Our Stories: Getting my Arm Stuck

Hardly anything could be less important than the ordinary stories of my everyday life. Fredrich Buechner reminds us that if we tell our stories anything like right, then, perhaps “you will recognize that in (some) ways it is also yours.” I trust that he, being a wise man, is right when he insists that it is through our stories that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally. That means that “to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually.”

I do not always know how this works out in its particularities, but I have been called to account for my silence.  Some time ago, I made a vague promise to my husband that at this stage of life I would take up writing about the vagaries of aging. Now with each little slip of memory, tiny car fender scrape or trip over a rug, he reminds me I have a duty to keep my word. However, other important things occupy my mind. I have 3 hens who need attention. What shall I make for supper? A jigsaw puzzle is half completed. I don’t have time to write. Just thinking about what I should be doing requires hours of intense concentration and a search for the lists I’ve made.

I’m needed for a perch.

What happened the other day is a case in point. “You should write about that,” Denis says. “Why?” I ask. “Because old people should not stick their arms into tiny openings.” “So, neither should anyone.” I retorted.

But okay. If I can be a warning to others, or even an encouragement to forgive yourself when you do something, well, stupid, then there might be some merit for a person of any age.

I needed a paper grocery sack. We tuck them in the narrow space between the refrigerator and the cabinet. There was only one left way at the back that required me to get on my knees and reach into the cavity extending my arm all the way to the shoulder. My fingers barely touched it, and I grunted in triumph. Confidently, I grasped it and pulled my arm out only to have it lodge at the elbow. It went in, so it had to come out somehow if only I could find the right angle. I paused, twisted, extended, and cautiously pulled. No matter how I tried it was stuck tight. I tried lying back on the floor and pushing the refrigerator with my foot, but it was far too heavy. Unhappily I noted this was similar to the monkey who trapped himself with his closed fist in a jar who wouldn’t let go of the peanut. I knew Denis would make the association just that fast even though I was literally not making a fist. I had let go of the paper bag. But the thought annoyed me deeply.

I began to quietly call, “Help. Help me.” Then a little louder. I knew he was in the garage. I hoped he wasn’t going anywhere. Louder still, “DENIS, HELP ME.”

At last he heard my yell and came running into the kitchen. He didn’t even try not to laugh. One little shove of the refrigerator and I was free. Unharmed. Ego bruised. I didn’t need him to say, “You sounded so panicked.” No, I insisted, “I was perfectly calm. I just needed you to hear me.”

As he walked away, I heard him say, “I’m going to get you one of those things you wear around your neck with a panic button you can press for the next time you do something like this.”  Fine. I know how to lace mashed potatoes with Metamucil.

However, I won’t be forcing my hand under the bathroom vanity any time soon where my pearl and diamond ring bounced. It’s been there for three years and can’t be retrieved. Unless you deconstruct the vanity.

If you can understand how these sorts of things give us the opportunity to laugh at ourselves, then it becomes healthy and hopeful. There is yet time to work out what it means to Age with Grace. I don’t like that cliché so much, but I’m not giving up on the idea. Nor should you when you do something that is ill-advised, stupid, or even dangerous.

Photo credit: Denis with his iPhone.