Monday, February 21, 2011

Time and Distance

Things look different when you're immobile.  For example:
  • Six weeks.... 42 days.... the time frame in which television begins advertising up-coming new programs..... the amount of time remaining in my non-weight-bearing status.  A month and a half isn't really that long, but from my perch here on Douglas it seems endless.  Little Cuter was trying to get me to focus on the fact that this is the downhill portion of recovery, that every day is one day closer to the end.  Of course she's right.  Of course that's good news.  Of course that's the way to think about it.  I just wish I could get away from
  • Six weeks.... 42 days.... the end of March..... the snowbirds will be packing up their rental condos and returning to their frozen tundras, the hikers will be looking for higher and less steamy climes in which to climb, and I will be able to walk down my block.  Maybe.  Unless it stays cool until then it will be too late to put in my tomatoes, and that's a loss I'll feel all spring and summer long.  Six more Sundays stuck on the couch watching young men play basketball and wishing that I could put on my own socks.  I try to regain the high road, keep my chin up, remind myself that I am here to see the sunrise, but all this sitting around is getting really old really fast.... or maybe not that fast, since it's been 6 weeks since evil visited my family.
  • Six weeks.... my birthday and Amster's birthday and the celebrations will be brought to me.  No dancing this year... not that there was ever any dancing... but there was always the possibility that there could be dancing.  TBG wants to buy me cowboy boots to replace the ones the FBI has decided are evidence in a federal crime but I have to wait until I can stand up and try them on.  Delay of gratification is one thing.... waiting a month to buy new boots is torture, pure and simple.
 That's time.  Then there's distance:
  • I am adept at hopping around with my walker.  I can get from the couch to the kitchen without a hitch.  Take me to the mall, though, and it's a totally different story.  TBG parked in the very first handicapped spot in front of Barnes and Noble and we walked to the stationary section, located right across the aisle from the check-out counter.  By the time I hit the exit doors I was exhausted, sweaty, and unable to hop another step.  It wasn't the length of a football field there and back, denizens, and I was defeated. I tried to laugh at myself, but I was too tired. 
  •  Ramps are wonderful inventions.  There's no need to take a deep breath and tell myself that I can jump up an 18" curb.  No one has to steady the brake-less walker so that it doesn't go flying away from me.  I don't butt heads with the stabilizing human as I make my leap from the lower level to the upper. Ramps obviate the need for all that.  But some ramps are steeper than others, and the very steep ones present their own challenges.  At the hair salon, at the Tea Room, at a sandwich shop I had to have someone walk in front of me, holding the walker so that it didn't take on a life of its own and slide down without me.  I'm trying to be brave, denizens, but sometimes the real world fights back.
  • The distance from my bed to the bathroom seems to grow in direct proportion to my needs.   The more I need it, the further it feels.  Getting back to sleep after trekking there and back presents its own set of problems, but that's irrelevant to distance and probably not all that interesting.  
Things are harder than they used to be, that's for sure.  The little things that make up activities of daily living assume larger than life status.  Carrying the glass of juice I managed to pour myself is just not happening.  The walker is useless for that particular task, and the wheelchair does not come with a cup holder.  Note to manufacturers: those who sit also like to drink.  Toting Nellie-the-Netbook from the kitchen to Douglas can only be accomplished in the wheelchair; the clanging of the machine against the sides of the walker if I put it in a bag and try to cover the distance .... it's just not a happy sound at all.  I've taken to using my bra as a tote bag; cell phones and stationary and letters and bananas and (unopened) cups of yogurt all manage to stay put as I hop around.  Self-sufficiency is often not very pretty, but it does make me smile.

Don't think that my life is all too far and too long, though. Friends have made the miles disappear as they fly to my side.  January 8th seems a life-time ago, and my hospital nightmare memories are rapidly slipping into the distant past.  High school and college classmates have collapsed the years as they've come back into my life with love and affection.  I'm watching the palo verdes begin to flesh out and take on a yellowish tinge, the first step toward blossoming.  The weatherman promises that this is the last cold spell we'll endure (cold being a relative term since Little Cuter and SIR have been relishing the 60's during their respite from Chicago's miserable winter this weekend) and I know that my days of moving from Douglas to the poolside are just around the corner.  We'll heat the pool and I'll move my physical therapy exercises into the water and my progress will begin to impress the person I most want to be pleased : myself.

I am living each and every minute of each and every day.  I am conscious of the fact that I am here to notice the changes in the clouds and the setting of the sun.  I no longer find myself wondering where the afternoon has gone; I've experienced the minutes ticking by one by one.  Sometimes it's dreadfully slow, but mostly it's blissfully present.  Though it hurts to breathe (a bullet separating your lung from your chest wall will have that effect, it seems) it doesn't hurt all the time.  Those moments of peace, of respite from the healing pains which annoy me as they reassure me, those are the times that bring a smile to my face.

And smiles are very very good things.... even if they are separated by distance and time, one from the other.


  1. Hello-I've visited here a few times, but first time to comment. I come here via TGB and Ronni.
    Your comments on the practicalities of living with a wheelchair and a walker hit home. I've been caring for my mom, and have realized that there has to be a better design for them which would allow for more self sufficiency. That is so important, but nearly impossible as they are currently designed. Wish I could come up with a better design. We have also discovered that even the closest handicapped parking spots are miles away for someone using a walker or being pushed in a wheelchair-especially in the residues left from the winter weather we have here.
    Best wishes on recovery-I know that you are hearing that over and over, but it remains the primary thought we have as we think about all that you are going through. Your mind and mettle are certainly intact and sure to pull the rest of you through it all.

  2. Welcome to the comments, always! Glad to hear from you :)
    It's not only the distance, is it? How about the uncomfortableness of the seat after 15 minutes? How about the fact that I am now a Van der Graaf generator, creating sparks every time I touch a wall or a light switch or the refrigerator or - worst of all- when I try to kiss TBG??? OUCH!!!
    There must be a graduate student looking for a thesis project somewhere out there, don't you think?
    Best wishes to you and your mom; she's lucky to have you in her life.

  3. Bless your heart, didn't think about static electricity! I'm one big current these days, I guess it's the dry air? You can see progress now, can't you? We read and we smile, your gift to us are your words.

  4. Hi Honey,
    When my mom was no longer mobile we were able to outfit her walker and wheelchair with a cupholder and a basket and snap-on pouches and I imagine there are other useful accessories available out there. Not sure about the static electricity problem but maybe spraying the contraptions with Static Guard might work.

    You are very innovative and inventive and will find the necessary solutions (albeit temporary for you) to get you through the challenges of transporting yourself and the added things that you want to travel with from here to there.

    Always thinking of you and know your very own words are leading you to the road of full recovery!

  5. AB, you will be up on your feet in no time and this will be a distant memory. Unfortunately, you are going through a healing process--mentally and physically. Just look forward to the day when you can go on your hikes again and will be without the wheelchair and walker.

    Sending healing thoughts and hugs your way.

    Megan xxx

  6. Okay, for the "can't pour a glass of juice and carry it with me" problem... something like this,( maybe? May still be a mess if you fill it too high but OF COURSE you have enough self-control not to do that, no matter how excited you are by this lifestyle enhancer.

    Or, if you can get juice in little like 8- or 10-ounce bottles, maybe this?

    Hey, always ready here to help people enjoy liquid refreshment!

  7. Something like boots being taken for evidence is something most of us would not have known. All the things added up make an annoying addition to your healing process. I read your posts often and keep sending healing thoughts your way.

  8. Static electricity... boots as evidence... lanyards to hold wine glasses..... I love sharing new things with my readers :)

    Thanks, again and again, for the love, support and clever ideas. I love having such interesting company as I travel this unfamiliar road.

  9. My wheelchair bound friend, Susan U, relates, relates, relates! Every time we navigate a new building or parking lot, she writes mental letters to the ADA folks. She's amassed quite a bunch of imaginary pseudo-suits, always declaring that she'll "own this building, that mall, this parking lot someday."

    I tried to call her from here (San Diego) last week and couldn't get a call back. That's because she'd outsmarted herself with the bra-carry technique one time too many: she'd tucked it in to its "carrier" and gone straight into the pool for water therapy. And we won't go into the laptops that have taken dives from beds, sofas...even laps.

    She's both libation and laptop-challenged, while I am neither, which explains why I so often find myself writing the comments she'd be posting herself if she could just find that danged.....

    Oh, and on the burgeoning spirituality front, I'm sending an email link to a series of sermons from the UU church we always attend when we're here (Univ/Unitarians don't actually "preach sermons," but they are more than "talks") that might interest you. They certainly grabbed my attention, with quirky titles like Allergic to Evil and The Antihistamine For Evil.

    Hugs to Douglas, G'ma, and TBG.

  10. I read your posts and hope that, like me, you experience internal healing, some cathartic rejuvenation, from the writing process. And I also smile and utter a silent "BRAVO!" at each act of independence, self-reliance and self-assurance. Those moments mean a lot, I'm sure. And they should. Loving energy coming your way! ~K

  11. At the risk of sounding flippant, but with the hope of raising a smile, I have to tell you that my reaction to this posting was "Well, when SHE gets old, she will have had practice!"
    Hang in there.

  12. It has given you an appreciation for what many endure and never will get past. When the rules for making it easier on the handicapped to get around were passed, many on the right objected to their cost. If they had spent a few days doing what you have been doing for weeks, their attitude would probably be very different. That old saying about walking a mile in someone else's moccasins fits this situation. It's just a blessing for you, a huge one, that nothing made that your lot for life. We all need to realize that it could happen to any of us and have a little more compassion which you have reminded your readers to do. I notice it a lot when I am in a store and there are old folks going oh so slow in the aisle in front of me and I have a schedule to meet and then I remind myself, someday that'll be me.

  13. I have to say that I loved the part about using your bras to transport things. What a great idea, and a better use for them than the intended use. It caused a huge smile to creep across my face. :)

  14. After reading your blog post today it brought back memories for me after my heart transplant almost six years ago. I can empathize with you about walking around with a walker and some of the other difficulties associated with major surgery. When I was released from the hospital I lived with my sister and brother in law in a two story house. Luckily they had a couch (Hide-A-Bed) similar to Douglas in their living room where I parked my body for two months. Luckily, there was a bathroom on the other side of the main level not far from my hide-a-bed. Your comments about trips to the bathroom brought a smile to my face because I definitely know what you are talking about. The saying "Mind over Matter" takes on a completely new meaning. Plus, my sister and brother in law had two large dogs which I had to maneuver around. After both dogs got hit with the walker accidentally they knew to keep their distance when I was up and around. After a month of reading every current magazine available as well as five to six books I decided to attempt climbing the stairs (All 13 of them) with my walker. My main reason for attempting this feat was to watch TV since it was located on the second floor of the house. My sister was not too pleased with me after coming home from work one evening and finding me on the second level of the house with my walker beside me watching the idiot box. I will tell you this I became extremely proficient with that walker at the ripe old age of 48.
    Furthermore, I noticed the same things you have noticed about handicap spots being too far from the front door of establishments, curbs which were not conducive to people with disabilities, and cars which were difficult to maneuver into and out of with either a wheelchair or a walker. I am fully in agreement with you that more ambulatory people should experience what is like to be confined to a wheelchair or a walker for a day so they get a better understanding about what people with disabilities go through. Individuals take so many things for granted in this country when it comes to dealing with disabilities until it either affects them or their loved ones. I know from my experience being disabled it was an eye opener for me and my family. Although I have been fully ambulatory for the past five and half years I have more reverence for older people and people with disabilities now because of my personal experience.
    Sending positive vibes for your recovery Ashleigh Burrows. God Bless you ,TBG, your family, John, Roxanna, and Dallas Green, Jr.

  15. Are you non-weight bearing on both hips? I ask because when I was non-weight bearing after foot surgery, I had a knee cart. The knee on the NWB side went on a wheeled cart, and the other foot pushed it along. It had a basket, I could haul things. Since I don't know your state it may be totally impractical for you. Being on the couch is hard, the days stretch on forever, but it will end.

  16. You need a rolling walker like my friend has. It even has a seat for when you get too exhausted to keep rolling.


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