Zimmer Tales

My neighbor tells me the Brits call a walker a Zimmer – that sounds so speedy – skimming along on my Zimmer. Not. But, along with a leg brace when upright, it is my constant companion.

At first I bore all weight on my arms, at three weeks I could toe down for balance when not moving, then (if locked into my brace and holding the walker), I could stand still with weight on both legs. Now, at seven weeks, my brace is unlocked 10°, but my arms support most weight. In three weeks the plan calls for all weight on “lower extremities,” as the pros say, and none on arms – just holding the walker “for guidance.” Progress – but weeks left of Zimmer support.

Everything takes a long time. Never before did I realize how many things we carry all day long. Pockets prove invaluable – now I can often walk to physical therapy (just 162 steps each way), phone in one pocket and garage door opener in the other. To move my computer it goes in a tote bag, along with needed papers or books. To move objects from one side of our small kitchen to the other or from kitchen counter to table, requires sliding dishes or pans along the counter till I can make the reach to the landing spot.

Outdoors the Zimmer gets stripped down for speed, but indoors I tip ridiculously large things into a little basket velcroed on the handle. I can balance a glass of water for drinking or painting, a heavy book, charger, ibuprofen, a bag of popcorn (all at once would be pushing it). I chuck things a lot – tossing balled-up socks toward the laundry basket.

But now we have a spring week here – welcome sunshine and warmth. Birds sing, bulbs stand tall with buds, and rose bushes and trees sprout tiny leaves. The other day I clumped around the little patio trying to clean up winter debris. Grateful to be outside and for healing, but all the while wishing I’d stopped in the past to appreciate wholeness – using hands and legs at the same time – a Zimmer-free life!

Milo

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!

Kinds of Courage

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage. So I noticed when Bill Nighy, a character in the movie made from Penelope Fitzgerald’s book, “The Bookshop,” told the heroine, the young widow Florence: “You possess the trait I admire above all in a person – courage.”

Florence has a courage born of her essential goodness, her tolerant nature, her assumption that others are as kind and accepting, as she is. But the residents of the village where she sets up her new bookshop in an old house are not, and she faces petty-minded meanness meant to defeat her. The movie tries for a little redemption lacking in the book, but this is Penelope Fitzgerald, and the story captures a moment, a place, and particular people.

To me, this movie was perfect, but I am in a distinct minority. A friend thought it wasn’t good, another said the reviews were terrible. (I’d be so curious what you thought if anyone watched, it’s streaming on Amazon.) The cast is stellar – in addition to Nighy, Patricia Clarkson is the softest-spoken evildoer ever, nearly whispering her potent threats. And Emily Mortimer as Florence, wounded by the death of her beloved husband, brims with the courage and enthusiasm of a new venture. Courage calls to mind wonderful words – pluck, mettle, spunk, spirit – those are Florence.

So one can have courage in the face of emotional or physical pain or in the case of Raynor Winn and her husband, Moth, as told in her memoir, “The Salt Path” – in the face of both. The Winns are an ordinary couple in their 50s with children in college, living in a house they’ve restored in Wales with rental cottages providing their income. And then, in nearly unimaginable circumstances, through a bad investment and a failed legal case, they find themselves losing the property. Hoping the marshal come to evict them will leave, they huddle in a closet under the stairs, and Raynor’s eyes fall on a book at the top of a box – Paddy Dillon’s guide to the South West Coast Path around Cornwall.

Their next blow comes just days later when Moth receives a terminal diagnosis of corticobasal degeneration. And so, why not, they embark to walk the coastal path (it makes a sort of desperate sense) – a 630-mile trail stretching over headlands rising above the Atlantic, dropping to sandy coves, and repeating – again and again and again. They walk through blistering heat and rain, “shards, thundering against waterproofs,” heavy pounding rain, a drumroll without conclusion,” rain – furious and horizontal,” “sheets of grey falling from cloud to sea, a visible cycle of water.” Campgrounds being out of financial reach, they sleep “rough,” surviving on noodles and rice, and the occasional kindness of strangers.

The book is a meditation on homelessness (they learn to not reveal that fact to people), and fine writing about their experiences and about the natural world – dolphins, sea birds, and seals, cliffs, hedgerows, and weather – in this most beautiful area (Poldark country). I loved this hard-to-put-down memoir of courageous survival and growth.

Regret

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.

 

A Snow, Snow World

My Washington experience doesn’t include what is happening these days. Historically, snow falls, accumulates a little – maybe on Christmas Eve – and is gone by the middle of the next day. People tell me they don’t own snow shovels because it always melts. (And maybe some people own them and leave on the bluff along with the car window scrapers.)

But this snow event – variously called snowpocalypse and snowmageddon – started with a good size storm on Friday, clotting roads to complicate commutes and cause a run on grocery shelves. And that was just the beginning – two more storm systems (this time uncommon convergences of moist Pacific air and cold air from British Columbia’s Fraser River Valley), have since moved through – bringing hours of accumulating flakes. Easily a foot of snow has piled atop the patio table and covers the eight-inch daffodil spears that dared to emerge in January. Mounds of snow muffle the twinkle lights on shrubs.

Yesterday, Sunday, with main roads cleared, islanders emptied the grocery stores again and battened down for more snow (six inches fell on the car overnight). It began again by 11 a.m. My email pings with winter advisory notices from the Municipality – power lines down and roads closed. Power outages, especially in heavily wooded parts of the island, are a constant threat.

Rain (the weather prediction calls for “cold, miserable rain”) threatens to join the mix this evening. So maybe by the time this posts, things will be different – or maybe by Valentine’s Day we’ll welcome our familiar 42° with rain falling on bare pavement!

 

 

Recap About A Kneecap

My best laid plans for the January break got upsot – as did I. Foolishly rushing down our driveway, my foot slipped back, and my knee crashed straight down on asphalt, causing my femur to split my patella in two. Repair surgery was a week later on the 17th, and I’m no weight bearing on that leg for at least six weeks. I asked the physical therapist this morning about my knee bending, he said yes, but it will be a six-month project.

So with a walker I clump around on my good leg with my injured leg in a full length leg immobilizing brace, gratefully accepting a lot of help from my good-natured husband (who in the last three weeks has learned much about household matters and care giving), the Trail Boss who came for surgery and aftermath, and Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson, who came separately more recently, and friends – all of them bringing good humor, kindness, and competence.

And now it’s February, the little paintings I’d been working on still sit on my table, and the Photoshop for Illustration class I began online in early January paused at Week Two. The assignment that week provided dummy magazine articles, which we were to illustrate after making little drawings and chunks of handwritten text to manipulate and move by the instructions. We had a list of subjects to choose from – kitchen madness, studio madness etc. Now the title of my attempt seems appropriate.