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Donald Hall and a pulled hamstring

January 23, 2012

Today is the first day of classes at the college where I teach and it feels strange not to be there. The house is stunningly quiet. I am alone with the orange cat. I can hardly walk, let alone drive (thanks to my pulled hamstring). Yesterday, I read an essay by the poet Donald Hall in The New Yorker about being old. He sits by the window and looks at the birds and the weather and the flowers. He can’t drive. He can hardly walk. When he does go out, he must rely on rides from his friends.

I am not in my eighties, yet, but I felt twinges of recognition. Like Donald Hall, I can hardly walk, can’t drive, can really only sit and look out the window and, thankfully, read and write. According to the orthopedist, this will be my condition for a while. My old self, the one that whizzed around in her car, talking on her cell phone, overbooked, either late or early to something, fitting her son’s schedule around her own, seems remote, and now, the silence, the inabilities, the many limitations, the dependence on others for basics like groceries, seem more real, realer than the other life, and a prediction of what lies ahead when I reach Hall’s age, if I do, that is. As he says, he would rather be alive, housebound, than not alive at all. I do know that I will be back in the world soon enough, whizzing around in my gray car. But I also have learned, having been through this once before with my back, that this world of silence and stillness, of physical incapacity is always there, on the other side of the daily schedule.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2012 9:02 pm

    Charlotte – I hope that hamstring heels soon. Are you running? It was at about this point in winter, ages ago, when I broke a metatarsal bone in my foot while trying to train for the marathon. At first, I was really depressed about not being able to do what I had always done, but somehow I managed to discover things in the stillness, silence, and dependence that I never would have found running. It probably sounds trite, but I think there’s something waiting for us when we’re laid up, especially if it’s just temporary. Check in again when we’re in our 80s. I might need a reminder.

  2. January 25, 2012 10:07 am

    Thanks, Mel. I was running. I fell.
    I think I remember that injury of yours. Or maybe it was another! Do you still run?

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