped. sitting at home didn’t.

so today i went out and about…seemed to help. hopefully tonight i sleep okay – have they perfected spine transplants yet?