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I’m falling apart.

50 is looking at me from around the corner. She’s not pretty.

I should say that these days, I recognize that 50 is no longer considered old. And most of the time, I don’t feel old. I should also say that I’m quite grateful to have relatively good health, and a lot of lovely people in my life.

And I’ve been happier in my 40s than any other decade of my life. So maybe that’s why I’ve got my claws in them, hoping that if I hold on tight enough with my hands (which, I should note here, have so little collagen left in them that the skin flaps in the breeze of a strong hand dryer like a Golden Retriever out the window of a moving car), that somehow I’ll just stay here.

I started my 40s with 6- and 2-year-old sons, who are now in high school and about to head to middle school. That’s probably good, because I don’t think I could pick up even the smaller versions of them these days. You know, tendonitis in my shoulder.

As my 40s progressed, I developed arthritis in a knee, broke one ankle (and then in a supreme stroke of bad luck – and clumsiness – broke it again just 16 months later). So I guess the good news here is that I leave my 40s with an expensive souvenir – a titanium plate and a handful of screws – that I didn’t come in with. And some super cool orthotics for my shoes (which, in case you were concerned about me breaking another ankle, need to be flats these days).

I learned in my 40s that I can no longer eat whatever I want (which, by the way, would probably be pasta and ice cream) and still fit into whatever clothes I want (which would be skinny jeans and a white t-shirt. And since I can no longer find a white t-shirt that is much thicker than dollar store tissue paper, this is overall just a pretty bad look. And not just for me).

A great night’s sleep is now elusive. If anyone within about a one-mile radius wakes up at 2:00 a.m. and turns on a light, I’ll be up for an hour. The bright side of this is that I can grab my phone and spend the hour productively, taking quizzes on Facebook about what kind of tattoo I should get, or which country I should be living in. My only hope is that it might be daytime in whatever that country is.

The one really deep wrinkle I have is about a half-inch vertical line next to my right eyebrow. My main concern, though, is that it’s just going to continue to deepen, and my face is just going to crack in half right down the middle. And moving further down my face — now I understand why Nora Ephron wrote a book called I Feel Bad About My Neck. Because I do.

I feel bad about my eyes too. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was seven, and contacts since I was 16. But now I can’t see much at all in the dark (thanks, iPhone, for putting that flashlight app on there for people like me who are trying to get through a dimly lit parking lot at 9:00 p.m. — because, really I can’t stay out much later than that anymore). And I have reading glasses scattered about the house; I guess it’s not bad enough that I can’t see anything far away or in the dark. Now I can’t see anything close either. At least I still have a superb sense of smell.

I’m sure there’s more, but you know, I can’t remember what.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Yesterday at school, another kid accidentally smacked Michael in the forehead with a computer. Given the description of the incident, I still don’t entirely understand where everyone needed to be positioned for this to have happened. I’m sure it hurt, and I’m guessing Michael was also a little startled (because, really, who goes through their day preparing to be hit in the head with a laptop?). He told the teacher he was dizzy, and out of an abundance of caution, the school nurse was called to the room. She walked Michael down to her office, gave him some ice, checked him out and sent him back to his classroom.

That should have been the end of it, right?

It wasn’t.

One of the boys in Michael’s class accused him of faking being hurt. And this isn’t the first time that’s happened.

I get it. They’re in 5th grade. This is what kids do. And when one kid says another kid is making something up, other kids will pile on. Unfortunately, I’m sure my kids have done it too. It’s hard not to.

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But with Michael, it’s more complicated than that, and he gets frustrated when people tell him he’s faking being hurt. It took him 18 months last year to recover from a torn meniscus and ACL. He returned to sports, only to get hurt again a month later. And when he showed up at school on crutches again, kids started whispering behind his back, and telling him to his face that he wasn’t really hurt.

And really, I get that too. Because first of all, it seems a little implausible that a kid this young could sustain these injuries back-to-back. And it gets a little annoying that Michael is again getting to leave school a few minutes early, doesn’t participate in gym class, and is once again asking friends to miss recess so he won’t have to sit in the nurse’s office by himself.

And in the midst of these injuries (which, in the last year and a half, have also included an ankle sprain and an overuse injury to his elbow), we discovered that no, Michael is not faking, and there’s a reason he keeps getting hurt — he has a mild form of a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which causes excessive mobility in his joints and leaves him at a greater risk for injury.

As his parents, we’re glad to know there’s an explanation for why Michael has gotten hurt so many times, and that it’s not too serious. But as a kid, Michael doesn’t want to be different from anyone else, and doesn’t want to tell his friends about this diagnosis.

We continue to encourage him to let people know what’s going on, in the hopes that maybe they’ll be a little more understanding. And even though Michael getting hit in the head with a computer has absolutely nothing to do with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, or his previous injuries, that for Michael, getting hurt in any way can be a scary thing. Spring baseball starts this weekend; he hasn’t made it through a season without getting hurt, and subsequently sidelined, in two years. For a kid who loves sports and is more happy being active, it’s been really hard. Michael knows that he needs to continue physical therapy to keep his muscles stronger, because that’s the only way to try and avoid injury.

All Michael wants to do is be able to run, shoot baskets in the driveway, and play sports with his friends. He knows that there’s always a risk of getting hurt when he does, and even though he doesn’t like to talk about it, I’m sure that’s on his mind. But because there’s nothing on the outside, Michael looks just like everyone else, and it’s understandable that kids might think he’s making something up. And because he looks like everyone else and would prefer to be like everyone else, he doesn’t want to tell them that on some level, he’s not.

As Michael’s mom, as much as I want to send him out in the world covered in bubble wrap, I know I can’t. So, we just hope the adults around him will keep a extra eye on him, and hope that someday Michael will understand that every kid (and adult) has something that makes them different, and this is just his “thing.” And even though they can’t see it, it’s still there.

Of course it’s easier to cut someone a little slack when they have something going on that’s visible. But if we try and remember that not everything is so obvious, and we sometimes have to look beyond the surface, we’d probably all be just a bit more compassionate.

Now, back to figuring out how someone takes a computer to the head….

 

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