What makes you sit up and take
notice? What’s your Pavlov’s dog-signal? What
inspires a bee-line? What gets your spider-sense tingling? In other words, (and
using another superhero metaphor), what’s your bat-signal?
According to my pea-brained research, these are some
typical bat-signals (mostly in no particular order):
garlic and onions.
Hockey Night in Canada song.
variety of other songs such as but not limited to various TV theme songs,
“WYMC” and “The Chicken Dance.”
I fell the other day. Hard. So hard that I didn't know where I was. Suddenly, oddly, I was lying on the sidewalk in the snow. Like someone had pressed fast forward: one moment walking, the next flat on my left side. I had skipped a scene somehow.
So I stood up as quickly as possible and regained my composure. And continued to walk. It felt like a dream. The entire incident probably lasted 20 seconds. Flexed my arm. Continued walking. Flexed it again. Moved my fingers. Flexed my arm. Walked to the grocery store. Talked with a woman I know. Tried to concentrate on what she was saying. I don't remember much of what we talked about. Said a polite goodbye. Flexed my arm. Wiggled my fingers. Began walking home with a bag of popcorn kernels. And then these thoughts:
1. My arm is broken. 2. I think I've broken my arm. 3. But I can move my fingers. 4. But I can't move my hand up to my chin. 5. Is my arm broken? 6. I'd know if it were broken, wouldn't I? 7. I've seen a broken arm. 8. My arm is not broken. 9. Is my arm broken? 10. Why are my eyes watering?
I've never broken any bones. Despite various opportunities where I perhaps narrowly escaped a broken bone, I've never broken one. Here's why: I always believed my bones were too strong to break. That's odd, isn't it? Why would I think that? Before this experience I had never articulated that before. I had never thought about this thought. It's like I had some pea-brain notion that my particular superpower was unbreakable bones.
So I continued walking. Eyes watering. Wondering if I had finally broken a bone. Feeling old. Feeling tired. Feeling stupid. Feeling scared. Feeling alone.
At home, I examined my arm in the bathroom mirror. It looked fine. So I showed my wife and she noticed the "extra-elbow-bump" I hadn't noticed. Plus the swelling. She wondered if I had broken it too. But I could move my fingers so it wasn't broken right?
Incredulous. That's the word to describe my feelings. And that's what's still bothering me. I don't want to acknowledge this. I don't want to accept weakness where I have always expected and relied on strength. I want my power back.
One of my favourite poems comes to mind:
There Were No Signs
by Irving Layton
By walking I found out
Where I was going.
By intensely hating, how to love.
By loving, whom and what to love.
By grieving, how to laugh from the belly.
Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
Out of untruth, truth.
From hypocrisy, I wove directness.
Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.
And I shall be where I started from.
Absolutely one of my all time favourites, this poem has always helped me comprehend the incomprehensible. I realize now that I missed the ending.
I want to feel bold again. More almost bold than this unfamiliar boldlessness. More stable, less shaken.
And I don't.
I know this whole thing should barely even be mentioned in parentheses but it feels like it wasn't supposed to happen, that there was no reason for this. It's like a mistake instead of just something random, like an accident. And even though my arm is not broken, and instead I have this blossoming bruise around my healing elbow, I feel like I'm starting over at something. And I'm not sure what. And I feel tired this time. And somehow scared. And I don't want to start over again.
I bet if many of us were to do a quick survey of our
friends we’d discover that most of us were taught the same childhood songs. Itsy
Bitsy Spider. You are my Sunshine. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and so on. I
even remember this: “I’m Hen-er-y the 8th I am, Hen-er-y the 8th
I am I am.” Wait a minute. That may not have been pre-school. For some reason I’m
visualizing a drunk dude with a Cockney accent belting out that song. Uh maybe
scratch that last example, but one tune I clearly remember my teachers taught
us was that old stand-by, “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.” I
think our teachers had us clap twice after each line then they would switch it
up and we would stomp after each line. If you’re happy and you know it stomp
your feet: stomp, stomp.
Until it reached a saturation point and became annoying,
that song truly could make me feel happier. Today it reminds me of something a
little sad: Stompin’ Tom Connors. His death brought back some classic
Canadian childhood memories: the Tommy Hunter Show, feeling proud and impressed
that Anne Murray was Elvis’ favourite singer, that game show Definition. Uh
maybe scratch that last example; that little gem just popped into my head but
some of you may not be at all aware of that classic Canadian game show and even
if you are it may not quite fit here. Anyway, despite the loss of a Canadian
icon, I still feel a little happy thinking about Stompin’ Tom and that piece of
plywood he would drag from performance to performance.
But what if you’re not happy? What then? Clap your hands?
It might help for a while. Stomp your feet? It might help for a while too. But
speaking of Canadians, there’s always one solution for unhappiness....
A wiener roast. With your friends. In the backyard. In
the snow. In the library with a candle-stick. It doesn’t much matter where. (I respectfully suggest that wieners may be optional.)
Ever think about that fact that everything has something
to do every day and there’s a lot of repetition involved? I’m not saying things
get humdrum. I’m just saying. It’s a fact of life. We have things we do and
things we do again and more things we do again and again. Some examples...
Moose: chew, chew, chew, chew, walk, walk, walk, stand,
stand, stand in middle of highway, stand, stand, stand, stand, move off the
highway, walk, walk, walk, chew, chew....
But then something unique happens. Maybe the shark
encounters a thrill seeker in a barred cage with an underwater camera. Maybe
the tree spots a feller-buncher approaching. Maybe a moose does a face-plant
while crossing the highway.
That one surprised me.
You know the Spring potholes are bad when a moose
stumbles into one while ambling across the highway. When I witnessed this I
knew just how things played out in that moose’s head: wow, asphalt ain’t what
it used to be.
True dat. It’s like concrete Swiss cheese out there. Be careful folks.