“Perfectly normal at your age!” said the GP.
I had asked about the significance of a radiology report, which said I was suffering from ‘Severe Degenerative Spinal Disease’.
“Do I panic?” was my question. But the GP was not at all sympathetic.
“It’s OK for you,” I thought, “You only look about 35.”
The scan of my back was quite incidental to the real problem, which was to do with a much more abdominal part of my anatomy (See “Mind your P’s and Q’s”).
In those days, and up to about six months ago, I used to walk to town and back regularly, a journey of around three kilometres altogether. Where we live, close to the centre of the city, we can walk to three supermarkets, a multiplex cinema, the Head Office of the bank, the District Council, Library, Museum, a dozen takeaways, and any number of cafes and restaurants.
But six months ago I found I had to rest once or twice on the journey each way, or find an excuse to sit down.
When my wife suggested I was not standing up straight these days, I explained to her that after a kilometre or so of walking I could either continue walking or stand up straight, but there was no way my body could do both at the same time.
So I was developing that bent back that I sometimes noticed on my older friends.
One of our friends, in her 90s, and still active, reported some back trouble, and said she had started using a stick, and that it had made a great difference.
So I decided to follow her example.
Years ago, when I was young and foolish, I had bought a carved kauri stick at a craft shop up north in the Bay of Islands. For 40 years I had kept it just in case I ever needed it. And now its time had come.
It is a good solid stick, just the right length, with a solid rubber shoe on the end.
And what a difference it made! I found that a walk to town and back became almost as easy as it had been before my back got bad.
I had to spend a little while learning to time the movements of the stick with my legs, so it hit the ground exactly as my weaker left leg did, and not leave the ground until that left leg was handing my weight over to the right one, a pace and a bit later.
When I needed to use my right hand for some urgent task and I passed the stick to my left hand, it was harder to synchronise the stick movements with my footsteps, but I could do it long enough to help
The great improvement now is that I don’t have tiredness in my back after a long walk, and my left hip doesn’t get weary either.
I had a busy day yesterday, babysitting grandchildren and helping with a community garage sale, and I forgot my stick. This morning my back protested when I suggested getting out of bed.
Of course, after the usual exercises of a shower, towelling dry, and squeegeeing the shower cubicle, my back began to warm up and settle down, and if I could get a walk it would be fine. But the weather is bad, and that is why I am sitting at the computer writing rather than getting my exercise.
A couple of weeks ago I had to see a specialist about another matter, and mentioned that I had started using a stick.
“I don’t feel that old!” I complained mildly.
“Regard it as a fashion statement. Like the swagger sticks the cavalry officers used to carry in the old days.”
So now, in addition to my beard, and my bald head, I have a walking-stick as a fashion statement.
And when I see my shadow creeping up, or my reflection in a shop window on the way to town, and either one reminds me of a cartoon character of an old geezer, like the figures in a Where’s Wally picture, I think to myself: “I’m making a fashion statement, so there!”