The recent arrival of my fiftieth year brought along an unexpected complication in the form of an inflamed rotator cuff. The shoulder joint I had taken for granted all that time decided, one morning, to operate with only 50% of its mobility pain-free. My right arm felt perfectly normal as long as I didn’t have to do anything above my head or behind my back, but the moment I attempted some task like dusting the top of a bookcase, or hitching up the back of my pants after plumbing some pipes, my shoulder would painfully explode in an eruption of agony.
With summer ending I was enjoying an evening walk along the town’s riverside trails and came upon a wild apple tree. This tree had produced a bounty of reddening apples, unfortunately none were within reach as the large ripening apples dangled from the branches near the top of the tree.
I had to have one.
According to nature shows, intelligent animals often make use of tools to help complete food retrieval tasks. Confident that I was as intelligent as one of those creatures I found a dead tree limb on the ground nearby and snapped off a number of branches until I ended up with a long forked stick.
My plan seemed simple; use my double pronged stick to cradle the stem of one particular juicy looking apple that I admired, then twist the stick to dislodge natures tasty, yet nutritious, dessert, dropping it into my waiting hand.
Yes, the plan was sound but I failed to take into consideration my plan required 51% of my right shoulder’s range of motion and only having 50% use of that shoulder available left me standing there basically poking at the apple with my stick. Unable to raise my arm that final inch to position the fork on the apple’s stem, I was unable to pry that piece of fruit from nature’s grasp.
It was an embarrassing scene. Fortunately, I was alone with no witnesses to my failure.
“Poppy? Why is that strange man poking the tree with a stick?” A young girl with her elderly grandfather emerged around the bend in the trail to catch me tickling my stick against the apple high in the branches overhead.
I tossed the stick aside, giving up my dream of fresh apple and started to walk away. The old gentleman looked up at the branch seeing the object of my desire. Then he eyed two smaller trees growing side by side next to the big apple tree. He stepped between the two slender trees, grasping one in each hand and suddenly shimmied up between them like a grey haired squirrel on a giant pair of stilts. He reached out behind him and snatched the very apple my taste buds had been lusting for before gravity took hold of the old man pulling him back down between the trees. Back on the planet, with a smile wrinkling his face, he offered me the prize.
Pride demanded I make excuses about having a bad shoulder and that preventing me from getting the apple for myself, but It was much less hassle to simply swallow that pride, accept the gift and thank him for his act of kindness.
As I walked away, polishing the apple on my sweater’s sleeve, the old man’s wife appeared on the trail and joined him. She noticed the big grin on his face, the child-like happiness in his eye and immediately frowned. Picking a twig out of her husband’s curly grey hair she scolded. “You’ve been climbing trees again, haven’t you? How many times have I told you to act your age. Climbing trees! One of these days you’re going to fall out of one and break your shoulder!”
Should that ever happen, I’ve determined I owe that gentleman a wild apple.