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!
You miss a lot in this situation – walking, planning trips around walking, the grocery store (never thought I’d miss the grocery store), being a help rather than helped, but above all, I miss Lady B, Sweet Baby, and Baby Brother! In all their lives I’ve never gone so long without seeing them. Their parents try hard to keep us up-to-date with the young lives, FaceTime and videos help, but still.
Last week Sweet Baby turned four attending a birthday party for a friend in the morning and having a party with friends and family in the evening. She now has a big girl bed, and a cradle next to it for her favorite doll, Baby. For her birthday, I managed to make little pillows from pillowcases her great-great-grandmother left for Poppa Jim’s “bride.” When we spoke the next day, Sweet Baby proudly showed me sleeping arrangements and suggested I could come on Thursday – or maybe in September – revealing developing knowledge of days and months. In my favorite videos, she “reads” books aloud – or lately sings the pages!
Baby Brother is always willing to talk to us – especially to Poppa Jim – usually while eating dinner. He explains the meal and speaks of dinosaurs and heavy equipment – he would love to be here and watch the daily comings and goings in the gravel pit behind us.
We heard that during an illness this winter, he took to routinely waking up at night and crying out – “Momma, Daddy come quick!” When recovered he was encouraged to stop calling to his parents at night, an edict he took seriously, because that night he tried “Winnie, Cora – come quick!” – no word on whether the canines responded.
And Lady B – I have seen photos of her on the north face of Mount Alyeska, her little body planted firmly, skis edged, the valley spread far below. I’m told she can ski the entire mountain, including a famous and steep mogul patch! She turned seven after Christmas – such a magic age of competence and exploration – always her strengths. I love the photos of her deep in a book reading to herself now, or sitting with her dad and brother at a restaurant – eyes fixed on the pages of “Baby Bears.” One day she updated me on her latest thoughts about super heroes – but that’s been a while, and I miss a good natter at the top of the stairs!
Hope glimmers! The Alaskans are coming at Easter, and maybe Sweet Baby in May. And I just registered both girls for summer camps here for different weeks in July. Lady B will go to Sewing Camp (a great but surprise choice – I thought she’d choose mountain biking camp), and Sweet Baby will attend the Little Athletes Sports and Fitness Academy with other small fry for a couple of hours each day (her first choice, Troll Camp, the wrong dates).
No better incentive to me – to bend and bend and be ready!
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!