Of Wheelchairs, Walkers, and Walking

My visit to the orthopedist yesterday brought a couple of blessings.  The doctor lifted all physical restrictions, besides those imposed by my hand surgeon.  This means I can bear weight on my left leg.  I can walk on my own again.  He recommended I use my walker for stability, but said I could hop out of the hospital if I liked.  I might have done it, had my leg not atrophied over the past ten weeks.  

I expected to be given the go ahead, yet it still feels surreal to be walking again.  In addition to being given permission to walk, I was also given time to regain my strength.  The doctor ordered six weeks of physical therapy and a final evaluation three months from now.  For me, this means I have time to fully recover before I must return to work.  (I am a bit of a workaholic, so I am a bit surprised to be relieved to find I will be home a bit longer.)

When I returned home from my appointment, I asked my husband to leave the wheelchair in the trunk of the car.  We borrowed it from my step-father who is living with COPD.  Like me, he only needed it when out and about, but I want to be sure to get it back to him as soon as possible.  It isn’t a post-traumatic avoidance issue, but a desire to close that chapter of my journey.  

I have a new-found respect for those who have accepted being permanently bound to a wheelchair, and compassion for those who struggle with the same.  There are things I learned firsthand from being temporarily disabled.  For example, the handicap stalls in many public restrooms are the farthest from the entryway.  Entrance doors in many businesses are frequently too heavy to hold open and wheel yourself in at the same time.  Some people ignore the reserved signs in movie theaters for those accompanying movie-goers in wheelchairs.  I could go on, but I point these out to show my own ignorance as well.  I am certainly more mindful of the obstacles the physically handicapped must face.    

I also had my husband fold up my walker and leave it near our front door.  I will still take it with me when I leave the house, as I don’t want to hurt myself by being overly zealous about my mobility.  At home, I am taking it slowly and using furniture for stability where possible.  I have found that just a few trips to the bathroom and kitchen are physically exhausting, yet I am so grateful to be able to make them.  

Before my accident, I was walking or running daily (and occasionally riding my bicycle).  I wore a FitBit One tracker and had a goal of 10,000 steps per day.  I didn’t always hit the target, but occasionally exceeded the goal, some days getting in as many as 20,000 steps. Now, I am tracking around 200 steps per day.  I ran a 5K two weeks before I became immobilized.  So, as part of my healing process, I have registered for my next 5K.  (I may be walking rather than running, but I will be out there.)  

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It’s Easier to Do It, Than To Think About It

I had a dream last night.  It was what I call an anxiety dream.  It was like the dreams I have the week before school starts where I am late for school, not by a few minutes, but by hours.  In this dream, I was skinny dipping and I did not know that the owners of the pool were home.  (Not sure why I was crashing the pool, but I was mortified when I realized I might have been seen.)  I realized later today that the dream resulted from my anxiety about taking a shower.  

No, I am not afraid of taking a shower.  But I have intense body image issues and an arm in a splint that absolutely must not get wet… unless I  want to go back to the surgery center to have another one made.  I have managed to deal with my over-the-top modesty until now.  For the first time since I was a young child I would have to be bathed by someone else.  When I was in the trauma unit after my accident, there was so much pain and chaos to focus on that I was not very self-conscious.  It was the same with childbirth.

But I had been thinking about this shower since my surgery three days prior.  I didn’t talk about it, hoping not to feed my anxiety.  Obviously, my subconscious was going nuts.  As much as I was dreading it, I knew the sooner we started, the sooner I would have this humiliating experience over with.  So I told my husband I was ready. 

We went into the bathroom, me, my husband, the walker, the tub chair, and the dog.  (My husband shooed the dog out.)  I awkwardly began to undress, first taking off my shirt, then my bra.  Kelly began to wrap my splint in Press ‘n’ Seal.  Knowing I was about to finish disrobing, my anxiety level was rising.  I decided that talking openly about it might alleviate some of my physiological reaction.  

Just before I sat on my tub transfer chair,  I looked at my husband and told him how hard this was for me, to be so vulnerable.  He reminded me that it was just us, but that wasn’t much consolation for someone who is phobic about being naked.  My eyes immediately welled up with tears as I sat down on my tub transfer seat.  I unlocked the seat and slid over into the bathtub. 

I am fortunate to be married to a compassionate man who understands my fear, even though it is completely irrational.  He began washing me and I realized I wasn’t dying.  I do think it was easier for me because I had to focus on keeping my left arm out of the shower.  Nonetheless, I was conscious of the effects gravity, as well as expansion and contraction, have had on my body.  I was also very aware of all the scars from my accident and subsequent surgeries.  If my husband was, he never let me see it.  He gently and attentively did what needed to be done, including shaving my legs (they desperately needed it). 

He didn’t throw up.  He hasn’t filed for divorce.  In fact, he gave me an innocent kiss and told me he loved me.  The best thing of all is that I realized on an experiential level that I am okay just the way I am, and it is always easier to do it than it is to think about it.  This was an especially good thing for me to do, since I will not be able to shower on my own for another week or so.  (And I think to go without a shower for two weeks might prompt hubby to file.) 

 

Connecting Through Social Media

Today’s post is informational rather than narrative. 

As a next step along my writing path, I am linking my blog to my Facebook page.  This will enable my Facebook friends to read posts from Help Along the Path.  As I continue learning how to utilize social media with my blog, I will determine how to make the best use of this ability and will connect with my other accounts.  Stay tuned…    

The Letter

For the past several years, I have acknowledged my parents on my birthday, thanking them for the ultimate gift… life.  Some years I sent them cards.  Sometimes I expressed my gratitude to them on Facebook.  This past year was no different.

My dad passed away in October of 2011.   The following May I celebrated 47 years on the planet.  As I reflected on the previous year, I decided to express my love and appreciation for my mother in a letter.  I penned this letter, in my own hand, on May 24, 2012.

In the letter, I thanked my mother for standing by me in spite of my bad decisions regarding money, marriages, and “a million other things.”  Having raised children of my own, I now understood the challenges my mother faced raising me and my siblings.  Her willingness and acceptance helped me to grow.  My hope is that I inherited those qualities.

With my thoughts on paper, I folded the letter, placed it in the addressed envelope, put it in the mailbox, and went about my day.

On that same day, my mother also wrote a letter.  The letter she wrote was also a result of reflecting on my birthday.  The letter was written to her mother, my namesake.  My mother’s letter would never be mailed.

When my mother was eleven years old, her mother took her and her younger brother to their grandmother’s house and never returned.  My mother has spent a lifetime trying to process this traumatic event.   Although she will never “get over it”,  my mom has worked hard on forgiving and healing.

In her letter, my mom gently expressed the anger she felt at being abandoned.  Her mother’s mood swings caused my mother great fear and dread as a child.  This translated into fear and self-loathing in her adult life, but my mother didn’t place blame in her letter.  In fact, she expressed an understanding of her mother’s pain and a hope that she had experienced some happiness in this life.  She expressed a bittersweet love and compassion for a woman who missed out on the joy of motherhood.

Although the relationship with her mother could never be replaced, my mom chose to focus on her relationship with her own children.  Even though she has forgiven, my mom has never had closure because it is uncertain whether her mother is living or deceased.  As she closed her letter, my mom cried and prayed for a sign that her mother could somehow see or feel what my mom was feeling… that she somehow knew my mom loved her in spite of everything.

Ironically, that sign would come in the form of a letter.  A letter from her daughter.  A daughter who bears her mother’s name.

When my mother received my letter, she immediately called me.  She was stunned that our letters were written on the same day.  It was her sign, loud and clear.  My mother keeps both letters in her journal to this day.

I called my mother today and asked her to read both letters to me over the phone.  As we talked about it, my mom noticed that she wasn’t as emotional as she had been on that day.  I suppose more healing has taken place since then.  And I decided to call this The Letter (singular) because I saw whatever we had experienced individually on that day as parts of one event.

 

 

Blogger of Repute

Today’s Zero to Hero assignment led me to the Daily Prompt: Blogger of Repute

Do you have a reputation? What is it, and where did it come from? Is it accurate? What do you think about it?

I don’t usually write to prompts, partly because I have several posts already in queue, and partly because I have ideas that jump line in my head for varying reasons. Today’s task is fitting, however, as it addresses a topic that I have been mentally working to incorporate into a post.

To address the first question, “Do I have a reputation?”, I’m sure I have several and they differ slightly depending on where you look.

For question number two, I will narrow my focus: “What is it, and where did it come from?” I have a reputation for being driven. It has been called to my attention recently, in negative ways and positive ones. I gained this reputation because I am often embarking on multiple adventures at any given time.

Continue reading “Blogger of Repute”

Writer’s Hands

Here is a photo of this writer’s hands. 

Image

Because of my determination to write and post every day, I am typing this post with the three of my four working fingers on my right hand.  This morning I had surgery to correct a bony mallet finger, one of my laundry list of injuries incurred in my November accident.  The right pinkie was injured as well, hence the splint.  The school bus struck me on the left side and actually broke the left pinkie, along with many more bones on that side of my body.

I was once told that the size of a woman is determined by the size of the obstacle it takes to stop her.  So far, I’m bigger than a bus! (I still have a sense of humor.  The nerve block is still in full effect.)

The Best Thing

As my son and I exited the interstate one evening several years ago, I spotted a man just at the end of the ramp, on the left.  He had graying, reddish, tousled hair, and a ruddy, weathered complexion.  As I slowed before turning, he smiled and held up his cardboard and Sharpie plea for money, complete with “God Bless You” as a thanks,  in advance.

Before I go any further, I must confess that I am not one to roll my window down and give strangers money.  I’m not heartless or stingy.  I simply don’t believe giving cash to someone who his homeless and asking for a handout is helping them in any lasting way.  If anything, I believe it keeps them in their current circumstances, enables them. 

You may think that a middle class white woman could not possibly understand the plight of those who resort to begging.  Only a few years before, I was newly divorced with three children and no child support.  I had a college degree, a student loan to go with it, and had not landed a job yet.  My lease was up on my apartment and I couldn’t afford to keep it.  I know more than you think. 

As I said, I’m not one to give out cash from my car.  I am, however, one who listens to my gut (some may call it heart or spirit).  I felt compelled to tell this man that I wanted to help him (and I did want to help somehow), and to explain why I couldn’t.  The desire to help this man was strong and I didn’t know why, but I knew I had to tell him.

As I rolled my window down, I slowed to a stop.  My son, anxious by nature, asked why I was stopping.  I assured him it was okay as the haggard man walked closer to my door.  The man was smiling, in spite of an open wound on his arm that looked infected.  Upon closer inspection, I could see that there were thick staples holding it closed.   These weren’t surgical staples.  He told me a friend had stapled it together with a staple gun.  I didn’t doubt it at all.  

I told him that I didn’t know why, but I needed to tell him that I wanted to help him yet wasn’t able.  I explained that the new SUV I was driving was a gift from my father and that he was a car dealer.  I wanted him to know, not because I felt guilty, but because I wanted him to understand my situation.  I told him I was a mother, raising four children by myself (yes, another child and divorced again).  I told him I wanted to help, but that I lived from paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have any money to spare.  (And I still didn’t know why I was telling him this.)  He sweetly patted me on the hand and said it was okay and started to walk away.

As I began rolling the window up, I noticed some change in my console.  (It was my son’s but I would pay him back.)  I quickly rolled the window back down and yelled out to the man to come back.  I held the handful of change out, expecting the man to hold out his palm to receive it.  I said, “This is all I have.  Please take it.”  I understood how I was supposed to help when he answered, “I don’t want your money.  You just gave me the best thing you could have given me.  You looked at me and talked to me like a human being.”  He squeezed my hand and went back to his post.

 

  

Karen

My mother called me today and I could tell by her tone she had something important to tell me.  She said she had to tell me about an almost spiritual moment she had, that she knew I would understand.  I could hear the emotion in her voice as she began her story. 

She had gone to have her hair done, which she normally doesn’t do during the week.  When she arrived, another woman was in her hairdresser’s chair.  The woman had long salt-and-pepper hair which she was having blown dry.  She was apologetic because she had been a walk-in and she knew she was cutting into my mother’s appointment time.  My mother was happy to be out of the house for awhile and assured the woman it was fine.   

My mother, who claims she is not good with names, readily remembered Karen’s.  Karen explained the she was going to donate her hair, as she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  But first, she was going to go out to a local state park to have her picture taken for her memorial service and she wanted her hair to look nice for the picture.  

My mother was surprised that this woman that she had only met minutes before was sharing these intimate details of her life, and impending death, but she just listened.  Karen had been a writer for the Chicago Tribune.  She had a falling out with her family, so she had moved here to the south.  She added that her family has since mended their relationships, yet she is still here alone.  

She had only been diagnosed the week before, yet was carrying a binder with the plans for the memorial.   Karen shared her music playlist for the service, which included a couple of Beatles tunes, and (One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying) Purple People Eater.  She’s obviously maintained a sense of humor. 

She is sixty.  

My mother connected with Karen in many ways.  We had lived in the Chicago area.  My youngest son is a Beatles buff.  And my mom knew about illness.  She has been caregiver to several people the past few years, and is now caring for my step-father who is living with COPD. 

Taking care of people that are sick has heightened my mother’s sense of compassion and her appreciation for life.  It has also reinforced her priorities.  My mother said she didn’t ask Karen questions, except whether she had family. 

When Karen’s hair was done, she told my mother that she needed a hug.  My mother hugged her for what seemed like minutes, and Karen left. 

My mother was so touched by this moment she shared with a complete stranger, that she had to share it with me.  I could hear the tears in her voice, and knew that we share a gratitude for our family.  We are always here for each other, in sickness and in health, and with hugs to spare.  As for Karen, I don’t know what the rest of her journey looks like, but I think my mom made today a little better for her.  

 

Not a Typical Post for Me

*This is not a typical post for me.  In my quest to write every day this year, I am completing an assignment that is a bit off topic for me. 

For today’s assignment in the Zero to Hero: 30 Days to a Better Blog challenge, I am referring back to a post I commented on yesterday.  Ben Orlin’s January 9th post entitled American teachers work the hardest. (After Chileans, of course.) caught my eye.  His blog name, Fifty-Five Million, refers to the number of students enrolled in American schools.  The subject matter is American education statistics. 

Although my comment was directly related to the content of the above mentioned post, I was interested in the no-nonsense approach to statistics used by the math teacher/blogger.  As a fellow math teacher, I felt validated by the data showing how hard we work, compared to teachers in other countries.  As a fellow writer, I enjoyed Orlin’s sense of humor, reminding us that “numbers, like hips, don’t lie.”  

Notice I did not include data and humor in the same sentence.  Orlin does just this. If you have a nerdtastic sense of humor, like me, check out his Math with Bad Drawings.  I found it quite entertaining, although the drawings ARE bad.      

   

Ever Have One of Those Days?

I wasn’t feeling well when I woke up this morning.  I had a headache, so I took some ibuprofen (which I rarely do) and went back to bed (the couch). When I woke up after 11:00, it dawned on me that I had to get myself ready, pick up a dish to take, purchase and wrap a gift, and be at party by 1:30.  This wouldn’t have been so bad but taking a shower takes much more time now that I have to use a tub transfer seat and have two bum fingers.  We also had an hour’s drive ahead of us.  Purchasing food and a gift wasn’t such a big deal for me, as my husband would run into the store.  But that would still take some time.  

Then this evening I was sitting in the recliner preparing to relax with a nice cup of Zen tea, when I tipped the cup over and spilled hot tea all over my clothes.  Because it is still difficult to get to a standing position, it took a few minutes to get my clothes off and stop the burning. 

So I ask, have you ever had one of those days?  Now I’m not talking about one of those days when everything goes wrong.  I mean one of those days when you readily notice all the good in your life, despite the little glitches.

When I woke up late, I recognized that I  had slept for nearly 12 hours, only getting up once at 5:00 to take my thyroid pill and let the dog out (and might as well “go” while I’m up).  This was wonderful compared to the usual 4 or 5 hours I’ve been able to stay asleep lately!  I was happy to slap my hair up in a ponytail, rather than spend the time it would take to get it dry after a shower.  The ride to the party gave me time to put on a little makeup.  And I did it because I felt like it, not because I think I needed it. Oh, and hubby went into the store, so I got to sit in the warm car and listen to one of my favorite radio personalities instead of getting out into the cold and waiting in a line in the store. 

We actually ended up getting the the party early, thanks to a lack of traffic and my husband’s on purpose driving (lead foot).  We had good food with great friends, and lots of stimulating conversation and laughter.  When it was over, my husband and I, not quite full from the finger foods, had a nice dinner out again tonight (second night in a row). 

As far as the tea incident goes, my husband quickly got me the aloe we keep in the fridge and I was in my jammies by 8:00.  And I didn’t even have to clean up my mess.  Kelly cleaned up the chair, and the dog took care of the floor.  I didn’t know she liked tea… and the spearmint probably improved her breath.  The living room certainly smells good!

So I’m writing this post, while my son’s girlfriend’s soothing new age music plays from the other room (she has good taste… and so does he).  Yeah, I’ve had one of those days.