Usually on Thanksgiving, I re-post one of my articles about Sarah Josepha Hale and the true story of Thanksgiving, but this year, I have other things to write about.
November 2017 I was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis in my left hip. I was in a lot of pain and searching for the right surgeon. I found him in March, 2018, Dr. Edward Szuszczewicz (shu-SHEV-itz or Dr. Ed) in Colorado Springs. This was great because my friends live there. He is not only one of the best surgeons in the US for the minimally invasive hip replacement procedure, he’s my kind of person. The surgery went well. I spent the night in a beautiful hospital room cared for by young nurses whom I liked. I came home in the care of my precious friend, Lois, who stayed with me until I was doing pretty OK on my own. She had ten days of giving me shots, changing my bandages, helping me get up in the middle of the night and helping me with chores. ❤
I couldn’t drive, so Karen, my neighbor and friend, and I went to the store together. We had a blast. Who knew that two women in their sixties would find shopping for food to be so much fun? My other neighbor, Elizabeth, took me to my local doctor (14 miles away) to get my stitches out. When I took my daily walks, neighbors came out to walk with me and ask me how I was doing.
Lori, the owner, Marylou and everyone working at Noah’s Arff, the kennel where Dusty and Bear stayed for six weeks, loved my dogs. They also made sure that if I wanted to come and visit, I would be able to see Dusty and Bear without danger to myself. Lois took me the first time, and as soon as I could drive, I went out to see them on my own. I was still wearing my TED hose and using my walker. 🙂 The kennel gave me a discount on the price for which I’m very grateful, AND an anonymous person chipped in $100. I have no idea who, but WOW.
When the day came that the dogs could come home Lori brought Dusty and Bear to me.
Besides my great doctor, my friends, the kennel and my town, I had great physical therapy. I owe a lot to Ron Muhlhauser both before and after my surgery for the fact that I walk WELL now. He prepared me well so I was in good condition before my surgery and he helped me rehab which basically meant learning to walk again. I turned out that I had osteoarthritis in that joint much longer than I knew and I had forgotten how to do many simple things like take a long stride or go up and down stairs. Really.
This year I learned a lot. It’s not easy for me to need people or ask for help. During my rehab, I DID need people, and I HAD to ask for help. It took courage for me, but I got nothing but “Yes!”
My hip replacement was, naturally, the biggest event of my year. I can now walk as if nothing was ever wrong. I am grateful every time I take a step. In my three-month check-up, Dr. Ed said, “No restrictions. Do whatever you want. Run up hills. Maybe I’ll see you on the slopes. Where will you ski?”
In October, Elizabeth and I took a short — but real — mountain hike to celebrate my recovery and living here for four years.
I decided to spend the “down time” after my surgery working on my novel, The Price. The kicker there was that if I were going to work on it, it needed to be finished before my surgery. I was stuck and didn’t want to go further, so I contacted Beth Bruno whose editorial skills have helped me in the past. I sent her the novel and asked for help. Beth’s response told me exactly what I had to do. I knew already, but I had resisted the knowledge out of laziness? or not liking the characters? I still don’t know. I spent the summer working on it and guiding the characters to an ending that would satisfy readers — and me. I am very proud of it.
I’m grateful for all the moral support I got from people who read my blog. I’m grateful for being alive at this moment so I can “know” interesting people all over the world through writing, my preferred communication. I’m grateful to all the people who’ve reviewed my books and appreciated them, to my friends for caring for me, to my town for being the beautiful, kind and human place it is.
I was an athlete and the loss of “self” has been a huge challenge for me — probably the biggest. I’ve had to consider exactly what that means now, and what it will mean in the future. I’ve had to face my age — at 52 my hiking pals were two young men, professional athletes in their 20s. One was a 21 year old weightlifter who “used” me as a partner in his aerobic training. The other was a professional surfer who had just learned (from me) that there was a lot of fun to be had on dry land, too.
At 66? I have no idea what’s ahead in that realm. I have cross country skis now, I have a dog who is learning to be a wonderful companion. I’ve also learned the pleasure of a slow walk, looking around me, stopping to see things, where once I covered four back-country miles in an hour. I looked around me then, but there was much less savoring.
I think major surgery is a taste of mortality. I could live 30 years longer, but evenso, will they be years of increased physical ability? Probably not. I might achieve more than I have now, but that won’t last.
Learning to savor a beautiful mile on a bright fall day is a gift from my time adjusting to being unable to walk well and walking in pain. Beauty is an analgesic, and since my surgery, I’ve realized how often my pauses on my pre-surgery perambulations were just to allow nature’s wonder to distract me from the pain I was in. That my dog likes to smell everything along the way was just an added happy quality. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to racing through the hills — even if I’m ultimately able. I don’t want to race any more.
Mortality…death is the end of the journey for every living thing. I don’t know what it will mean. I do know that I love the mountains that surround me, the sky, the things that grow here, their changes, the shadows and changing light, a chance sighting of a fox, a deer, a hawk, an eagle, golden trees in fall, the wind, the smell of snow before a storm, snow on my face, new snow crunching under my feet, snow on the distant peaks, hoar-frost, lenticular clouds, cranes, the sound of cattle lowing in the distance, tracks of elk in the mud, a furtive snake hurrying away pretending I didn’t see him (but I did), the smell of sage, the golden blooms on the chamisa, red dust on my shoe, the potatoes blooming in the summer, the sun setting anywhere…. I love all of it so much that sometimes I feel my heart will burst. I don’t want to miss a single thing by hurrying through.
This time last year I was in pain, scared, determined, unsure. The year has been a long strange trip, but, literally, the bottom line is I’m grateful for my life.