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  • Frederic's Legs

    Posted by Barrett<script language="JavaScript1.3" type="text/javascript"> document.write(timestamp(new Date(2004,7,17,7,15,0), dfrm, tfrm, 0, 0, 0, 0)); </script> (Member # 67) on 17-08-2004 14:15<noscript>August 17, 2004 07:15 AM</noscript>:

    It’s been a quiet week in Cuyahoga Falls…

    Frederic’s handshake is as gentle as his voice. His slow, painful gait and stooped stance might be expected considering the fact that he was born in 1917, but there’s something more in him, the broad chest, the eyes; I sense some granite at his center.

    Last night I read the book Frederic has prepared for publication. It is a series of vignettes; stories told as best he can remember, most of them taking place between 1939 and 1945. I’ve always liked this sort of book; one essay after another followed by a large empty space. I find this gives me a chance to think for a while about what I’ve just read. Ours is Frederic’s third language so he waited a long time before daring to write in English though he’d published a number of things in his native German.

    After two revisions of his total hip the pain down through his leg simply won’t recede. I can see what it is I want to do and very quickly he’s responded favorably to a little handling and movement. He talks as he lies supine and seems to enjoy listening to me. We are separated by many years and, as it turns out, by life experiences that couldn’t be more disparate, but we get along as if we were old friends. For me, this is very unusual. It’s clear he does this easily.

    One of the stories I read in Frederic’s book keeps going through my head. He describes how he’d waited in the center of a mine field, feigning death while the Russian Army’s Mongolian Reserve Unit probed the perimeter. He knew the Mongolians never took prisoners, so in the brutal cold ten miles outside of Moscow, his legs resting in a water filled depression, he moved only his eyes enough to plan his route toward a trench once he felt it might be safe. He waited for hours. He thought, as always, of his wife and baby in Bavaria and wondered if they’d been able to survive the bombing. The pain in his legs gave way to numbness but when the air cover he’d ordered finally arrived he made them carry him to the trench by shear force of will. There he found his friends already fallen victim to the Russian bullets and the ravages of its winter. Then those same legs carried him fifty miles back to the German front line. Two men had to hold him erect while a general pinned an Iron Cross on his chest.

    “Before your hips went bad did your legs give you any trouble?” I asked. Frederic looked at me quizzically. “No, no trouble at all. I’ve never had any significant pain anywhere.”

    It’s fairly common for therapists and physicians to probe the patient’s psyche when their symptoms don’t match the objective findings. This isn’t a bad idea but it would predictably take many of us into a realm of function we aren’t trained to understand especially well. Confusion about some of this is inevitable, I suppose, though we can hardly ignore it.

    But when I hear of people hurting because they’re stressed out about their bills and the kids and the divorce and, well, you know, I wonder about Frederic’s legs.

    Why didn’t they ever hurt?
    <hr> Posted by ArmyPT (Member # 2976) on <script language="JavaScript1.3" type="text/javascript"> document.write(timestamp(new Date(2004,7,17,8,27,0), dfrm, tfrm, 0, 0, 0, 0)); </script> 17-08-2004 15:27<noscript>August 17, 2004 08:27 AM</noscript>:

    quote: <hr> One of the stories I read in Frederic’s book keeps going through my head. He describes how he’d waited in the center of a mine field, feigning death while the Russian Army’s Mongolian Reserve Unit probed the perimeter. He knew the Mongolians never took prisoners, so in the brutal cold ten miles outside of Moscow, his legs resting in a water filled depression, he moved only his eyes enough to plan his route toward a trench once he felt it might be safe. He waited for hours. He thought, as always, of his wife and baby in Bavaria and wondered if they’d been able to survive the bombing. The pain in his legs gave way to numbness but when the air cover he’d ordered finally arrived he made them carry him to the trench by shear force of will. There he found his friends already fallen victim to the Russian bullets and the ravages of its winter. Then those same legs carried him fifty miles back to the German front line. Two men had to hold him erect while a general pinned an Iron Cross on his chest. <hr>
    I can't tell you how many amazing stories that I have heard from soldiers returning from Iraq. Many from young men barely graduated from High School. God bless our soldiers at war and those training to go to war.

    Army PT
    <hr> Posted by hmgross (Member # 2350) on <script language="JavaScript1.3" type="text/javascript"> document.write(timestamp(new Date(2004,7,17,11,1,0), dfrm, tfrm, 0, 0, 0, 0)); </script> 17-08-2004 18:01<noscript>August 17, 2004 11:01 AM</noscript>:

    Barrett,
    I think Frederic's generation is different than those of us in the "baby boom"--Do you think maybe in the world of "instant everything" we have lost our ability to tolerate aches, pains or inconveniences? I think of a story my dad told me about my grandfather. He was a trapper in northern WI and spent long hours on the "trap line". He had been bothered by tooth pain, went to his truck to pull out some greasy pliers, pulled out his tooth and went back to work. I am certain that had to hurt! Considering what Frederic endured, I believe he was conditioned to, for lack of a better word, "ignore" some of his pain and his answer to your question would make sense. It is fascinating, and I would love to own his book, when published.
    <hr> Posted by nari (Member # 2772) on <script language="JavaScript1.3" type="text/javascript"> document.write(timestamp(new Date(2004,7,17,20,22,0), dfrm, tfrm, 0, 0, 0, 0)); </script> 18-08-2004 03:22<noscript>August 17, 2004 08:22 PM</noscript>:

    Holly
    I think you are right - we have become quite a soft lot, and this has something to do with the 'me first' drive which has been paramount for about thirty-odd years.
    A number of factors have contributed to this -amongst them is the attitude that someone else will 'look after me' or 'fix me' or 'fulfill my dreams' etc.
    Recently I watched a series of four programs on the "Real heroes of the Telemark" which described the emotional and physical endurance of a group of Norwegians in the Hardangarvidda plateau in winter, in constant threat of snipers of skis, cold, lack of food (ate mostly reindeer moss), for weeks and weeks in order to sabotage the heavy water plant set up by the enemy.
    The men on that campaign talked calmly about their experiences; even smiled as they recounted the very bad episodes on the plateau.
    They had injuries from being shot,falling into the odd crevasse, frostbite, etc. Not a sign of PTSD, or chronic pain that occupied their living hours....just gratefully enjoying old age.


    Nari
    Last edited by bernard; 30-12-2005, 05:58 PM.
    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. L VINCI
    We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. I NEWTON

    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not a bit simpler.
    If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. Albert Einstein
    bernard
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