The doctor's assistant told me at my annual checkup this morning that my height measures 5' 8 3/4." With shoes on. And they're new shoes. No worn heels. That measurement means I've lost two inches from my peak. At 18. Before my first medial medial menisectomy. Which was worth probably a half inch.
I've been telling everyone who would listen (and some who didn't) that my bi-lateral knee surgery on December 12, 2003 increased my stature by an inch. Plastic cushions on top of metal implants. I felt positively tall, after years of slouching about, as one friend described it, like an orangutan.
But do the math. If I gained an inch two years ago and am still two inches below my peak, it means I've actually shrunk three inches!
"Join the club," remark by fellow senior pygmies with not the slightest hint of sympathy.
I want to consider this physical development (really, deterioration) in the light of certain red letter words with which just about everyone is familiar. From Jesus, in the Gospel according to Matthew 6:27, the Sermon on the Mount, where he is counseling us to stop worrying about our lives. "Which of you," the Galilean preacher asks in King James English, "by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" Yes, yes, I know that that verse might more accurately be translated as adding years to our life span. But for obvious reasons in this moment I, once a tall 5' 9 3/4" center on the church basketball team, prefer the KJV rendering.
Because I'm worrying about shrinking not stretching.
Worrying may have added to my girth. All of those Pepsis. All of those salami sandwiches. All of those bowls of vanilla ice cream before hitting the sack. Comfort food. After a long day doing the Lord's work and a few things that weren't. Like the substantial lady said to me when I offered her a piece of birthday cake, "Why don't you just paste it directly on to my hips?"
On the other hand, I note from my travels among those nutritionally vocal, that worrying about what we are to eat or drink is not limited to the pudgy. I can no more endure a visit to the Wild Oats health food emporium than I can to the buffet in an all-you-can-eat restaurant where the diners waddle to the feeding troughs. Skinny people can be food-obsessed too.
Am I throwing red letter words into an inhospitable context? Probably. Even those of us equipped in seminary with the tools of higher criticism can sometimes be too literal.
Now when I stand alone in the bathroom in all my naked unglory and weigh myself, I'll be worrying less about avoirdupois and more about the contraction of my spinal column. By the time I reach 210 I'll be as wide as I am high, roughly 5' by 5'.
The only solution I've ever heard to this diminution of aging is having a baby. Women, I've read somewhere, stretch an inch or two with each delivery. I might try this remedy, but the increase in stature would be completely overlooked for the novelty of the biology.
Actually, the solution might simply be to stand up straight. I haven't done that very well since my appendectomy when I was six.
Or, maybe, just get used to the fact that I'm closing in on my diamond birthday. And, as my guardian angel could be saying, "What do you expect, old fellow?"