Concerto of Pain

Reader Contribution by Allan Douglas
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A single, high, prolonged trumpet blast shatters my blissful bubble of sleep. Was that Gabriel? Is it time?

Alas, no. As consciousness replaces confusion, I find that the blast was not sound but pain – which can be similar – and the trumpeting is emanating from my right shoulder. Now that I am more aware, my neck and upper back begin playing harmony to the lead trumpet in a horn concerto of pain.

I attempt to mute the performance by shifting position. But that only boosts the volume.

I am cold. It was hot when I fell asleep and I covered only with the sheet. Now it’s cooler and the muscles in my back and neck are tense from the chill. I pull up the quilt and wrap it around me. In a few moments the harmonies fade, but the lead horn continues blasting its lilting tone.

I reach for my watch: 3:30 a.m. A groan offers bass counterpoint to the tenor lead horn, which continues to strip away the grogginess of slumber. Twenty minutes pass and other instruments are joining the melody of madness. Hips, lower back, an elbow chime in. A tooth throbs in low accompaniment.

Sleep is defeated, sent scurrying away by this reveille. I roll out of bed, test my balance and head for the Tylenol bottle and coffee maker.

It’s Monday morning. I pulled a stump Saturday afternoon. As is generally the case, I did it alone. As is generally the case, I forgot that I’m almost 60 years old, not 35 or 40. The task was accomplished: stump removed, hefted into a wagon, hauled to a burn pile and unloaded. No issues on Saturday – other than being winded. There rarely are on the day of … it’s the day after that I’ll be reminded of my age. And the day after that – this morning – the point will be driven home. Day three will be better, by day four I’ll be just achy. From there it varies according to the amount of damage done. I’ll recover. I always do.

Then I’ll do it all again with some new task for which I’ll find the muscular strength at the moment but for which connective tissues will punish me later.

That’s just life in the mountains. The work’s got to be done. I’m the one here to do it. Just keep a large bottle of pain relief on hand, and life goes on.

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