After a bad fall, the veil lifts for this expat as he visits family in California and rebuilds his health

Oct 1, 2019 | 3 comments

It feels so good to be not only sitting here typing but also wanting to. It has been a while since my last column so perhaps an explanation is in order.

Three days before my 90th birthday in May I passed out, striking my head on the toilet paper holder as I went down, severely twisting my neck. Nothing was broken but I had disabling pain afterward and for four weeks was unable to leave my Doce de Abril apartment.

Thanks to many caring friends, all my needs, from meals to companionship, were fully satisfied. Lots of massage slowly lessened the neck pain and leg weakness from weeks of inactivity. More handicapping was the sense that I was separated from the world around me, since I was unable to go out. It was like a veil had dropped between me and everything else and major effort was required to accomplish even the smallest chores.

When I was finally able to get out, simple events like going to lunch or the ATM took extra effort and I was slow to resume my old routine. I wondered if the delay was part of the recovery process or simply my old habits of procrastination.

Anyway, about a week ago the veil suddenly lifted and I am awakening every morning feeling alert and ready for the day. Even the news from my eye doctor that it will be another three months for the removal of the oil in my bad eye has not dimmed my aliveness.

Dave and a friend in the emergency room after his May accident.

Despite my fall, I was able to go to the States in August for a family reunion. The reunions began in 1989 with my then 80-year-old mother organizing one at Mt. Hood, Oregon, and telling her three boys that it was up to us to maintain the tradition every five years. We have complied.

This year, with most of the family now in California, the reunion was in Santa Paula, northwest of Los Angeles. For the first time there was a warmth and openness at the gathering that had been missing in the past. Heartwarming is my word for the occasion. For me, there was also the bonus of seeing my first great grandchild, five-month-old Francis, a happy, lively little boy.

Then, I traveled to Oakland to see old friends from my 50 years there and in neighboring cities. As at the reunion, I was greeted with big smiles and hugs, whether at church or with visits to individual friends.

Although I was not able to fully participate in all the events with family and friends due to my fall, it was a refreshing and reaffirming trip and, perhaps, was a factor in the lifting of the veil. Thank goodness for airline wheelchairs. I would not have been able to make the trip otherwise.

I have never been very attentive to keeping myself in good physical shape even though I know it is also good for mental and emotional well being. I have been lucky (genes, I suppose) to have been physically healthy all these years. But now, at 90, it is clear that if I don’t get serious about it I will start sliding down a path towards immobility and helplessness — and to life in the La-Z-Boy recliner.

Feeling as good and alive as I do, and wanting to stay this way, Tuesday I begin a supervised program with an osteopath to get myself in good physical shape so I can continue to enjoy my life. I understand that it is up to me if I am to be successful in this mission.

Dave Nelson

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