Tuesday, October 16, 2012

These Boots Were Made For Walking

These boots were a gift from Mr. Simply shortly after the last time I broke my foot. He gave me a pair of walking shoes for use around the neighborhood at the same time, following a visit to an orthopedic surgeon who'd said my foot would never be the same again. I considered it a vote of confidence, and it turned out Mr. Simply was right and the doctor was wrong.

Today, Mr. Simply took them to Goodwill, along with a pair of duck boots and a beautiful hand-carved spruce walking stick with an inlaid arrowhead.

Last year another doc told me what I already knew, which is that I can't walk for fun any more. And this time it's true: My body never will be the same again as it was.

As I say, this is not news: Those boots haven't been out in the woods in well over a year. Nevertheless, they were hard to let go of. They've sat in a pile of stuff to be donated for months, and I just couldn't seem to get them out the door. I finally figured out that it was because they meant so much to me that the only way I'd be able to do it was if I had a photo to hang on to. I'd been so many great places with those boots: Pine Log, my favorite, and Dawson Forest, Red Top, too, but also all around the base of Kennesaw Mountain, up Little Kennesaw, over the saddle and down the big mountain so many times I can't remember. And so letting go of them is letting go of a phase of my life that I loved, all those long walks in the woods, and admitting that's all irrevocably past and gone. The silence of forests, the quiet rustle of leaves, the soft sound of boots on the path--I will not ever experience those in the same way again. Hanging on to my hikers was hanging on to a hope that had no basis in reality.

I remember once walking in mist and drizzle around an abandoned fish hatchery and coming upon a covey of quail crossing the trail ahead of me. One at a time, each bird peeked out of the weeds on one side of the wide path and then scuttled across. I stood, transfixed, as if my eyes were watching God. Another time there I watched as a pair of hawks courted in the sky over my head, reeling and spinning and calling through a blazing blue heaven. To me it has been as if my boots held all those memories, that I could bury my face in their tops and smell dusty Grassy Hollow Road as if I still walked it with Daisy.

I wish I'd taken a photo of the duck boots, too. I meant to, but in the hustle and bustle of the morning it slipped my mind and now it's too late. I bought them when Daisy was a puppy, and they represented all my plans to train and trial her, and all the hunting seasons of gunning over her that I anticipated when she was born. None of that worked out, but we had some grand times mudding with them, exploring creeks and marshes and retrieving training bumpers. Letting go of those this morning was like letting go of another piece of her.

I understand that this is how hoarders wind up with so much stuff that they can't live in their own houses any more. The Buddhists aren't kidding when they say that clinging is the root cause of all our pain. Mr. Simply has left the building, but the clinging to the memories and symbols of a beloved dog and of good times that are gone forever is a physical pain in my heart.

May those boots and my stick bless someone else's life as mine was blessed for those 15 years.


Friday, February 17, 2012

On Gratitude

When I make gratitude lists, they are usually made up of small, daily items--a sunrise, birdsong, that sort of thing. Then last weekend I was reading Louise Penny's third novel in her Three Pines mystery series. These are very literate novels for the genre, and one of their features is that Penny takes a theme and works it. The theme in this third book, The Cruellest Month, is worthy of a Greek tragedy in which people already have what they always wanted but don't recognize it, and destroy it in the very act of trying to obtain it. She got me to thinking about what I've always wanted, and what I have, and how tragic it would be if I lived my whole life wishing and not seeing what was right there.

So here's my new gratitude list, and I've been thinking all week about how blessed I am.

1. All through high school and my first two years of college, I was desperately lonely--not for women friends, but for a man, god help me. What can I say? I wasn't liberated yet. Be that as it may, I wanted a boyfriend in the worst possible way and my junior year of college, I finally got one--Mr. Simply, in fact. And for the next three years, I wanted nothing more than to be Mrs. Simply, and then I got that too. We still are married. I cuss about it sometimes, but bottom line? I got what I wanted and it's been a pretty good deal for me overall. I haven't been lonely since 1973.

2. Also my junior year in college, I set my heart upon a certain career path, which meant I wanted to go to grad school, too. Eventually I was able to do that not once, but twice (thanks in large part to the aforementioned Mr. Simply), was crowned "Dr. Simply", and entered my desired profession. Thirty years later, I'm still working in the same field. It's hard sometimes, but there's not much else I'd be as happy doing: I got what I wanted, and I intend to keep on doing it until they carry me out of the office feet first.

3. I wanted a house of my own. I agitated for one for years. We shopped for nearly that long (I swear we must have seen every house for sale in three counties), and we eventually bought one. As I believe I've mentioned before, although this was intended to be our starter house, we'll probably die here. We're not moving up to that Buckhead mansion! The bottom line though, is that I have what I always wanted: A cozy, sweet little house of our own.

4. I always thought I wanted a houseful of foster and adopted kids, and so we did that, too--once. And since Simply, Jr. was probably worth six of anybody else's, I consider that I got what I always wanted.

5. I love dogs, always have, and except for one brief span, have never been without a  good dog (and sometimes more) in the house. When Daisy was born, I begged Mr. Simply for weeks to let me keep her: He finally relented, and I can say without hesitation that the fifteen years I had with her were some of the best of my life. Daisy gave me a whole lotta love, much joy, and many happy memories. There's another good dog at my feet right now.

6. I decided back in the '80s or thereabouts that it would be cool to have a parrot, specifically an African Grey, the price of which was well out of our tax bracket. Some twenty years later, out of the blue one was offered to me for adoption, absolutely free, and so once again I got what I wanted. She'll probably outlive us, so she is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

7. I have loved to read ever since my mom first taught me how and in the following 55 years, I have never been without a steady supply of good books. There's one waiting for me on my bedside table right now.

So I've got my man, my son, my dog, my birds, my books, my career, and my house. What more does one woman need?


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Maybe I'm Being a Little Oversensitive, Here

Everybody's gone @ the Spanish steps, Rome, ItalyImage by Paolo Margari via Flickrbut I am getting tired--tired, I tell you--of showing up for social events and finding out that I can't get there from here.

Last night, the party was at a downtown bar with no handicap parking. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Mr. Simply had called ahead to see if we were going to have problems, and learned that the bar itself is laid out on three levels, separated by two flights of stairs, with "only" four steps each. I get tired of that "only" too, by the way, but that's another subject for another day. I'll just say that, for some of us, one step might as well be the Matterhorn and leave it at that. And let me add that the steps were really, really wide, and it would not appear to have been a problem to have included a ramp next to each flight in the original design, then I promise I'll move on. Except to say that when people say "only" in this context it makes me want to smack them upside the head.

Mr. Simply didn't think to ask about the parking, as parking has been mandated by Federal law for years and it never occurred to us that there would be any issue other than the usual one of there never being enough spaces to go around. (If 15% of us have disabilities, why aren't 15% of the spaces in any parking lot or garage designated handicapped parking? More, at medical facilities? Again, another subject for another day.) So imagine our surprise when we circled the block twice and found no handicap parking on the street, and entered the garage to find, again, no handicap parking. How is this possible?

Don't know what street access was like, other than the parking, as I came in to the party from the garage. But I can tell you that there was a long ramp from the garage to three back exits, one into each level of the bar. That's the good news. The bad news, which we got from the security guard in the garage when we asked for directions, is that the doors are sometimes locked. In which case, we were told, we would have had to leave the garage and go around the corner to get to the front door. At which point we would have been two levels below the party. My only alternative, did I need a scooter or chair to get around, would have been to go back out, around the corner, into the garage and down the ramp, and have someone meet me at the correct back door to let me in. This sort of thing pisses me off.

The party was not on the same level as the restrooms, either. If I'd had a wheelchair or scooter, I'd have had to leave the bar, take the ramp to the next level, re-enter the bar, then repeat the process to get back to my table--risking, of course, being locked out at each stage of the process.

I know that my temporarily able-bodied acquaintances will not always think of these things when they are planning activities that include me. (This begs the question whether the bar owners ever heard of the Americans With Disabilities Act.) Some are not close enough that I would necessarily share with them the ongoing saga of my slowly but inexorably deteriorating physical condition. I know this is not personal: The able-bodied simply take for granted their ability to get around. But I wasn't the only person there with physical challenges: I met a lady on the stair who, upon observing my cane, commented that she had just recently got off crutches. No telling how many there with invisible impairments. So you'd think that a mass of us would at least catch our hosts' attention, wouldn't you?

So maybe I'm being a little oversensitive here, but I allowed myself to have some hurt feelings for a moment, as I sat on the throne in the surprisingly accessible stall in this disappointingly inaccessible bar, feeling left out of things and close to tears as I contemplated the long haul back up eight--count 'em--eight steps to our table.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Anniversaries Suck

None - This image is in the public domain and ...Image via Wikipedia
Fifty-one years ago today, on a Sunday morning, I got up for breakfast with the rest of my family. The steps I took from my bed to the kitchen table were the last unassisted steps I would ever take.

By dinner time, I would be in the hospital on an isolation unit. I would not see home, my baby sister, or my new puppy for another six weeks. I would not ride my pony again for more than six months. I would not see the inside of a school room again until the following September.

I had polio.

Every fall, my body remembers, even if I do not seem to myself. I get a case of the blues that lasts until after the holidays. Which is weird, because I seem (at least to myself) pretty well-adjusted otherwise.

I was thinking about this a little bit to myself this morning as I was getting ready to go to work, and I think for the first time it really dawned on me how traumatic that must have been to a seven-year-old kid. I'm pretty sure, for example, that I had never spent the night away from home except at my grandparents', which hardly counts. I certainly had never spent six weeks away from home. And then there's all the constant little daily traumas that go with being in the hospital: Shots, pills, strangers poking at you at all hours of the day and night. High fevers, drug-induced nightmares, loneliness, boredom, and in my case also a spinal tap or two and daily hot packs.

Not to mention, it changed my life--and to some degree, my whole family's--forever. And these changes would make childhood and adolescence damned difficult. My parents were both accomplished equestrians, and I would never be a good rider with one paralyzed hip and leg. I would not be able to participate in phys ed with the rest of the kids, or dance in high school.

I certainly was not marriageable, as it was then defined. All my clothes--especially my shoes--would forever after look weird. Skirts hung crookedly because I was crooked. Slacks that fit on one side did not on the other. The toes of my left shoes sometimes stuck up in the air. And I could never wear nice shoes because they couldn't hold up to the bracing. I fell constantly. 

Most of this is so irrelevant to my life as an adult as to actually be hard to dredge up from the deep cellars of memory for the writing of this list. I am married. We don't have phys ed at the office. I don't have the time or the money to ride any more anyway. And yet all these things, I think, swirl around in my subconscious come November every year. 

There is also much to be grateful for, in the It Could Have Been So Much Worse department: My family could afford my medical care. Some kids died. I'm only a monoplegic, whereas many kids emerged as paras. I came to my post-polio symptoms decades after many of my peers, and despite them I am still working. Some of my peers cannot. I did ride again--and swim, and hike. I even went backpacking once. I probably never would have chosen the career I did had I been able-bodied, and I do love my work. Trust me when I say, I'm grateful for it all.

And yet, every fall, the body remembers.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

chopping down the cherry tree

Our old cherry tree finally bit the dust--literally--this afternoon.

Mr. Simply had bartered for some serious yard work, and the landscape experts came out today and said it was time to put it out of its misery. I arrived home from work to find it already gone, along with a lot of the weeds and crap that have grown wild out there since Mr. Simply got sick.

There's nothing left of that beautiful old tree except a stump about two feet tall.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

I laughed until I cried

"Big Guns" SusanImage by ttstam via Flickr
Sometimes I really worry about Mr. Simply's stability.

Totally seriously, he asks at dinner tonight if I think it would be ok for him to inquire of our insurance agent whether we might be covered in case a burglar breaks in while we're here. Well sure, I say, we're covered, thinking of course that he's referring to replacement value for anything that might get stolen.

However, this is not what he is asking. What if they damage the house? he asks. Well sure, I say, thinking he means what if they trash the place? But no. What Mr. Simply wants to know, it develops, is whether, should he shoot a burglar, would the insurance company pay for the cleanup? And if it turns into OK Corral, Part Deux, will they pay for damages to the neighbors' houses? If no, he wants to get a rider.

The reason he wants to know if I think it's ok to ask this question is that he worries that our agent (who we've been with since 1984) might think he's crazy and cancel our policy just on general principle.

And he can't figure out why I just laughed until I cried.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Still blushing

Mr. Simply, my husband of 30+ years, and I stopped off at the drugstore on the way home this evening. He needs to pick up an Rx. I, preferring to wait in the truck, ask him to get some Pears soap for me.

Cute Young Thing at the register asks him if I like the Pears, or if it really works, or something like that, and he replies, "Well, I might not be the one to ask because my wife always looks beautiful to me!" She thinks Mr. Simply is just the bee's knees, and jogs out to the parking lot to tell me all about it.

Aww, isn't he sweet? Her, too.

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