My body is more deteriorating gothic ruin than tidy and burnished temple. I have arrived at a time in my life when my body is alerting me that it is the nature of my body to grow old, and to decline.
In Mysteries of Udolpho, Emily is initially excited at the prospects of visiting the Castle Udolpho. As she gets to know the owner better, she becomes more apprehensive. The first time she sees the castle she notes “its mouldering walls of dark grey stone, rendered it a gloomy and sublime object.” Soon after arriving Montoni has this conversation with the servant left to oversee the castle’s upkeep.
“Well, how have you gone on in the castle, since I left it?” said Montoni.
“Why much as usual, Signor, only it wants a good deal of repairing. There is the north tower—some of the battlements have tumbled down, and had liked one day to have knocked my poor wife (God rest her soul!) on the head. Your Excellenza must know—”
“Well, but the repairs,” interrupted Montoni.
“Aye, the repairs,” said Carlo: “a part of the roof of the great hall has fallen in, and all the winds from the mountains rushed through it last winter, and whistled through the whole castle so, that there was no keeping one’s self warm, be where one would. There, my wife and I used to sit shivering over a great fire in one corner of the little hall, ready to die with cold, and—”
“But there are no more repairs wanted,” said Montoni, impatiently.
“O Lord! Your Excellenza, yes—the wall of the rampart has tumbled down in three places; then, the stairs, that lead to the west gallery, have been a long time so bad, that it is dangerous to go up them; and the passage leading to the great oak chamber, that overhangs the north rampart—one night last winter I ventured to go there by myself, and your Excellenza—”
I am my own crumbling ruin.
It was a great day. Jennifer and I were cracking each other up, really enjoying each other’s company. We were driving home from Sanibel Island, taking the “scenic” route, the slow route I prefer to the interstate. I was feeling deep, sincere gratitude for what I had, a real appreciation for the life I’d managed to somehow stumble into. It was Sunday, July 31, 2023.
At home, I had only a few chores to complete to be ready for work on Monday. I plopped some clothes into the washer (another thing to be grateful for, I reflected. Once upon a time I’d be schlepping all this stuff to some nearby laundromat). I laid on the couch and read some. Maybe snoozed a little. When I stood up my back felt a little tight and thought I’d do some yoga in a little bit (another thing to be grateful for, I’d managed to find my way to a healthy place, better food, regular exercise, visits to the physician, therapy, lost thirty pounds last year. Once upon a time I’d eat a large bag of cheetos for dinner and wash it down with a six-pack. Now, I ate fruit for dessert and my diet overflowed with vegetables).
As I bent to pull the clothes out of the washer the tightening in my back quickened.
This is escalating quickly, I thought.
I pulled some clothes from the washer and as I stood to put them into the dryer stacked on top my back locked. To move was to conjure pain.
I shuffled into Jennifer’s office.
“Here’s a curious development. My back’s gone out. I can barely move. Can you help me lie down on the floor?”
(to be continued…)