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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On growing short

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.



  1. Ouch. I hear you. I resent being invisible and have learnt to speak up. And a gammy leg doesn't equate to a gammy mind. Yet.
    On the height issue I am the opposite. I was five foot and a half and yearned to be five foot two. Which I was briefly. The year I turned fifteen I grew eight inches, and two more the next year. So I have looked at life from both sides now.

  2. I know you know how to use that cane for more than stability.

  3. It is terrible the way so many treat older people as if they have no brain, no mouth and no needs. It is good that you are a go getter and no doubt make your way very well in the world even if some think you are invisible. If you don't like a cane (I find them put me off kilter), try some walking poles. They are great.

  4. Using the cane a lot more now myself. White hair a limp and a cane indeed seem to render one invisible. But oh...the things you see and hear when no one notices you.

  5. You hit a nerve... when I was in six grade I wore size 6x clothing... I was tiny. Somehow I grew to be 5'4"... taller than many of my friends. Now my doctor tell me I'm 5'3"... looks like I'm going to slowly (or maybe more rapidly) revert back to being a little person. My kids are taller than me... my grandkids are even taller than their parents.... I have great-grandkids who are in the 90 or more percentile of their age group. What does it all mean? I get a bone density test every so often so it can be compared to previous ones... I take calcium and exercise... but I will continue to "grow short". So... reading your post makes me wonder as I continue to grow shorter... will my credibility grow less? How about my ability to respond to speech? Or the written word? Guess I don't care very much about physical attributes as long as I can still utter a reasonably concise sentence or maybe smack someone with my cane!

  6. As far as being invisible is concerned, I never thought about that being due to 'age' or 'infirmity'... but just a general lack of courteousness/customer service in today's world.

    And concerning height change, I have a slightly different story. I was 5'4" at my tallest. As the years passed, I was told that I was now 5'3". I thought OK, one shrinks as they age, right? Then I started back into my Yoga classes (stretching the back, etc.). Recently my doctor told me I was 5'4" again. Interesting, yes?

  7. My elderly aunt loved her cane. Said that she was give wide berth, assistance from all sides, and also respect when she went out with her cane. She lived in a small community, however, and was known for her opinions. Maybe folks knew she would give'm hell if they did otherwise.

  8. You are not invisible to us. You are a marvelous woman and grandma. Who cares how tall you are; your heart is big.

  9. You are a resilient, resourceful, intelligent and generous person. Height isn't a measure of a person, it is only a line on a wall.

    But the thoughtlessness of others, especially a grandson, is a hurtful thing. I'm hoping along with you that those on the giving end gain some insight as they endure life's eventual slings and arrows; bonus points if it's in time to tell you.

  10. Ouch on the exploding back! My measly limitations are nothing compared to that. And I'm still five feet tall. Unfortunately getting close to five feet around too...damn those custard tarts!
    In spite of hips and walking sticks, you are still one of the most amazing women I (virtually) know.

  11. Poor you, but it sounds as though you have made it all good. On the rare occasions that I pull a muscle in my back, it feels to me as though I have aged 20 years.

  12. You seem to have adjusted beautifully and to be able to see positive outcomes. Way to go!

  13. I love how conscious you are. I think many of us will have something like this in our future, will look on what we have lost, and what we have gained through that loss...

    I maintain a steady 5-4 and three-quarters. But my back has not exploded. Not yet.

    A hug from Minneapolis,


  14. at 63 I still maintain my height of 5'4". and my hair is still naturally dark with just a few strands of gray. I accept that as compensation for being flat chested. and like you, woe be to the younger person who doesn't 'see' me.

  15. I'm sure you are able (if needed)to wield that cane like an Olympic fencer!
    Jane x

  16. Now I will be expecting my back to explode at any second :) I'm not looking forward to the changes that are coming. I hope I handle them as well as you. BTW, my Mom used to put her walker down on my foot, which hurt like heck and I swear it was on purpose. It always seemed to happen when I was rushing her.

  17. Wow! This was wonderfully written! What is your age if I may ask? You are an amazing woman who, despite the many reasons behind your shorter height continues to live a full life. This blog alone is a living proof!

    1. You are too kind. I am seventy years old, which really is not old. My hair simply will not turn white. Or, even grey.