By Craig Hastings
I need new parts or maybe a complete body replacement. I don’t need to tell any of you how nice this weekend was. With that, I was outside most all day Saturday and Sunday. I recently had a garage addition built so there is much to do to get my yard back in shape. This weekend it was the giant mound of dirt that was pushed aside in order to strip the yard to prepare for the garage foundation work that I tackled… Well, it looked like a big pile of dirt but it wasn’t. I discovered it was mostly the grass that was skimmed from the top before the digging began. So? The “so” is that it’s impossible to dig and shovel this stuff. Inside this mound of little dirt and mostly grass were these two and three foot long strips of sod. And they were folded on top of themselves.
I spent the whole day Saturday uncovering and then unfolding these strips of sod just so I could pick them up and move them somewhere. They were damp, very heavy, and full of earthworms. With the exposure of all the earth worms came a flock of robins waiting for me to get out of their way so they could feed on the worms. The biggest problem I had with uncovering and then unfolding the sod strips was that they were pushed up against my fence. This kept me from getting to the side that the strips were folded. Had I been able to get to the other side it would have been so much easier to unfold the strips and stack them so I could relocate them in a low area of my yard. Nope, instead I was having to cut them in pieces with my shovel then work the shovel under them so I could drag them out of the pile.
Had I been able to get to the other side I could have more easily unfolded each one and moved them in whole strips. Still not as easy as simply shoveling dirt but, it would have saved my back some strain. We’ll get to my back in a minute. To move these strips of sod to the places in my yard I needed to, I stacked them on my golf cart and drove them. Every time I left the pile for even a few seconds, in came the robin flock swooping in on the earth worms. I was rooting for the earthworms. Enough so that I would cover the worms back up with dirt when I exposed one. It did seem that these robins have some ability to know just where these worms are located even when they’re covered up. That must be some alien thing I guess because the robins came up out of the dirt with a worm everytime one stabbed their bill into the dirt. Anyway, before the sun went down I had the mostly incredibly heavy sod pile and dirt raked flat and level with the rest of the yard.
Now that the evening hours have moved in and it’s time for me to get cleaned up and inside, the hardest part of my day begins. I don’t dare take a moment to rest before getting into the shower. Why? Because if I did I’d never get up or even be able to get up. Every muscle in my legs, back, and arms would freeze in some incredible cramping deformity! And this hurts bad. It doesn’t help that I never take a drink of anything when I work outside or anywhere else either. Not smart and I know it but stopping when I’m in the zone of the job I just don’t drink. Last summer in the 90 degree heat I was practicing being stupid and ended up in the hospital to take on a few pints of IV juice to get me back going again. It doesn’t take long, it doesn’t hurt, but it’s inconvenient.
Out of the shower, a bottle of Gatorade in hand, and I sunk down in my biggest recliner. I could feel the cramps starting to move into my most vulnerable places. Usually this awful pain happens in my upper legs first. Soon after my ribcage will cramp in weird places that I can’t stretch along with my lower back. Finally, my arms just inside the elbow will cramp. The arm cramp is from the shovel work. Most of the stabilizing action in shoveling comes from the muscle inside the arm at your elbow. Ribcage? I have no idea why in the world my ribcage will cramp in various places. This is a severe pain and I have to wait for my fluid intake to make these muscles calm down because I can’t stretch them like I can my legs and arms. Have you ever asked your doctor why your muscles cramp? I have. Every time from every doctor the answer is the same; “Everyone cramps, some people are more prone than others.” Well that’s not an answer! I want to know how to stop cramps from happening and no one has ever been able to tell me how. Don’t tell me a banana will work either. Maybe for you it works but never has a banana done a thing to help keep me from cramping or relieving a cramp either.
I will tell you this; for me anyway, consuming applesauce once inside and relaxing does seem to shorten the time I’m fighting my cramps. I’ll eat three or four of those little cups of applesauce and chase them with bottled water. It may be my imagination but, give it a try sometime. I’m sure part of the relief comes from the water and sugar content in these applesauce cups. No matter, as bad as I cramp I’ll try most anything. As much as rehydration helps most of my body, my legs will fight with me all night especially if I move one of them in the bed quickly. But only certain muscles in my legs are a problem. The long muscle that attaches inside my groin to my knee takes the longest to recover. So right now you’re thinking to yourself that you have never had a groin muscle cramp? Me either until I turned fifty-five or so. Why then? You tell me because none of my doctors can. If and when you ever do; you’ll wish your leg would just fall off so you can stop the pain because trust me, it’s intense pain.
These aches, pains, and cramps are frustrating for me because before I aged into my early fifties, I didn’t experience any of this stuff. I was beginning to think I was some freak of nature because I was able to do all the things I always could physically. And I could go all day and night without cramps and lingering pain. So what happens inside our bodies that we can’t endure the same activities we always have? I’d understand this phenomenon if I had quit all of these activities for years and then tried to restart my same old physical rigors of yore. But I never have! I’ve been doing these same things my whole life and, without drinking water or anything else as I was doing them! No cramps, mild pain maybe, and that same pain leaving me in just a few hours.
“Well Craig your body is trying to tell you something. Stop with all this heavy lifting and long hours and also cut this time and chore into say half as much.” Nope. Won’t do that. I’m not giving into my ageing. “But you’ll die in your yard one of these days.” Maybe. My grandfather did just that. Outside hoeing his garden in the morning sun and heat at 97 years old. He collapsed, was taken to the hospital, and died two hours later without regaining consciousness. Perfect! That’s what I want to do too. Hmmm, my granddad never complained of cramps though. I wonder what he was eating and drinking differently from what I’m doing? I need to figure this out. It could be the secret to me stopping complaining to all of you about me turning into a bigger sissy than I already am! I have to stop now because I have two fingers curling up trying to cramp!