Once I was five feet six inches tall. I was five feet six in 2003, when I was measured for a new hip and I remained close to that height for several more years, until the afternoon I was pushing a shopping cart around a big box office supply store. I lifted a carton of copy paper from a bottom shelf.
My back exploded. The noise of the breaking vertebra shot straight up my spine and into my brain like the noise of an exploding cannon. A few more vertebrae settled down, like one of those cheap telescoping travel cups. I became shorter.
When I straightened up from that episode and took off the brace I was shorter by an inch, with a limp; my titanium hip and leg bone had neither the courtesy nor the good sense to shorten, too.
The limp was the most notable life change to deal with for the next several years, until the stroke. That was a tougher recovery, but I regained everything except some muscles, especially on my right side. That leg became shorter yet. I’m now five two, threeish.
I’ve added a cane to my repertoire as the stroke left me a tad unstable. That’s what the physical therapist said: “You’re not a stable woman.” Magnificent! And it takes a second longer to marshal and verbalize my thoughts, but as a gentleman from Tennessee once said to me, “We may talk slow, ma’m, but don’t assume we think slow, too.”
My previously taller self now uses a cane but finds the world not too changed, except on the occasions I find I am invisible. I assume this comes with growing shorter; some may be due to growing older. To paraphrase, “I may talk slow, but don’t think slow and don't assume I do not exist.” I still do not tolerate rudeness, unless walking away is an effective statement.
My annoying physical limitations caused me to become more patient, a virtue somewhat lacking in the past. I believe I appear to be a benign old grandma, with a limp and a cane. And I am, unless I also become invisible. I believe some clerks, waiters, and even a grandson may reflect back some day from their dotage and say “How rude I was to that old woman who had to raise her voice to get my attention.” Maybe their behavior will be reformed even in my life time.