You Never Know
By M. L. Benet



That first day, no one appeared to be in the Center for Optimum Health but the door was open. I walked into a waiting room augmented with signs for supplements, chelation therapy and an invitation to join a group interested in The Power of Now. Nope, not me. I needed something radical to relieve chronic pain, given a new body was out of reach.
A bell chimed, and a medium-height, pleasant-looking man with blue eyes, short light-brown hair, and casual clothes appeared. Pale light glinted from the edges of rimless glasses as he smiled, and his round, fair-skinned face crinkled with a reassuring kindliness. ďAre you Margie?Ē ďYep; you must be Tucker.Ē

We walked down a short hall to an office space. Inside the little white-painted room, rice paper screened fluorescent lights and a window. Posters of muscle and skeletal systems covered the walls, along with a stained-glass mountain scene and some Hellerwork certificates, whatever that was. A poster showing reflexology points in living color caught my eye ó not my kind of thing either. A massage table hunkered on the floor, covered with a striped sheet over a foam-rubber pad. Massages are good ó who doesnít like being rubbed and soothed all over, even if the benefits donít last more than an hour or two? However, I was hoping for more: Structural Integration was the specialty listed on Tuckerís business card.

At first Tucker and I stood on opposite sides of the table and chatted. I answered questions and walked back and forth pointing to parts that hurt while Tucker listened and watched my movements.

 ďI am 62 and have arthritis. I have to keep moving or pick out my nursing home. Last year I started riding a road bike and going to a womenís gym, because Iíd like to feel good and keep from seizing up like a blown engine. I love my bike, but I fell a while ago and really hurt myself. Now cycling feels miserable even though I did physical therapy and Pilates work with a personal trainer ó Brenda, you know her. She recommended you when it was clear my legs and back were not getting better very fast.Ē

It was hard enough dragging my carcass out to ride when it wasnít hurting, given Iíd spent most of my life lolling on a sofa with a novel. I caved in and made an appointment for this bodywork stuff after I tried everything else. Once couldnít hurt. My trainer was reliable, wasnít she?

Tucker first asked me to lie on my back, and began kneading my lower legs. Stiff tissue in the sides of my legs crunched and crackled under his hands. Was this supposed to help painful IT bands or pulp them?

If Brenda hadnít been so adamant about how Tucker could help, Iíd have been out of there within the first fifteen minutes. What he was doing was nothing like a calming massage. Tucker quietly dug deep into muscles lengthwise, using intense thumb pressure, saying little beyond directing me to turn. I found myself asking if he could just keep some body parts for me to pick up later. I hung in there though ó I had to pay for the time whether I used it or not.

After an hour, I stood up and felt wonderfully light all over. That did it: I was hooked. Whatever he was doing was good, amazingly so.

Tucker continued to work me over for another thirty minutes. I took deep, long breaths to ease some of the pressure from his thumbs. At one point he was on his knees on the edge of the table to gain more leverage over the hip area he was excavating. ďMy God, now Iím really in trouble; youíre standing over the body!Ē I said. We both laughed, but he kept on gouging that thumb in deeper.

After only two sessions, I felt so much better that it was hard to believe human thumbs pressing into human muscles could make so much difference. I became a believer, and scraped together enough money for the full set of treatments.

During the third session, he mentioned his work was also called Rolfing. If Iíd known that, I wouldnít have made the first appointment. Rolfing was one of the in-things in the early seventies among the over-educated university crowd I was on the fringes of due to marrying a professor. A bookish, straight-line Midwesterner who liked to garden and bake didnít fit in among hippie dresses, menís long ponytails, and counter-culture figures like Timothy Leary.

You never know just whatís going to happen to you: not once did I imagine Iíd walk out of that marriage after thirty years, have a career and retire early, and at the age of sixty-one buy a bike and be wildly happy. My life plans didnít include getting stiff and limited by arthritis either, let alone getting Rolfed forty years after I first heard of it.

As the weekly sessions continued, Tucker eventually heard my entire story. I talked just so I didnít think about his digging in. Each appointment was about the same: walk around, get on the table, breathe a lot, and hope his thumbs didnít go clear through.

Once I asked about Hellerwork and Structural Integration. He told me the basics, gesturing at the posters. Evidently, thereís this weird network of tissue called fascia that holds bones and muscles together, and over time, especially if you donít exercise much, the network stiffens and sticks together, restricting movement patterns and creating pain. The full series starts with feet and legs and moves up the body, to loosen fascia and realign the muscle and skeletal system for greater flexibility. It all sounded peculiar, but his treatments worked. At the end of each session I got up, felt great, and the difference lasted.

I even talked my boyfriend into coming in after much grousing because he hates doctors and such even more than I do. Later, I heard that Tucker excavated various spots on him with considerable vigor, but when he left, he marveled that he could turn his head all the way to the left again without pain. Unlike me, he has exercised most of his life and is a dedicated cyclist, yet heís torked here and there too. I guess after sixty, some kinks are inevitable.

Iím still not about to admit to the world that I get Rolfed, no way. I go to Da Cruncher, Tucker. He earns his money digging in those thumbs while I restrain myself on occasion from punching his lights out. Every time I walk out of that office, I feel taller, straighter, lighter, and more relaxed. I walk differently, more gracefully, with a sensuous swing. I hurt far less.

Da Cruncher is a genius. I told him that. He laughed and probed even harder. Iím only coming for ten sessions total, and he wants to make sure that he gives me my moneyís worth, even if it involves a little bruising here and there. Iím tender.

Once, while crunching deep into one thigh, Tucker said I was in great shape. I snickered, knowing how often I felt klutzy and awkward, not like a willowy babe. The next day I was surprised by my own reflection in a shop window as I whooshed past on my bike, wearing a bright orange flowered jersey, helmet and tight cycling shorts. When I recognized myself, I remembered Tuckerís remark and realized that I did look damn good, not at all like a fat, frowsy frump. That day I managed to keep up with two strong riders for twenty-two miles, complete with a few climbs, under a clear, blue sky. I couldnít do that before Tucker worked on me, or even come close.

Hell no, Iím not an aging senior in a final decline. I am in great shape. I feel wonderful, due in good part to the thoughtful work of Da Cruncher. Even if it is Rolfing. Hey, Iíll do whatever it takes to keep from becoming a crippled old crone. I spent a ton of money when I bought that bike; I want to use it, not just prop it up like a sculpture in my living room.

After a few more sessions, my boyfriend and I went riding again; I wanted to finish sixty-three kilometers to mark my birthday. Sixty-three miles seemed out of reach, but I thought I could do thirty-nine or so. I actually completed forty-eight miles, feeling unbelievably proud of myself. Thereís a picture of me grinning with glee to prove it. I tell everybody to go see Da Cruncher.

I have one more appointment tomorrow. I think Iíll ride my bike over, because I can do eighteen miles easy. Maybe he can work out the twinge I get in my side when Iím really cruising. I wonder if he has remedies for dry skin and cellulite....

Tucker Sharp can be contacted at (714) 321-8190. His office is located at 350 E. 17th St., Suite 208 in Costa Mesa.

Return to the July/August Index page