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A Refreshing Knapp – Oh, my aching back

By Ray Knapp

This has been a perfect year for raising grass. I was mowing the lawn an average of twice a week until Aug. 17. After that, I delegated that task to my stepson and grandson, Scott and Dusty Baucom. What ended my mowing days started by getting my riding mower firmly entangled in a chain-link fence. My neighbor, Nathan Hashe, out weed eating, saw my predicament and came across the street to lend a hand. I was a little embarrassed; this was the second time he had helped me out of this situation. He got the front end loose and while I was helping pull the rear of the mower out of the fence, my fingers slipped from the underneath side of the rear fender; trying to regain my balance, I took three or four running steps backwards, my feet slipped on the semi-wet grass and I took a hard fall.

Generally, you can immediately tell if you are seriously hurt. Hearing something pop in my back, along with having the wind knocked out of me, gave me that sinking feeling that I was seriously hurt. An MRI at Erwin’s Ballad Health Hospital confirmed I had a compression fracture of T12 vertebra and a closed compression body of L1 vertebra. In other words, I had a royal pain in the back that would require some attention.

To ensure the fractures fused together and keeping my spine aligned right, I was outfitted with a brace that has a prescription number and didn’t look anything like those you see on TV. This one has belts and buckles with some sort of covered metal splint that goes from near the base of the spine to about two thirds of the way up your back. Once you have it strapped on, you know what a horse must feel like wearing a saddle. One friend asked if I was wearing a bulletproof back vest.

Yesterday marked the first day of autumn so maybe there won’t be too many more times to mow this year. However, I have to admit that I’ll miss the enjoyment of watching Scott and Dusty mow. They have it down to a science. Dusty takes the weed eater for the hard to reach places and Scott has one of these big zero turn mowers that you control with its arms instead of a steering wheel. In about 30 minutes, they have my all day job finished. 

In order to mow again, I’ll have to follow instructions of ETSU Brain and Spine Center’s, Dr. O’Dell. He cautioned me to be careful and avoid falls as your bones become more brittle with age and harder to heal. I had heard that all my life, so that was nothing new, but reminding me that I was 82 came as a shock. I don’t know where the years have gone. It seems like yesterday I retired from the navy at age 37; now some of my grandchildren are about that old.

I suppose this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people at home was one of the better years for this to happen. The only place I’ve been is to the grocery store, then back to my car to get a mask I had forgotten. About 30 minutes is all I can take wearing those things.

However, some people must enjoy wearing them, as I often notice people, alone in their car, driving down the road wearing one.

It’s been a pleasant surprise that my wife and I have gotten along so well with no place to go and nothing of real importance to do. I just don’t understand why she insists on making up the bed and cleaning the house as if company were coming.

Not that I enjoy mowing that much, or completing these “Honey Do” lists, but I’m certainly hoping that my back is healed in a month or two, and a vaccine is soon invented to cure this virus as there are many things I’m looking forward to do. After all, I’m still young enough to enjoy life, but not getting any younger.