Falling Sideways

Night fell in its usual sideways slant across my studio floor: creepings of sunlight and shadow in a slow contesting dance that I knew the result of. Still I watched, was aware of the sun’s intense response to the onslaught of night. In some way I felt less alone as my body clung to its glimmers of youthful brightness. The shadow of age pursued each bright burst of movement as I stubbornly persisted, fighting the inevitable decline. Perhaps I am less accepting than the sun – more determined to sustain the brightness of my star. I fall and rise. Each shift of weight returns me to myself. I will survive. I will shine on beyond the immediate and obvious signs of night’s approach.

The dance – the evening I speak of – is now in the past, at least chronologically. I am leaning backward in order to recall that last flow of light and shadow, stillness and gesture, falling and rising – completing the circle. For from that moment when the the sun’s bright remnants slipped away and the room grew dim, my dance was shifting to become a whole new thing.

The dancer relinquished those moments in the familiar room, moved on to a simple supper and a plebian viewing of an old Inspector Morse episode – compliments of netflix. She surrendered to the older woman’s need to let go, assume the mundane reality of pre-bedtime rituals. In the after-movie quiet I accepted weariness – ran my bath, brushed my teeth, and skirted the end of my bed to adjust the thermostat. Here is where the dramatic shift occured. Without any warning, I was suddenly falling sideways. No graceful dancer’s controlled surrender of breath and weight, but a clattering crashing crumpling of aged body – a shocking and painful bunping and banging of bone, flesh, muscle out of controll. Conscious awareness was extremely slow to return. I lay awkwardly entwined with the cheap plastic steps that my dog had had the sense to reject. He now came to carefully sniff the tears now slipping from my wide-opened eyes. My shock was slowly receding, and with Music’s doggy encouragement I pulled myself to my feet. I rose with tremulous and undancerly nervousness to assess the damage. Pain was present: vicious stabs all along my left side: ear, knee, and thigh. But most noticeably evident was the throbbing and inhibiting painfulness of my left big toe. Already it was swelling and changing color, necessitating a limping gait – an intensely human dance that would linger over days. Unlike my sister, I would attract a slight and passing concern from family members. I would still be expected to take responsibility for my older set of grandchildren while my daughter left for a much needed getaway. They are marvelous and helpful children, and the painful bruises that shadow the dancer’s aging body begin to lighten. The evidence of that sudden shift of weight and her forced relinquishment of the ritual circle is diminishing. I am the dancer – waiting within the loving and only barely limping grandmother, and my faith is in the light that always returns to guide my dance across the floor.

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4 Responses to “Falling Sideways”

  1. Kendall Says:

    You are the dancer. No question about that. A virtual kiss to your toe, a sympathetic virtual shoulder, a laugh and a tear. You are the dancer.

  2. leiflife Says:

    I am the dancer… Somewhere in there. You and I – we do continue to dance – to trust the rise and the fall…maintain the wave that we know as life. How lovely to be companioned in a way that can never end, as it never really began, but always was. The circular dance…

  3. Christopher Says:

    Leif, I hope you are healing. Loved your description of the fall. We are all trying to come to graceful terms with gravity. Ah, the pull of gravity, gravitas! Momentary stay against… uff! YOU have a system and a strategy: dance. Others sink into a chair, reach for a stout walking stick, sit on a book or use the arm as anchor (Rodin, Rilke, Rodin.) I smile at the family reaction! You are the caregiver, like it or not, whether you fall sideways or backwards. Enjoyed reading this.

  4. leiflife Says:

    Dear Christopher… Yes, I am healing. Only the still tender toe continues to call out quietly – lest I forget to go gently for a while longer. Today I have waked in my own house after five long days of being that caregiver that you almost accuse me of being. Like it or not… Your words gave me pause, but I love your honesty, and I would be very surprised if that constant shift between art and life’s other demands were to change. Thank you for being my friend and accepting both sides.

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