The Gravity of the Situation

by Calendar Hacksaw

Sometime in the hours after midnight, I awake startled, with the unmistakable sensation of blood flooding my pillow.

Soaked in sweat, I bolt upright and instantly cup my hand over the wound, feeling the fluid gushing into my palm. Pulling my hand away, Iím startled to look down at the growing puddle of crimson red. It glows in the dark, like molten lava.

Just as quick, Iím out of bed, racing for the bathroom, where the light and mirror erupt in a chorus of laughter. There is no blood in my hand, and only a closed wound on my face. "Real funny, guys," I pant, catching my breath while my heart pounds like a jack hammer.

Then I sit down on the only seat available and try to sort it out. Nothing more than a post-traumatic illusion. Thereís nothing there.

Twice relieved, I return to bed, only to repeat the cycle night after night.

*  *  *

A month or two ago, 80-year old Mae Perkins was pulling weeds in her side yard when her brain simultaneously sent conflicting orders to her arm and leg. In the brief amateur tap dance that followed, gravity got a good grip on the olí gal and slung her to the dirt with great glee, breaking her hip.

It was a "compound" fracture, one might say; "compounded" by the fact that Mae lives alone on a cul de sac, hard by one of Southern Californiaís noisiest freeways, surrounded by two or three churches of various ethnicity and a public elementary school. Needless to say, her repeated cries of, "Help me!" didnít even reach the wind.

After three hours of baking in the summer sun, burned and dehydrated to a crisp, her gardener, Jose, and his faithful dog, Jose (no relation, and donít even ask), came to her rescue. 9-1-1 was called, and Mae entered the second and perhaps worst phase of injury: treatment.

The local Emergency Room came first. Thatís where they sort out your insurance and try to decide how fast they can dump you. It was just a few hours before the poor woman was given the boot and transferred to her own hospital, where they, in turn, got the wheels in motion to get her out their doors as well.

The so-called "Skilled Nursing Center" was next, where she was lodged in a three-patient room with two corpses to keep her company. Sure, sometimes one of the dead would grunt, urinate, or watch a basketball game, but that was about the most intellectual stimulation olí Mae experienced during her weeks there.

On the other hand, Mae didnít really need any entertainment; she created her own. Around the clock for days on end, her own post-traumatic stress syndrome led her to believe her entire family would be murdered by the nursing home staff, that at night the nurses raped all the patients, and on and on and on. All we could do was sit and listen and say, "Thatís alright, dear; everything will be okay."

*  *  *

Time out now, kids, while we take a minute and re-visit Newtonís Laws:

First Law: A body at rest remains at rest, and a body in motion continues to move at constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force. The tendency of an object to either remain at rest or to maintain a state of uniform motion in a straight line is called inertia.

Second Law: An external force acting on a body gives it an acceleration that is in the direction of the force and has a magnitude directly proportional to the magnitude of the force and inversely proportional to the mass of the body.

a = F/m or F = m a

Third Law: Whenever a body exerts a force on another body, the latter exerts a force of equal magnitude and opposite direction on the former. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Yep; we all learned these rules in high school or earlier, and have tried to incorporate them into our daily lives every since, usually without success. We keep hoping one of those Bible translators will come along and give us a re-write we can understand. But so far, the best anyoneís come up with is the bumper sticker reading, "Sh*t Happens."

*  *  *

When the Princess and the horse parted company, Newtonís Laws immediately took control of the situation, for better or worse. Unlike the MedEvac helicopter which later ferried her to the ER, the Princess had not foreseen any need to defy gravity that day. In that sense, she was just like a hundred other equestrians and cattle hanging around the arena. Itís the chance you take. Sh*t Happens. But that doesnít mean we donít care; on the contrary, we care a great deal. After all, youíre our Princess.

We are all blessed with appendages; arms and legs controlled by brains which love to foster mischief. One brain will cause a box to be left in an aisle or a sprinkler to be left on a lawn, and another brain will come along and cause you to trip over it.

And even though we are not very good at controlling our appendages, and that ability diminishes as the years go by, we never pass up a chance to extend our limbs to other dimensions and devices, whether it be cars, horses, airplanes or skateboards. Thatís why we have doctors and hospitals; we have absolutely no concept of our limitations, what the hell weíre doing, or how everything can suddenly go wrong.

But the most important lesson to learn in all of this is that gravity mostly afflicts those who are actually "doing" something. If you go through life with your butt plopped down on some easy chair with a remote control in one hand and a beer in the other, chances are you wonít hit the dirt until youíre dead. You wonít experience life to its fullest, and itís unlikely that youíll reap the rewards either. We were put on this Earth to live, to accomplish, to work, to enjoy, and accept whatever cards are dealt. Mae and the Princess didnít ignore gravity; they chose to live Newtonís Laws on their terms, win or lose. And both will pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and rejoin the parade of humans who have made us what we are: survivors.

Thereís still weeds to pull, thereís still horses to ride. The helicopters and paramedics are there to rescue our butts when something goes terribly wrong on occasion. Team Penning will come again. The Princess will hopefully be back in the saddle before this column hits the streets, and olí Mae will be out pulliní weeds. So be it. Carry on. You donít need Calendar to tell you what to do.

Calendar Hacksaw hangs his hat at, and he reminds you that youíre not likely to get hurt if youíre not doing anything. On the other hand, if the "thing" youíre doing is Mikeís Hard Lemonade, all bets are off.

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