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  • Peggy Spear

The Shower Safety Bar

It might be hard to imagine that shaving my legs, a concussion and my son’s engagement are connected, but I never promised to be totally sensible. Especially right now. In fact, I’m not even supposed to be writing.


Last week, while casually shaving my legs in the shower as I have for years, my leg slipped. The momentum propelled me to a full-on face plant into the soap dish. I came out of the shower with half-shaved legs and a big gash on my nose. I was a bit woozy, but did what every other rational person would do: I went to Target.


When I got home, I ignored my headache until it got so bad, even after Tylenol. Finally, I called my expert, my son Charlie, a former football player who has had four concussions – the last one received in a flag football game with some fraternity brothers. (I subsequently forbade him from ever playing football again.) He told me to shine a light into my eyes and if it hurt, to call my doctor. I shined a light. It hurt. So, I called the Kaiser advice nurse and within an hour I was at the ER. I wasn’t daunted when I heard the nurse laughing about the patient who slipped while shaving her legs and might have a head injury. I was amused myself. And yes, I was diagnosed with a concussion and advised to rest and stay away from screens for a week or so, or until the symptoms subsided -- and to use the safety bar in the shower.


Me? Use the flippin’ safety bar like they have at my mom’s retirement community? I was astounded, and a bit shamed. It occurred to me that I’m not 22 anymore, and a woman in her 50s might want to use a safety bar while going through those contortions. However, no one in the ER told me that one of the symptoms of a concussion would be crying jags.


You see, it's not just the shower bar that has me bawling every morning. It’s a lot of things. My own mom, at 93, has Alzheimer’s, and I’m one of her main caregivers, along with my sister and brother. My oldest sister had a stroke in 2008 and isn’t getting better. In fact, her dementia is getting worse. I can’t see without my glasses. I am at a career crossroads. I use anti-wrinkle cream (that I'm pretty sure my dog licks off). We’re living in the middle of a hotly contested presidential race and a pandemic that didn’t have to be this bad. And my kids have grown up, and are moving on in their lives.


I’m getting old. Or at least transitioning to middle age, and a totally different phase of my life. I’m not ready, even though I knew it was coming. I have encouraged it, at least where my kids are concerned. But I’m sad. I’m grieving the old me, who used to jog three miles a day, have energy to grocery shop after dinner, and sleep through the night. Professional athletes – like Jimmy Garoppolo – could be my sons and daughters. That makes my crush on him kind of icky.


But the biggest indication of my change in life was, paradoxically, the happiest. Two weeks ago, Charlie got engaged to the love of his life, Mary. I’m thrilled, excited, scared about the pandemic, happy for them, and just a little bit sad. It’s selfish, I know, but it’s another step toward getting old that scares me. I don’t know why. Besides a head injury, I’m very healthy, and still pretty smart. My goal is to coach my grandkids soccer or t-ball teams. I am going to jump out of an airplane when COVID restrictions are lifted. I plan to ski on my 70th-and-a-half birthday. (Since my birthday is in June.) I am even taking the damn plunge to start yoga tomorrow, if I can. I’m not curling up in rocking chair yet. And I have a Mother-of-the-Groom dress to pick out.


But it’s still a huge transition, this nudge from being young to being not-so-young. But I’ll do it. I really don’t care for the alternative, as my Uncle Hogan used to say. And if I have to hold on to that stupid bar in my shower when I shave my legs, I will.

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