Here’s a sentence I’ve never typed before: I fell down the other day.
My wife and I were coming out of a restaurant, it was raining, and I completely missed the curb, tumbling into the street. Fortunately, there were no cars coming. The couple behind us asked if I was okay and — acting far too macho for my age — I jumped up and replied, “Yeah, no problem, I’m fine.” Then I limped over to the car.
My wife was driving, so I got into the passenger seat. Knowing me so well, she shot me a worried look and asked, “Are you really okay?” I told her that, no, my right leg and hip hurt like hell, and besides, I was now sitting in wet pants. She asked if I wanted to go to the hospital, but I told her to just drive me home.
When we got there, I stripped down to see a very nice bluish-red color extending from my hip all the way through my thigh. She summed up the situation immediately, “That’s a deep muscle bruise, and it’s going to hurt for awhile,” as she went to get the big bottle of ibuprofen.
She was right. Over the course of the next week, the bruise changed from bluish-red to a dark purple and then to a weird greenish-yellowish hue. I was popping 600mg of non-prescription painkillers several times a day as I limped around my life.
During that time, I thought about watching my daughter when she was a toddler. In those months when she was learning to walk, she fell down a lot. Of course, her tiny body wasn’t as gravity-unfriendly as my too-big adult form is, but it was remarkable to see how little impact falling down had on her growth pattern. She must have tumbled to the ground 10 times a day, often on her cushioned-by-a-diaper behind, but she’d just pop right up, giggle, and go on her way.
I also remembered something that comedian Jack Gallagher (not the one with the sledgehammer) said on my radio show 20+ years ago — that putting your hands out to break your fall is a learned response, not a natural instinct. He’d observed his young son falling down a lot at that age, too, and noticed that, at first, the boy didn’t get his arms out there quickly enough to keep himself from slamming face down on the carpet. But after going nose-to-rug a few times, he figured it out. It didn’t keep him from falling over, but at least he wasn’t going to get more concussions than a Rams quarterback.
If only I’d thought of that as I stepped off that damned curb.