Fistfuls of Balloons! Twenty.

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“The year’s at the spring,

And day’s at the morn;

Morning’s at seven;

The hill-side’s dew-pearled;

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in his Heaven—

All’s right with the world!”

Pippa’s Song, Robert Browning
Physical therapy is great! No, really! This is fun stuff! Imagine the kinds of things the Mexican drug cartels do their victims to get information out of them. That’s just what it’s like!

Let’s start with the fact that the whole right side of my body has the massive muscular strength of a paper doll. (Do they still make paper dolls? Does anybody even remember what paper dolls were?) Violent physical exertion, lifting a glass of wine say, causes unused muscles and newly healed bones to scream in protest. Ditto the wimpy owner of those muscles and bones. Now add to that the fact that the shoulder joint of my right arm has been in essentially one position ever since I had the corrective surgery on the rotator cuff back in February, three months before the accident. Trying to restore mobility to a frozen joint is… How to describe it?

My parents were highly cultured and adventurous people who believed in exposing their children to art and architecture and history in all the various countries we lived in and visited over the years. As a result I have been fortunate enough to have seen a lot of things most people have only heard or read about. In a castle—privately owned but open to the public—on a rock outcropping on the banks of the Rhine, part of the tour included a visit to a carefully preserved torture chamber down in the bowels of the fortress where, presumably, the screams of agony wouldn’t cast a damper on the dinner parties above. There were things in that room that would have remained in any boy’s memory: a metal face mask, designed to be heated red hot and then placed over the face of some lucky prisoner; a tool for pulling a tongue out by the roots, used on people reluctant to use their tongues for their intended purpose; an iron maiden; ingenious machines designed to slowly crush specific joints; and a rack. That rack was the sort of thing that just looking at it would have made an impression on any small boy, but in those days I was a rabid Prince Valiant fan, and I had recently finished reading a strip that included fairly graphic illustrations of Prince Valiant being stretched on a rack (he saved himself by a combination of cunning, imagination, a knack for sound effects, and good acting—just in case you’re worried) and the sight of that machine gave me several sleepless nights. Well, restoring mobility to a frozen joint is about as close to being on the rack as I ever hope to come.

The result of all this is that I vacillate between joy and delight in being on the road to recovery, and feeling petulantly sorry for myself. Let’s face it: whining and moaning when you’re really hurt is no fun because, after all, you’re really hurt and nothing, including whining and moaning, is going to make you feel any better until you start to mend and actually get better, so you might just as well shut up and endure as best you can. But when you’re well enough to enjoy whining and moaning, what could be more fun than to let go and indulge to your heart’s content?

But I was making progress. The arm was moving better, all things considered, than I had any right to hope for. The reigning world arm-wrestling champion wasn’t in any imminent danger of losing his crown, but I could measure progress in the weights I used, having graduated from nothing, to a paperback book, to actual (very light) metal weights. I was on the road to recovery. God was in His Heaven, and all was right with the world. I was having fun playing for sympathy with Darleen, plying her for comfort, impressing her with my raw courage during therapy. Totally useless, of course, because she knows me far too well to give me any sympathy for anything other than real and serious injury, of which she has had a belly-full in the last six months, and she knows well that my raw courage has been out of the fridge too long and is starting to smell. But it’s always fun to try.

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