This year I vowed to throw in a few blog topics that are uncomfortable to write about. I’ve told my fellow novelists that we have to push our characters to do things we would never do. I’ve begun to do that in fiction (Yes, I killed a darling beagle in one scene). But it’s harder when writing about my life. So today’s topic is one I don’t like to talk about, namely the aches and pains that come with aging. The last thing I’m hoping for is becoming one of those elders who can only complain about her health. Still, at a certain age physical discomfort will likely affect all of us.
This week I had to return heavy books to the library on the UW campus. I can walk and bend over, but my neck and shoulders hurt when I lift. My husband is getting treated for lower back and hip problems, so for him walking and bending is difficult, but he can lift. We decided that it would take two of us to deliver four books back to their home.
When we arrived at the campus, the parking lot closest to the library had a sign in front — Lot Full — not what we were hoping for. We tried the next closest lot. The attendant there offered us free parking if we could get to the library, drop off the books, and return to our car in thirty minutes. We synchronized our watches. Ready, set, go.
Despite our physical restrictions, something wonderful happened as we strolled. Since we couldn’t move quickly, we took in the scenery and reminisced. We first met (a few years back:>) at the university and had classes in the same department, though not usually at the same time.
We passed two halls where we had spent many hours in class. One — the fifth-oldest building on campus — has been renovated, but maintains enough of its former appearance that we had no trouble identifying it.
Another hall — built in 1894 and the first on campus — is in the middle of an extensive renovation and its exterior is so beautiful, it almost made us want to go back to school. Almost.
In the library we reminisced about studying there together. “It was good here. I liked it.” (him)
“I liked everything but studying and taking tests.” (me)
“Studying was fine, but maybe not the tests.” (him)
A poster for a Native American art exhibit drew our attention. “It’s just down the hall a ways.” (me)
“Too far away for the time we have. But we should see it. And we should come back and walk around the entire campus.” (him) “As soon as I can walk.”
Then we looked at our watches. We had just enough time to make it back to the car.
Each of us has been on the university campus since we graduated, but we’d never gone back together. Having to slow down was a good thing. For thirty minutes, we focused on our environment and our shared past, and our physical problems faded into the background. There’s nothing like a pleasant distraction to make your aches and pains recede.