Hoisting the green bin of groceries from the grocery cart into the car hatch, I feel a weakness in my lower back that telegraphs, "You will regret this!" The elation of finding steelhead trout at the Co-op meat counter has dissipated more quickly than the wet flakes of snow settling on the celery. Through the lights and the stop signs of Queen Street on my way home, I am focused on the grim prospects ahead. In the driveway, the Tracker already has dibs on the parking spot closest to the house. So. Looks like the hard way today. I swing my legs over the side of the car, like the Duchess of Cambridge arriving at a gala. I don’t like the ominous pricks in my lower back, portents of a long night ahead. Transfering the bin from the car to the kitchen peninsula, I am already wondering how I will manage to put the groceries away, and then prepare the trifle for the party . . . OMG, the band supper tomorrow night!
I have to sit down, do something to stop the currents of pain coursing through my legs from my spine, even if it's just for a moment. How did this happen? Can I pinpoint the trigger? Didn’t perform the new glute exercises correctly? Some misalignment there? Not enough rest between sessions? Maybe it’s my chairs—I’m sitting a lot now that I’m out of the classroom. My work requires hours in front of a computer. All of the above?
Mulling over my plan for tonight and beyond, I am suddenly back at the kitchen table of my childhood home in the summer of 1972. I’m having breakfast before heading off to work. My father is heading off to work as well. It’s seeding, and there’s no time to lose. Today, though, he’s not smiling and striding out the door, relishing the prospect of a day in the sun and fresh air, alone with the machine, the birds and this thoughts. He is folded in two, still upright, unable to straighten, face riddled with back pain so intense he can only manage by focusing on some mystical force just ahead of him, steering him to his pickup. If he loses the visual connection, he will collapse on the spot. After years of jostling in the open air on tractors, combines, and sprayers, his body takes a stand. No more. Not even your new Jolly Green Giant John Deere can help you now.
With help from the neighbours, he manages to finish seeding. After that, the choice is clear—six weeks of bed rest or surgery. For Papa, it’s a nobrainer—he’ll take the bed rest. What a cross for this strong, independent man who’s never been sick. But he’ll take the frustration over the Russian Roulette which his friends tell him is back surgery.
He was 61 then, about a year and a half older than I am now. It seems trite to say that Papa’s image reminds me to appreciate every healthy moment. Cliché or not, though, this Ghost of Yvette’s Future sobers me. I must honor this fierce will and unyielding determination, part of my father’s legacy, whatever life brings.