Welcome back! I hope you had a great 4th of July weekend –ours was a real scorcher, as they say. Our high temps were hotter than Dallas, so the summer of strange weather continues. Yesterday, as much as I hate to do it, I ran the sprinkler system, just to move the grass color from dying gray to very light green. After soaking the lawn all morning (I’m looking forward to next month’s water bill), when I walked out at about 11am, it still looked dry as a bone. Hopefully it helped a little.
Then – at about 4am this morning, we began to hear that beautiful sound of rain hitting against the windows. It wasn’t a thunderstorm, or hail or anything like that – it just rained. By the time I got up this morning and checked my handy dandy weather station that I have set up in the back yard, it has recorded that we had received .49” of rain. I’m sure in heaven it rains softly every early morning to cool things off and give the ground a great drink of water. Everything – and I mean every living thing in our yard seemed to be smiling, and nice and rich color of nature’s watering. As a benefit, the rain also washed out the record high temperatures, as over the weekend we once again approached 100 degrees on those sunny afternoons. Right now it is 60 degrees, with the promise of reaching only 70 degrees by 5pm. The doors and windows are open with a cool breeze and a lovely morning to be alive in Fargo, North Dakota.
What is also wonderful is that finally this morning, I woke up and could actually turn my head to the left without seeing stars and having the sensation of someone stabbing my neck and should with a rather sharp and jagged knife. It all started last Friday morning, when somehow, after sleeping hard, I must have slept with my head fallen forward and to my right, probably looking like one of those action movies when the tragic hero ends up shot and lying up against the crate full of stolen merchandise, with his head slouched off to one side – a sure sign that he is no longer in this world.
As I awoke, then, I felt a pretty significant twinge on the left side of my neck, and then I felt the agonizing stab of my own body fighting against itself. I seriously could not turn my head to the left without catching my breath and returning my skull to the forward position. As I walked out to the kitchen – slowly – to get my first morning cup of coffee, my beloved, supportive wife looked at me and said, “What – are you pretending you are Frankenstein’s monster?” She always has the perfect thing to say…
Well, for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and into yesterday, I tried to convince my neck that indeed, it was built to move in two directions, not to mention looking up into the heavens. The reply given to me was, “You can believe anything you want, Buster, but I ain’t moving that huge head of yours to the left. No way, no how!”
It’s amazing how many different right answers you can come up with as a treatment or cure for a stiff neck. Of course, I started with simple pain medicine, at which my neck just giggled, and gave me another stab of pain as I tried to even drink the glass of water. I moved on to heat, with my nurse practitioner wife heating up a “thing” that was filled with beans of some sort, and a lavender aroma, that she put in the microwave, and then laid up against my neck. It honest felt pretty good, but did not last, and really didn’t increase the range of motion. Next, she went to work with physical therapy. You would never know those little fingers could be harnessed to push and grind on neck muscles. The pain was palpable, and I’m glad we had the windows closed so the neighborhood would not hear my groaning and pleas for her to stop – just for a bit, so I could catch my breath. Now, she stood behind me as she ground into my neck and shoulder, so I could never see her face. I really do hope, however, that she wasn’t wearing a devilish sneer or evil grin as she kept inviting me to push through the pain…
From there, she pulled out what I can only call the “thumping machine.” It’s basically a mechanized neck grinder, that pounds the skin and muscle at about 1000 repetitions per second. It’s like a portable jackhammer. It was actually not too bad, until she located the precise spot on my neck that had bound itself into a double grannie knot with two half hitches and a bowline. When she hit that with the jackhammer, I not only saw stars, but I think I began to watch my life pass in review before my eyes. I got up to nearly 6th grade when she had pity of me, and said, “Well, let’s let it rest for a little bit…” Again we have all seen the movies when that tragic hero – again – is able to breathe for a little bit, following some gruesome and evil act inflicted on him. And yet, he knows the torture is not over with yet…
So, my dear wife decided that what needed to happen was that I needed to stabilize my neck and head and shoulders, to give it time to rest and heal. She pulled out from her bag of tricks a small travel pillow – you know the kind that looks like a donut someone had bitten a hunk out of -- and placed it around my neck. Now, I have nothing against those kinds of pillow, although I have never used one myself. However, if you have never noticed, when a pillow like that is wrapped around your neck, what it does is actually push the neck forward in an unnatural and unrelenting position. Remember that stiffness? Well, the old neck responded to this forced change of position, and out came the knives and vise grips, and I’m sure my eyes opened almost wide enough to see the back of my eye sockets. I stopped breathing for a moment, until I could pull the neck donut off of me, and then as kindly as I could speak, I informed my wife that this was not going to work.
Adam, our son, had a different kind of neck pillow, which looked pretty much like it came from the 22nd century, with cords and holes and an entirely different shape. I tried it on, and it wasn’t nearly as bad and the normal donut hole, but it was reminiscent of the feeling I always had when I had to wear headgear for my braces at night time. It snapped together in the front of my neck, and then little bungee cords could be tightened or loosened to restrict or allow for normal breathing.
I ended up sleeping in the recliner that night, with the anti-sleeping device wrapped around my neck. I would wear it for a while, and then have to take it off, and then try it again, and take it off, and …. Well, you get the picture.
Finally, yesterday afternoon, at the end of our little vacation, I accidentally looked to the left, and my neck, having forgotten its role, allowed me to look and not writhe in pain! I slept last night contraption-free, with only my great pillow keeping my neck and head in one position, and this morning, when I awoke, I only had the memory of a neck unwilling to move, and a slight tinge of pain, and I really do expect that before today is over, I’ll be back to normal, ready to face the world from either direction.
Being sick, or injured or hampered in any way physically from doing what we like to do is always the pits. I know I complain and make a far bigger deal out of a stiff neck, when compared with other diseases or maladies that can strike the human body. However, when you remove the degree of pain or discomfort, when your body doesn’t work the way you are sure it’s supposed to, it’s a pain. Simply that – a pain, and we do whatever we can to overcome it, if at all possible.
Not to be too philosophical, but physical pain does remind us we are human – and even, it painful enough, that we can die. We are not invulnerable creatures like Superman, only having to avoid Kryptonite in order to stay well. We are by almost any account frail and delicate beings. We saw that this last year with the demonic CoVid, and how it continues. A tiny mosquito bite can bring malaria, or West Nile, or Zika or who knows what else. How many times have we uttered the phrases, “Be careful,” or “Drive safely,” or “Take care?”
We say that to each other, because we all have the propensity to do dumb, stupid or reckless things. Even beyond the dumb stuff, however, it’s possible to get hurt or get sick or lose our sense of being invulnerable, at least for a time. In our striving to aspire to do whatever we desire or dream of, we constantly run up against the reality that we are “merely” human with elbows that get cracked as we walk through a doorway, or toes get stubbed when we accidentally forget they are at the end of our feet.
The challenge of all humans, is to dream and to “take care.” By living intentionally, we still won’t avoid all the messes that can befall us, but at least most of what we will do will be on purpose, and hopefully done with an awareness of consequences and perhaps avoid the worst of stiff necks, and stubbed toes. So, take care today, and be sure to look both ways before moving ahead, so long of course, as you can actually move your head…. It’s nice to be back.
Word for the day: inimical. Pronounced ih-NIM-ih-cull. The Latin root of this word gives us many “good feeling” words – like “amiable,” or “amical.” The root, amicus means “friend.” Nice, right? Well, then we have to add that little two-letter prefix which changes everything: in, meaning very simply, “NOT.” The true Latin word putting these together is imicus, or “enemy.” Where you might be very amical, or amiable, when someone is inimical, they are hostile or harmful. Not friendly in the least. Actually, the word is most often used to describe a concept or even a practice, or a force that is detrimental. Everyone seems to detest the inimical time each year known as “tax season.” Even as these things may come into your own life, try to be as amical as you can when dealing with others – no reason to be a pain in the neck yourself…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.