Last week the physical therapist at Virginia Mason asked the date of my surgery, and then said: “Oh just three months? Bones can heal in that time, but then they must “remodel.” Using the image of extra mortar oozing out during construction of a brick wall, she explained that bones make extra material when repairing, and then need to smooth things out and shape the bone to meet particular needs, which requires more time.
At my low point, the surgeon told me that if he had to go through this, he’d need cheerleaders – and the physical therapists have been that. Yes, they force the bend, but they also encourage. A week ago, the therapist here asked me to walk with her – without any of my aides. I crossed a vast and empty space (or so it seemed to me), with no support except her confidence that I was ready for baby steps.
In the last three months I forgot a great deal about regular walking. The therapists encourage me to eschew the safety shuffle, stand up straight, look ahead instead of down, lift my toes, and engage the muscles of my leg. All those instructions, and my atrophied muscles and sense of balance, made me awkward and tenuous. But a couple of days later another therapist had me walk and swing my arms, humming “Tea For Two,” while she walked along with me. Steps to lift spirits.
And, as instructed, I weaned myself from wearing the brace in the house – and now in a giant step – no walker indoors either (small house, lots of walls and countertops)! Outdoors – albeit with brace, walker, and an element of pegleg – I can walk to town and back – steps to a real destination.
Blogs seem to fade away nowadays – and this one has come close – but in these months when the world has narrowed, work – being accountable to writing and image and reader – meant much to me. I often wish I had more energy to think up a project or to have some richer experience to write about. One step at a time, I tell myself.
It’s another three weeks till I can even hope to ditch the walker and brace outdoors – that will truly be a walking adventure. Not the Via Francigena or the Dingle Way – but a meaningful step all the same!
In spite of wintry cold just now, spring began with a burst of early warmth and high excitement. All those spring truisms about renewal and rebirth felt personal, as I began to relearn how to walk and to regain strength in my leg. At first I’d clump along with the walker outdoors, awkwardly picking it up every other step.
But now I’m like a teenager with her first wheels! Wheels – yes on my walker – so I can walk almost normally. The surgeon says I’m a third of the away along my nine month path to full recovery, I have six more weeks with the walker, but can begin to wean myself from the brace.
Each walk reveals more spring – the flowering fruit trees in Winslow began the cascade with a haze of pink or white. Here, the bulbs planted in the pumpkin patch last fall – jolly jonquils and large Greigii tulips in intense shades of orange and pink – open wide in sunshine. On walks in the nearby neighborhood, I see little gardens where grape hyacinth and violets emerge under returning perennials, old gardens coming back to life. This Sunday at Bloedel, on a real walk, rhododendron blossom and tiny wildflowers graced the sides of the trail. I’ve been so very aware and grateful for climbing out of the tunnel of winter and gray and limitation.
The eggs illustrating this post do dual duty – really the Easter Rabbit painted them to accompany the clues leading Sweet B and Baby Brother on a hunt for their Easter baskets.
I can hardly wait!
By all accounts, Milo was somewhat disreputable in life, yet much beloved. When he crossed the “rainbow bridge” this winter, his mistress (a good friend of my Alaska daughter-in-law) asked me if I would paint him. I found the photos irresistible, and my enthusiasm for the new year included painting Milo. Then the rough drawings sat on my table for a long non-productive time, and when I returned to attempt to capture his cuteness, Milo, in spite of his dodgy reputation, proved a genuine spirit lifter!
After I broke my kneecap, when I woke in the night, I replayed my unnecessary slip and fall – full of regret. My mom was a rusher (she broke her collar bone when rushing), so I’ve known the dangers of hurrying and inattention (maybe the latter the bigger offense). What was so important?
And even worse, when I tried to go back to sleep (after waking at 2 a.m. for half a peanut butter sandwich and Advil dose), the current regret attached to old regrets (deriving from the sub-category of stupid things I’ve done), resurfacing to swirl in my head. Not helpful.
Recently I read an article in the New York Times by the psychologist Jennifer Taitz, describing the silver lining to be found when one redirects regret. In an earlier time I might have rejected this article as impossibly Pollyannaish. For so many things, how could there possibly be a silver lining? But now, four weeks on – “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two” (as the commercial says) – and I think there are silver linings, and to look for them is a positive thing.
But don’t ask me about upsides when I am on the physical therapist’s table, and he is holding my lower leg so that it dangles and the weight encourages the knee to bend – definitely against its will. Or when his colleague, a young and strong woman who is kind and apologetic while she pushes my knee to bend against the resistance caused by weeks of immobilization as the kneecap healed. (What women we are, she repeated “sorry, sorry,” and I said “sorry, sorry” apologizing for tears). Nothing silver there. Except there is – because they are going to make it so I can walk again.
A wise woman once told me that as we age, it is hugely important to be able to be dependent (gracefully, a friend said in a comment). When you go in an instant from fully functional and rushing to scared and hobbling, it would be good to have considered ways to quiet that interior monologue – even if you fail at first. I do better listing the many, many kindnesses I have received – the goodness of people, the patience of my family and friends, this little house that functions, the professionalism and talent of medical people. The many ways I am lucky.
I did love Valentine’s Day this year – all those heart emoji – making the cards to send to the little loves of my life. And my good-natured husband Valentine has been heroic with the household chores and the grocery shopping – including lovely tulips for me to share and try to paint.
And the new year begins – pointed daffodil tips appeared in the pumpkin patch a few days ago, the construction commenced behind us (which feels like it’s in my room – three excavators, a huge Mack truck, and piles of gravel loom over our little fence and shudder the house), but I’ll add one last piece of holiday glitter below.
“Her spirits rose…” will take a little winter break – and then be back for the 10th year! I’ve been thinking about marking that with 10 series of 10 – images to celebrate all these years and reflect what the blog’s been about. (I have to say it here to make it happen.)
Thank you for being such terrific readers, and I wish each of you a peaceful, creative, and healthy new year!