Wrestling The Itis Brothers

There I sat, cross-legged on the floor, poking in the bottom of the old coal heater. I was perhaps 5, or as old as 12 or 13, and it was a Sunday afternoon.

I was surrounded by adults including my parents, paternal grandmother, and a gaggle of aunts and uncles, all engaged in conversations for which I had no frame of reference. They were discussing farming, repairing vehicles, the weather, what was for supper and what the preacher said, I think.

It was the weekly Sunday ritual, the afternoon trek to Grandmother’s house, where the acute boredom led me to poking the red hot little slots on the bottom of the coal heater with an iron poker.

If only somebody would start a conversation about Tonka trucks or G.I. Joe.

But I think many of the terms spoken were implanted subliminally in my noggin.  When I got my latest doctor’s diagnosis on my latest ache and pain, I sat on the table as he left the room to go fetch a needle and thought, “Hey, wait a minute. I’ve heard of this before. Isn’t this what old Aunt Nettie had?”

How could this be?

There’s all sorts of “itis” diseases out there, and I reckon I always figured you would be, like, 89, before you got one of them. There’s arthritis, appendicitis, bronchitis (had thatun), colitis, conjunctivitis, cystitis, dermatitis, encephalitis, gastritis, hepatitis, mastitis, meningitis, and poliomyelitis.

Enter now the Itis Brother fate has thrust upon me: bursitis.

Bursitis has stricken my elbow, and in addition to one arm being bigger than the other (because of infection,) it looks like I have a small turnip in my elbow. Plus, I look like a cyclops, a sort of one-armed Popeye the Sailor Man.

As Kramer said to Jerry in Seinfeld: “No. No. Look away. I’m hideous.”

There was just something about the doctor’s diagnosis that made me feel like I’d passed across a generational threshold of some kind. I feel fairly sure now I’d fit right in with the aforementioned dull conversations. It just sounds like an old man’s disease.

There’s nothing exciting about the Itis Brothers. Now when you’re young, diseases and injuries can sound downright romantic and exciting.

“Yeah, broke that leg on the level 10 slope in Steamboat Springs.”

“Sprained that ankle there right after I rappelled down the sheer face of a cliff in Acapulco.”

“”So they fused two vertebrae in my neck back together right after the mishap on my 700th jump from 40,000 feet.”

“And what’s with your elbow there? Too much tennis?”

“Yeah. Something like that.”

Could be worse, I know. It’s a manageable malady.

57. I’m losing hair, teeth, eyesight, hearing, and now my joints are swelled up like the Hindenburg.

Think I’ll go poke some coal.


© Copyright 2018 Tim Holcombe


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