Sunday, April 13, 2008


Tonight I think I scared Lynda and the girls a bit . . . by doing something that I do pretty frequently--I've done it twice this weekend alone.

I have a long and (in)glorious history of tripping, stumbling, and generally falling all over the place. My most spectacular fall is one that I know I have told publicly, but I'm not sure I've blogged on it before. If I have, I'm sorry for the repeat. If I haven't, then you'll enjoy the details later.

Tonight's tale was ordinary, though it looked spectacular. We were cleaning up the kitchen and I was walking out of the kitchen/dining room area, turning around the bit of wall that separates the entrance hallway from that part of the house. I guess I just leaned the wrong way and my (always precarious) balance shifted suddenly. I didn't get my foot caught up in the foot of Hannah's rocking chair (she wasn't in it anyway), but maybe that was what started the imbalance act. In any case, once my center of gravity flew to the side, my tumble began. I started to go down and was immediately worried about ramming my torso into the table corner standing beside the wall partition. I twisted out of the way of that, but this only further put my body out of control. I hit the floor flat out, banging my right knee on the way down and lay there prone while everyone else scrambled to see what had happened. (They were blocked by the wall and couldn't see everything as it was happening.)

Lynda put Hannah down and came to see if I was conscious, bleeding, whatever. The older kids hung back, a bit perplexed by this strange sight of their dad flat on his face. Grace said that I had scared her and wanted to give me a hug once I got up on my feet again. I knew I was okay and just lay there to get my emotions into check. There are few things that make me angrier than falling down. As I said, I've done it many times, much of them in public, and I always try to make it a bit humorous. (After all, one of the sure sources of humor throughout history and across cultures is the pratfall.) But, inwardly, Iseethe at my clumsiness. Honestly, that was the thing that worried THE MOST about being a father was that I would trip and fall down while carrying a baby. Amazingly, that has never happened. I suppose my subconscious is paying extra special attention? I did fall down once when Grace was only about a week old, but she was safely strapped into her car seat. We were walking into our former church and I hooked my toe on a lifted seam in a bumpy sidewalk. I bloodied my knee and Grace hit the ground with a bump, but it was the seat that absorbed the blow and she was fine.

On Saturday (the first of the weekend's falls) I was downstairs in the basement, picking up toys. Again, I must have leaned the wrong way and quickly overbalanced. I began to stumble and, being surrounded by toys, I twisted the wrong way and couldn't recover the lean. This time I avoided dashing my head against the corner of a wooden bench. I swore a bit loudly (since I was downstairs and not directly in the vicinity of the kids) and was again mixed up with anger over falling and tripping over toys.


As I've said, I fall pretty often. I've fallen down stairs numerous times--once in our previous town house when I got my heel caught in the overlong hem of some new pajama pants, another time at a friends house when the rise in the stairs (the height between steps) combined with a short tread (the amount of "rectangle" that you place your foot on) created a rather steep angle. Combine those dimensions with a large foot and you've got trouble. But I've also fallen "up" stairs--something that is a bit harder to accomplish. This was my first day of school when I was a junior in high school, I think. I was heading up to the second floor of our high school and I hooked my foot on the lip of the next stair tread up. I fell forward, losing my books in a nice, noticeable clatter. Naturally, I banged my knee on the stone steps and everyone around took a good look.

High schools are ripe for opportunities to embarrass yourself. My two best falls both took place on the grounds of the high school--though only one of the two happened when I was actually attending the school.

The number two fall occurred in the cafeteria, with maybe a third of my graduating class sitting down and eating. I had finished my meal and was taking my empty tray to the other end of the cafeteria to drop off at the kitchen. Wending my way through the snarl of chairs, pushed out from the long tables at all angles, I caught my foot on the leg of one of the chairs. Once again, I was not able to right my trip and landed flat on my face with a emphatic whump. But even better, in my attempt to halt my fall, I flung my hands out in front of me, losing my grip on the lunch tray in the process. It sailed through the air, clattered on the lunch room floor as only those pressed plastic trays can, and sliiiiiid along. I got up, dusted myself off and tried not to notice that everyone was looking. I should have turned tail and ran for it, but being a conscientious boy, I walked to where my tray had slid (conveniently under the chair of a girl I knew), knelt down, picked it up, and continued on my way to put my tray down.

Honestly, I worry about doing this at the office cafeteria on an almost daily basis as I walk from the cash register to the table that we habitually occupy. So far I've managed to avoid a repeat performance. If it does occur, I can only hope that I fall on the sound dampening carpet and most of my coworkers are trying to watch CNN or something.

Today at church, I was acting as a chalice bearer--giving wine to people after they received their communion wafer. But the few simple steps from the altar, down the steps to the church floor is always another source of fear for me. I literally feel my legs stiffen when I do the simple act of turning to head TO the stairs. My feet and ankles feel unnatural and I'm incredibly self conscious of everything I do while I'm up there in people's field of vision. Nothing bad has happened yet, but I do have a church fall from my youth that gives me more reason to think. It was a Saturday night service and I was an altar boy. During the offertory, I went down the the front of the altar to receive the collection basket. I turned to walk back up the steps and hooked my foot in the hem of the cassock (the white robe-like garment that altar boys wear). I stumbled and fell to my knees (not in a worshipful way or anything), twisting as I went down. As our priest humorously noted, I managed NOT to spill any of the money we gathered that night. But I did bang my knee. Thank God I didn't swear or anything.

But none of these tales compares to the most spectacular fall of my lurch-filled life. This one, as I said above, occurred on the grounds of the high school--the football stadium to be precise. I was in junior high. It was a Saturday. I was attending the marching band competition that my hometown sponsored during those years. It was after lunch and there was a band performing on the field. Our stadium's home side bleachers has a concrete expansion above the traditional metal bleachers near the field. I was sitting in the upper areas of the concrete area, near the press box. I decided to go down the stairs, through the tunnel to get a coke and some peanut M&Ms. As I went down the steps toward the tunnel that led to the backside of the stadium stands, I got crossed up with my feet. [SIDE NOTE: The steps that constituted the aisles of the concrete part of the stadium were of two types. The main step was as wide and as deep as the aisle itself. But between these main steps was a "secondary step" that had a shorter tread (remember, this is the length of the step that your foot lands on)]. I don't know why they wouldn't make every step uniform. They were probably trying to save moment on materials or something. Certainly, not one else had ever had a problem . . . but this day would be the first.

I went down the steps too quickly, I admit it. (You would think that I would know better, given my history.) But somewhere down the steps, I missed on, then another, then two, then four. Soon I was missing whole segments of the stairs and my stumble turned into a fall, turned into a full on gymnastic forward roll. (Remember, if you please, that this is occurring on concrete.) I must have done most of this airborne, since any normal person doing this would have broken something on that hard surface. But I stumbled, bumbled, rumbled down the steps--while a band is performing remember--and ended up flat on my back with my feet sticking up toward the press box and my head toward the field. And yes, that is the opposite of how I began. Somewhere in the midst of the fall, I rolled past another innocent patron sitting in a seat along the aisle. I must have kicked her Coke out of her hand as I fell past, though I don't know how I missed kicking her in the head. But as I gazed up toward the sky, the press box, and the upper edge of the stadium wall, I could see in the foreground, the stunned expression of the person I had just deprived of a drink. Her hand was still frozen in the air, trying to hold onto the cup that was no longer there, her hand shaped in a futile cylinder. (No, I didn't buy her a replacement . . . but I now realize I should have.)

Amazingly, I didn't break anything, I hardly bruised anything--except my tender ego. I should have apologized for the band that wasn't planning on having their drum solo interrupted by a medical emergency. (They asked for a doctor over the P.A. system while the show continued.) An adult chaperon, some local volunteer and band parent showed up and asked me all the appropriate questions--"What day is it? What is your name? How many fingers . . ." I just wanted to get up and get the hell out of there, limping away into the rest of my pathetic day, though I suspect that I had ridden my bike to the school and would have to pedal back slowly on sore legs. But they weren't about to let me leave. The parent assisted my up, down the tunnel ramp, and into an area with some cots that had been set up for anyone dealing with heat problems--South Georgia Saturdays combined with old wool/polyester band uniforms sometimes resulted in heat stroke. They laid me on a cot, gave me something cold to drink, and made me rest for ten minutes. After this time they were satisfied that I was alright, and I limped away in semi-shame.

A few of my friends, who was witnessed the event from other, more distant seats in the stadium, caught up with me the Monday after. A few joked that they thought I had died. (If only, I thought at the time.) But no, not dead, just embarrassed. Number 12 in an endless series, apparently.

So, tonight is nothing new and I'm sure won't be the last. But it's only going to get worse as I get older. I said to Lynda tonight as I stood up and she gave me a hug "You've got to be prepared now. When I turn sixty, I'll break every bone in my body five times over."

Bring on the hip braces!


Anonymous said...

I have zilch ability to do anything resembling "crafty" things. Glue guns are my nemesis--think the end of my thumb is finally healing from the blob I droppped on it Tuesday. And yes, a few expletives did fill the air! I really like the liquid bandage they have on the market now. BTW, our nextdoor neighbor tripped Saturday outside, and had scratches all over her face-- I thought she had poison ivy-- so you are not alone. We all have our moments!

lulu said...

You failed to mention an important detail during your retelling of your lunchroom fall.

When, because of the violence of the fall, the few remaining food items on your tray flung skyward, you managed to catch them again--in the exact same position they were in when they left your tray--before your tray went sliding, artfully, under the chair of the girl next door, the girl you had been looking for an excuse to talk to for years!


(That was you, wasn't it?)

BTW, I've fallen twice in the last 9 months. T.W.I.C.E.

David said...

Then I punched the chump Flash Thompson right in the face, had fun climbing walls, and later decided to fight crime. (Too bad about my uncle, tho . . .)

Yeah, right . . . IF ONLY.

Sven Golly said...

inwardly I seethe
at my clumsiness
unsatisfactory pillows