At our family get-togethers, people tell jokes about how we’ll always be “Young.” I stopped telling those jokes a few years ago. And I think I just figured out why.
Rheumatoid disease makes me feel old.
It’s not the wrinkled brow from unspoken pain. Or the pale spotty skin in place of my former perpetual tan. Or the extra grey hairs from the stress of illness. Okay, maybe it IS those things.
But even more so, it is the way I move. Or don’t. That has to be the one thing that steals the most youth from me.
Moving through the grocery store alone
Friday, I was picking up a prescription and got a call from home that we needed bread and jelly. Gee, I wonder whether someone was trying to make a PB&J for Roo? A few minutes later as I was going into the Publix, I passed a woman who was shuffling stiffly toward her car. Her neck didn’t move; her hips didn’t sway. She just pushed herself forward.
I couldn’t be sure, but it certainly appeared to be a characteristic walk of Rheumatoid disease.
In the store, I watched how people walk and move. I saw a woman about my age who was heavier than I am. She had a spring in her step that reminded me of dancing. We smiled at each other and I noticed the cute heels she wore with her jeans. She walked happy and I remembered being able to do that.
A woman with long grey curls walked past me. Her shorts revealed large rock-hard angular calf muscles. Coloring her hair obviously wasn’t what made her feel young.
One by one, I struggled with screaming hands, wrists and shoulders to put a bunch of things in my cart. When I finished gave up, there were two senior ladies to check me out and bag my groceries. This actually hadn’t happened to me before because I rarely go into the grocery store alone and I’m normally there later in the day, when there are strong teenagers to bag the groceries and load them to the car.
I slogged all of my groceries onto the belt except for the boxes of Coke I had drop-guided into the cart. I pushed the cart around near the register so Carol the cashier could ring them up with a handheld scanner. Maybe she didn’t have one though because she picked them up, with a noticeable effort. Which felt more terrible, the wrists I was already clutching or my heart from watching this woman pick up our soda? (I don’t even drink soda and I only buy it when it’s on sale… But mental bargaining didn’t help. I felt like I was somehow mean to her.)
Then the worst part: “Do you need help out with these?”
I had to choose between letting a senior lady load my groceries and protecting my hands that hurt so badly from driving all day the day before. My hands won. But, I determined to help her and I did.
Then when she bent down to get the Coke, I cringed.
Many times, I yearn to move. I want to join every runner I see. I long to walk with a light happy step.
I wonder if anyone can understand actually wishing to load boxes of Coke in a parking lot.
- Invisible Illness Awareness Video
- Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Really Hurt That Much?
- Patient Assertiveness