Multi-Quotididan Updates 41.9.4b

I’m in Colorado Springs right now, drinking coffe and a smoothie and getting ready to head back to the San Luis Valley. It’s been an eventful short trip.

The purpose was to see my orthopedic surgeon for a follow-up exam after the cortisone shot and six weeks of physical therapy, ostensibly to see how all that worked but really to schedule surgery. And now I’m scheduled for hip replacement on May 7.

The way it’s supposed to play out is I go to the hospital, they plop me down in a special operating “theater” (?) designed for this procedure, they do the job, they take me to recovery then to a room, then they get me up and walk me around and I go home. I would be able to go “home” the same day but my home isn’t here so I’ve asked to spend the night. I’ll go home “home” the next day and my friend, Lois, will bring me and stay with me for several days.

The way it is supposed to work is that at 6 weeks I’ll be pretty “normal” which will be a completely new thing for me and I hope I can adjust (ha ha). That is the beginning of summer.

While I’ve been up here I also finished all the edits I’m capable of on The Schneebelis Go to America (working title). I sense that something pretty large is missing from that story, but I’m in denial. It’s almost like the proverbial and cliched “elephant in the room.” About that elephant, I think people can actually SEE it but they’re not looking. I could be wrong — and that’s something I’m not sure of — so I got in touch with the wonderful editor of two of my earlier novels and we’ve worked out a deal for her to give it a “structural edit” which means she will look directly at the elephant (if it’s there) and give me feedback.

So… more than a few glimmerings that by summer I’ll be walking a lot better and my little story will be better.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/glimmer/

Physical Therapy and the Big Picture

Yesterday I went to my first pre-surgery physical therapy appointment. I didn’t want to go. Like a lot of this stuff I’m going through, I’ve “been there; done that.” But not really.

Last time I had physical therapy (2005) it was to address a condition I didn’t have. I went twice a week for three months and my hip (the right hip) just got more and more painful. Why? Because my “doctor” at the time had not diagnosed the problem correctly.

This time is NOT last time.

Every time I drive to the slough with the dogs I pass the gym which is known as “Monte Vista Athletic Club.” It looks like a barn which is not notable as the most popular building style where I live is big buildings with steel siding; lots of buildings look like barns including barns. It’s beautiful inside; it’s a gorgeous gym. I’m not a gym person, but I’ve been in several and this one is great. I told the person at the counter I was there for physical therapy and he guided me back to the corner of the “barn”. I was checked in and met my therapist — I like him! — a guy named Ron Muhlenhauser (good Swiss name). He sat me down.

The first thing he said when he looked at my chart was, “You don’t look that old.”

I thought, “Huh? Flattery? But why?” I think I look old, but maybe not. It’s a comparative thing, anyway. I explained I’d had hip surgery already on the other hip eleven years ago.

“You’re kidding,” he said.

“No. I…” I didn’t finish. We talked about accidents I might have had that could have caused the hip problem, and I rattled off a litany of sports related injuries.

“So sports, then,” he wrote on his paper. Then he asked me questions about the pain in my hip and how long I’d had it. I don’t think I was too good at the answers, but finally he said, “What are your goals?”

I said, “Hip surgery and the ability to walk better.” I still didn’t know what I was doing there other than fulfilling Medicare requirements. I didn’t think there was any reason beyond that, but I was very, very wrong.

“Here are your doctor’s goals,” and he read them to me. Of course, they were better, clearer and more articulate than mine. They are improving my posture, gait and the the development of good muscles and tendons in my hip. This means, basically, lengthening them so they will work with a new hip joint and so I can stand up straight. “You want to be good from the getgo after your surgery. Your left leg might be a little longer afterward, too. It’s likely.” It’s 1/2 inch shorter at the moment.

I was taught some exercises, and Ron gave me great explanations all the way along. I paid attention, practiced, and, all the while, thought about what I was being told. It began to sink in.

Then he said, “You’ve got the best doctor. Dr. S is the one who can handle the really tough cases. He’s the best there is.”

“Dr. Hunter (surgeon in Salida) recommended him.”

“See?” said Ron. “We’re going to try to teach your joint and your back to straighten up, to lengthen those muscles and teach those tendons to quit protecting your joint.” Ron showed me an exercise to lengthen thigh muscles and said, “You know runners. When they run, the back leg kicks way far back, so far it seems like it’s flying behind the runner, right?”

I visualized that and saw running in a completely new way.  We kept working and Ron explained how the tissues in our bodies replace themselves so that every three months we have all new tissue. I then understood that the purpose behind the cortisone shot is so that these exercises will not hurt me, because, otherwise, I couldn’t possibly do them.

I understood then why the surgery will be three months from now at the soonest. With that realization, suddenly, I got it. I really wanted to cry. My surgeon and the physical therapist are working together to help me emerge from this crysalis of pain and disability into a, yes, older Martha who can still be who the eternal Martha (inside herself) knows herself to be.

The shoes? Well, they’re trail running shoes. I got them on eBay last week. I’ve been wearing Salomon trail running shoes since the early 2000s. They were developed for people who race in the mountains. They were amazing, but they lasted me only about 3 months. Toward the end of the 2000s, Salomon sold the shoe to Adidas, and Adidas changed the way they are made as well as making various models. They are more durable, but less responsive (IMO) Still, they’re the best I know. I didn’t want to fork out the $$$ for brand new ones because I don’t know how this is going to pan out, and they’re expensive. When these arrived, I just hoped they’d have some time left. It turns out they are almost new. I think the previous owner might have worn them twice. I wore them yesterday to PT. They’re going with me the whole way. 🙂

 

Big(ish) Day

There are so many people now out walking at “our” slough that it’s kind of no fun, especially if Dusty is along. He has to bark at other dogs (which he’d love to play with) and people, especially if he hasn’t met them and he’s on leash. He’s 12. This is not behavior that’s going to change.

A couple of days ago the slough was crowded. We kept going off trail (which I don’t like to do — “off trail” is for animals who have their own trails) so Dusty wouldn’t see people and dogs. I did find a really beautiful game trail with myriad tracks and felt guilty for adding ours. 😦 People can destroy a trail almost as fast as cattle or sheep. Ultimately our trail WOULD intersect with people so I called out to the couple who were just beginning their walk, and were between me and the car, “Do you like dogs?”

“Sure!”

I unleashed Dusty who’s super friendly off leash. I said, “He’ll bark, and he’ll charge you, but he’s friendly.” Thank goodness he looks more lab than dobie. He ran barking over to the people who were calm around him and patted him. Then they met Bear. And me. I ended up saying, “Thank you.”

“What for?”

“Oh, being nice to Dusty. It’s hard having to hide him all the time.” The people looked at me like, “Why would you do that?” But I’ve seen Dusty scare people.

Today we got there and we were alone. We hit the little trail (a 1 mile loop) and I hauled ass. I walked that thing in 15 minutes. For the past couple of years, it’s been taking me 34 minutes to walk a mile. The cortisone shot continues to perform its magic. As we were leaving, I saw a young woman with two dogs, both of which we “know.” A golden retriever and an elderly bassett whom we’ve “dog sat” when his male human took off and left him in the shade of the cottonwoods one summer afternoon. We ducked off the main trail and went to the car, Dusty barking madly in recognition but which sounded like blood lust.

As we reached the car, the other people were arriving. The people we met the other day pulled in and, seeing me, waved.

I doubt I will ever completely get used to life here. Honestly, in my California life, that would probably never have happened. The people would probably not have been happy to meet Dusty or to see me a second time.

But the big(ish) news is that the ONLY thing holding me back has been my hip. I am now convinced that it hasn’t been right for a long time, it’s just that last fall it started demanding attention through pain. I’ve walked awkwardly for a while. My walk today showed me that all the work and “training” I’ve done has actually made a pretty strong and fit little old lady, and I HAVE made progress. A 15 minute walking mile is decent, and I’m very happy with it. Sure, it’s not 6 mph (the average speed of my former self) but I’m not running even the slightest bit. For me, walking was always a form of transportation, but 2 miles an hour? That’s just grueling. If you add pain to it, it’s Sisyphean, truly. I did it (and would continue doing it) but it was really as if I were pushing a giant rock (my body) up a mountain through the force of my will and imperfect abilities.

I will begin physical therapy next week and sometime later, in April, I’ll set the date for surgery. I was dreading it, fearful of it, but now I understand all that dread was related to the experiences I had last time AND the demoralization of a couple years of diminishing abilities and increasing pain. We humans are complex little things and can be as inscrutable to ourselves as we are to others.

 

Progress?

 

I imposed a deadline on myself last week, that Monday, yesterday, I would call the surgeon whom I expect to do my hip replacement. Before I felt I could do that, I had to be sure I had a CD with my X-rays on it. One thing that NEVER happened in California was that people would have what you need for you RIGHT now, so I was a little stunned when the radiologist at the hospital in Del Norte (14 miles away) said, “Oh, no problem. We’ll have the CD ready for you in half an hour,” followed by, “Is that soon enough?”

What? I jumped in the shower (ha ha), dressed and went to Del Norte. On the way I was privy to a lovely western scene. A cowboy with a front loader had just dropped a huge bale of hay on the pasture and was breaking it up. About 5 yards to his right, his little herd of Angus steers was strolling over to it for lunch.

I arrived, parked and walked (ha ha) into the hospital. I rang the bell for the radiologist who came out and said, “Martha? Wait here. I have it ready.” She knew it was me, but she checked my ID anyway. I just said, “It’s nice to be carded.” The irony THERE is by carding me I can prove I’m a 66 year old crippled person not that I’m actually 21, in spite of looking 16.

Time was. Fuck it.

She laughed. I appreciate the dark humor of many who work in the medical field.

I hobble/limped back to the car and drove home. There I said to Bear, “There’s one more thing I have to do.” I picked up the phone and she prepared to climb on my lap — her standard thing when I’m talking to someone on the phone. Among Bear’s many traits there is a little vein of envy.

I asked to make an appointment with the doc, got transferred, said my say, and was offered an appointment not in a month or two months or sometime early in 2019, but this coming Friday.

The bells in my brain clanged out the message, again, “You’re not in California any more!”

I’m going to shoot for surgery in June. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is just the simple convenience of getting around in summer vs. winter. Spring is often when we have the heaviest snows and the hospital is over a mountain pass from Monte Vista. Also, I remember what it was like just getting dressed 11 years ago when I had the surgery on my other hip — it was annoying and difficult. In summer? I wear shorts, simple, plain old LL Bean shorts with a drawstring and elastic. Glamor? Maybe if you’re really weird… Putting on shoes and socks after hip replacement is fun, too. There is actually a tool for the socks, but if I don’t absolutely HAVE to wear them, all the better.

With all this arranged, I felt a dark sense of “Fuck it,” and took Bear and Dusty for a walk. It was a lovely afternoon, and we were accompanied briefly by a hawk, flying very low in front of us, looking for carry-out. That almost fixed everything. ❤

Two Miles to the River and Back

Today is my 66th birthday, so yesterday afternoon, Bear and I went out to attempt a challenge.

Below is the map of the Rio Grande Wildlife Area where we like to walk. Our trails are marked in white. Our most common trail is the loop you see over the word “Homelake.” Homelake is a veterans home built in the 1880s for Civil War Veterans. It’s historic, beautiful and is still a home to veterans. The white line that is directly across from it follows the Rio Grande for about 1/2 mile. Then we turn around. It is the trail where I have seen the owls and have taken most of my photos of the Rio Grande. It’s a wooded, shaded hike in summer, mosquitoes and verdant beauty.

Yesterday Bear and I took on the hike you see starting at a parking area near Sherman Lake. We’ve gone on it before, a short distance. It’s (clearly) a trail that goes on for miles and miles (maybe four miles). It’s a “road” through the wetlands, bordering a few farms. In the fall I saw many, many cranes feasting on fallen grain.

On some level, for a while, I’ve been working (psychologically? physically?) toward reaching the river from this trail and yesterday Bear and I succeeded. It is a two mile round trip.

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area marked up

I tried not to think of what I was once able to do. I tried only to think of what I was doing AT THAT MOMENT and, mostly, succeeded. Bear enjoyed all the (apparently) incredible smells. I saw tracks of badger, deer, birds (mostly ravens, I think) and raccoon. For a while we got to watch a red tail hawk hunting. There was a flock of ducks that took flight when the thump of my cane on the ground vibrated through the water. There was one crane.

We were completely alone and except for the sound of a well being dug in the distance, it was silent, country silent, winter silent.

We reached our destination and I was so happy! I couldn’t have done it without my new friend and its shock-absorbing properties and the pointy end that sticks into the dirt.

komperdell-walker-cane-grip-trekking-pole-anti-shock-in-walker-asst~p~7678u_01~1500.3

I’m OK riding the “bike to nowhere” as a way to maintain some fitness and be in shape for what I know to be the inevitable hip replacement, but sometimes a person (me, for example) wants to go SOMEWHERE and see SOMETHING. My ultimate goal is at least once a week to manage a 3 mile hike on the kind and generous surface of the San Luis Valley. It doesn’t matter how long those three miles take me. I have already won all the races I need to.

Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all;the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances,—master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature.”

360 Degrees

Last night, I gave up on the hiking book. I’ve published five OTHER books using Createspace, and they did NOT fuck up those covers, but EVERY cover I’ve put on the hiking book, Createspace has defiled. I’ve complained, tried different designs, done everything I could think of since it’s the inside that matters most, but in this case…

And the inside. I thumbed through one of the ten horrifically ugly copies I had ordered as Christmas presents for people, and found two mistakes, just at random.

As I went to sleep last night I decided it was just fucking hopeless and maybe the book is not meant to be a slender paper back volume. Maybe it’s supposed to be something else or maybe it’s not supposed to be at all.

cover My Everest 12:8.001

RIP Hiking Book

***

IN OTHER NEWS, the temperatures have arrived at their early winter manic state; 2 F degrees at night, 45 F in the day. It’s gorgeous if the wind isn’t blowing. My professional trainers (Dusty T and Polar Bear Yeti T Dog) took me out yesterday for a long walk. They were determined to test my abilities and we went farther than we have been going.

“You’re not going to get anywhere if you always do the same thing!” said Dusty T. Dog who hates change. I was completely startled by that; first, talking dogs don’t exist, and second, Dusty would never say that.

“It’s the voices,” I say to myself in one of those voices. Still, sometimes we give ourselves good advice.

The trail is a rough dirt road on which only BLM vehicles are allowed. It’s in one section of the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area. Dusty wears his hunting vest like a magic cloak although there is no one there in the middle of the day in hunting season. The slough, a marshy collection of lakes coming off the big ditch and the river, is a nesting area for geese in spring and it is closed to people from early March to my dad’s birthday in July. I watch the ground. It’s uneven enough that I could trip on something. There are some HUGE human footprints, but not many.

There’s a north wind and I wear the Hellnarian Icelandic wool cap I bought in Bogarnes at the supermarket after going to the Settlement Center to see the exhibit of Egil’s Saga. Those must have been the days. Little Egil, six years old, in trouble with his dad for getting drunk at a party.

Truth be told, the walk is boring. It’s flat. There is nothing but dried cattails, tall grass and distant bare cottonwoods to look at. And, I have to pay attention. BUT, the light this time of year is exquisite and mysterious. It lies almost flat against the ground. A herd of Angus cattle in the pasture to the south are silhouetted against it, but they’d be cattle of color anyway. A hawk flies low over the pasture. A couple of magpies fly past against the wind. I think the cranes have finally left the valley.

At .75 miles, I turn around. My goal is 1.5. Nothing, but not that easy with arthritis all over the damned place. My NEXT goal is FARTHER. I’m aiming for 3 mile walks two or three times a week.

In every respect, I have a ways to go.

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/degree/

Hip Arthritis Update

I know what’s ahead, I don’t know when, I only know one thing. I don’t want rehab to take long or be difficult. I really don’t care about the rest. At a certain point I’m going to surrender to whatever arrangements I have to make. And then, as the last time, I’m going to be cleaned and dressed in appropriate surgery attire. I’m going to be lain on a gurney and put in a pre-op room. Probably, like last time, a priest or something will come in and ask my permission to pray over/with me. I’ll say yes. Why? Do I believe in prayer? That’s probably another blog post, but I do believe in being kind and whoever is going around from gurney to gurney is offering up the best they have to strangers. I appreciate that.

Then the drugs will kick in and I won’t have a clue for several hours, after which I don’t have to decide any more what I’m going to do. It will be a fait accompli and I will be in the early stages of rehab.

I lay it on Bear every single day, “This is for you,” I tell her. She’s cool with it. It’s not like it’s a guilt trip or something. All I want to do is walk my dogs. If I can’t walk Bear, I can’t keep her. I love her too much to make her live with an old lady who can’t walk. She’s young and fit and happy and LOVES going “hunting” with me. Our “hunt” doesn’t even have to be long or interesting. Sometimes I am only up to a half-mile walk around the hood, and that’s fine with her. She has always met me halfway. I have the same duty to her, I believe. She hates “rest” days, but they’re necessary. Today is a dog rest day; tomorrow a person rest day — they’ll get a short walk while I recover from three days of pretty intense “training.”

An article I read about “pre-habbing” for joint replacement said to view it as training for a major sport event. That’s pretty accurate. Joint surgery is strenuous.

A study by researchers at New England Baptist Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, all based in Boston, found that knee and hip replacement surgery patients who had participated in water- and land-based strength training, and aerobic and flexibility exercises for six weeks prior to their surgeries reduced their odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation by 73 percent.

“Even in a fairly brief time period, the exercise paid off for the participants,” says lead study author Daniel Rooks, PHD, former clinical research investigator and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Their level of function and pain stabilized prior to surgery, whereas those who did not exercise got worse. The benefits of exercise before surgery are very clear.” (Source)

And it’s OK with me. I like exercise. I’ve always done a lot of it. I don’t mind riding a stationary bike, though I prefer walking outdoors. The bike — a Schwinn Airdyne —  is zero impact and addresses the conditioning of more muscles than does walking. I can also ride it longer (meaning “farther”) than I can walk. But walking is not so bad with a stick or a cane. My goal for walking is 3 miles in an hour. That’s a respectable and doable goal. The bike will help with the walking goal. At the moment I CAN walk 3 miles, but not that fast, but I CAN walk 1 mile that fast.

And more exercise actually does translate to less pain.

Exercise can actually help to relieve joint pain in multiple ways:

It increases the strength and flexibility of the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the joints. When thigh muscles are stronger, for example, they can help support the knee, thus relieving some of the pressure on that joint.

Exercise relieves stiffness, which itself can be painful. The body is made to move. When not exercised, the tendons, muscles, and ligaments quickly shorten and tense up. But exercise — and stretching afterward — can help reduce stiffness and preserve or extend your range of motion.

It boosts production of synovial fluid, the lubricant inside the joints. Synovial fluid helps to bring oxygen and nutrients into joints. Thus, exercise helps keep your joints “well-oiled.”

It increases production of natural compounds in the body that help tamp down pain. In other words, without exercise, you are more sensitive to every twinge. With it, you have a measure of natural pain protection.

It helps you keep your weight under control, which can help relieve pressure in weight-bearing joints, such as your hips, knees, and ankles. (Source)

I know that is “up to a point.” If my hip were at “end stage arthritis” that wouldn’t be the case.

Just a few minutes ago I finished riding the Airdyne. Bear was waiting outside the spare room where the “bike” is. I came out and said, “It’s all for you, Bear.” She waited until I sat down and she climbed on my lap, her way of saying, “You did good, Martha.”

Old Lady’s Preoccupations with Her Arthritic Hip, Part 2

Monday we had snow. Today we have a Red Flag Warning — high winds/warm temps. In between, temps in the high 60s/low 70s. “I have no idea what’s going on.

Fall doesn’t want to succumb to winter, I guess, nor summer to fall. I’m here to tell them that what they want has NOTHING to do with what will happen. THAT’S a lesson I am very good at learning, but I also understand the desire to resist the inevitable…

In thinking about hip surgery, I realize that the parts of it I dread most are not the surgery or the possibility of dying on the operating table. That would be OK. I dread the prep, the waiting time and the recovery. If I could just go there, do it and come home to my life I wouldn’t mind at all, but it doesn’t work that way.

Recovery is a messy and complicated business. Some might say, “You won’t mind. You’l be taking narcotics,” but I don’t like narcotics. I’ve already been there. What a lot of people don’t know is that whether you get psychologically hooked to them or not, you will get physically hooked and the withdrawal isn’t fun. And then there are all the antibiotics. I can’t take penicillin and, as a result, whenever I need antibiotics, they have to give me something that would kill the bacteria in the dirtiest lake in the world. The after-effects of that aren’t fun, either.

So… I will have X-rays Monday. I don’t know how they WON’T say what I think they will say. And if they don’t? Then I’m here with this pain for what — forever? Hip surgery removes the source of pain and returns the joint to normal functioning. Why wouldn’t I want that?

Meanwhile, I’ve amped up my activity on the Bike to Nowhere and find it relieves the pain a LOT. Walking the dogs is not a lot of fun right now, but as they are as happy with a stroll around the high school as they would be with an expedition to the Antipodes, it’s really OK. In fact, they are helpful in a strange canine way. Dusty was around for my first surgery and he was trained professionally to help me out. Bear is extremely empathic, but while her crawling up on my lap to save me from whatever is hurting me is always a morale booster, sometimes it’s not convenient and she CAN’T do that after my surgery. Mindy is just there, a kind spirit.

My job will be to find the best surgeon who can do this with the least fuss and the greatest success. I’ve learned Medicare will pay for 3 weeks in a rehab facility and I might need that since I don’t have kids or siblings to stay with me and drive me to physical therapy and stuff. That’s OK. It could work that I drive myself to the hospital and drive myself home if that’s the case. Friends have stepped up and I’m very grateful for that.

Meanwhile, I have brought my “horse” out of the closet. To you it would probably look like a cane, but it has a story.

When my other hip “went south” (2005) I bought a cane at the drugstore. I liked the cane. It was adjustable and functional and helpful. I arrived with it in Montana, much to the shock and horror of my Aunt Jo and my Uncle Hank. “What happened, Martha Ann?” Since I was always running in the hills, they were always sure I’d hurt myself sooner or later.

I explained I had end-stage osteoarthritis in my hip and was trying to find the best solution, meanwhile, I had to walk with a cane.

One day after lunch, I went to “my” room to take nap. Pain is tiring. My Uncle Hank said, “Leave your cane outside your room.” I did. I hung it on the door. When I woke up there was a beautiful wooden cane hanging in its place.

It matched the cane my uncle (who’d had a stroke) used to walk with. He loved working with wood and tried to make useful things. You have to know he’d had retinal detachment so he had mostly peripheral vision. He couldn’t drive and was essentially, mostly, blind.

My uncle and I took our walks together, morning and evening, both of us with our canes. When we would go out somewhere, we had our matching canes. If one of us forget his or her cane, the other would say, “You got your horse, cowboy?”

I also have an adjustable, shock absorbing  “hiking cane.” I have been relying on a trekking pole, but I think I’m going to use this thing instead on dog walks since I can lean on the handle. Bear will have to learn to walk on the other side.

image

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/succumb/

It’s Mostly in the Genes

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From the Top.” If you had the chance to be reborn, would you choose to return as your present self, or would opt for a fresh start? Tell us about what motivates your choice.

If you believe as I do that most of who we are is determined by luck and the rest by genetics, you’ll think this is a pretty dumb prompt. But, since most people DON’T believe that, here goes.

I was born in 1952 to a set of people who had grown up during the Great Depression and been young adults during WW II. Only recently have I understood how CLOSE WW II was in time to the years of my childhood and what a profound effect it had on the world in which I grew up. If I’d been born 20, 10 or even 5 years earlier chances are the trajectory of my life would have been different. 20 years earlier I’d have grown up in the Great Depression and gone to school during WW II. I’d have known rationing and fear and my dad would have been gone. If I’d grown up ten years earlier I’d have hit young adulthood at the point where employment opportunities were starting to open up in a big way. Five years earlier and I’d have been old enough to have experienced the counter-culture movement of the sixties.

All that is just related to the historical moment in which I was born.

Then there is genetics. I’m a “victim” of genetics. I’m 5’1″ just like my grandmother. I am short and roundish with white, white, white hair. Just like my grandmother. The palms of my hands have the same lines as my other grandmother. The backs of my hands look like my dad’s. My “bird” fingers are my mom’s (a sweet bit of genetic irony). My doc alleges that my arthritis is genetic. I have no idea. No one on my mom’s side had a problem with this, nor did my paternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather didn’t live long enough to find out. I’m myopic — as was my father and several relatives on my mom’s side. I have higher than average IQ. My brother’s was higher still. We didn’t buy those at the store. I was lucky to be born in a time when girls could go to university and into a moment when Feminism was pushing against the walls of the male dominated world of business — but, the other side of that, all those men coming back from WW II, now I think they needed meaningful work and to know they were the king of their castle. I also know that the world changed during the war from overwhelmingly agrarian to burgeoning industrial (in my part of the world — the American West).

Luck and genetics.

I’m lucky now to live in a world in which I can have my joints replaced. 100 years ago? By now I’d be completely chair bound. The ONE ancestor I know of who had arthritis was my maternal great-grandmother on my grandfather’s side. My grandparents met when my grandma — then a teenager — came to care for and help my great-grandmother. When the old lady died, my grandparents married.

Is it luck?

Dogs…

Yesterday, Susannah, whose blog I follow, posted about her family’s dog, Gannon, a big, handsome Malamute whom they had had to put to sleep. Of course, since just a month ago I had to do the same with my dog, Lily, my heart went out to Susannah and her family. But it would have anyway.

Bella

Bella

Two days ago, I found a great dog at the local shelter — a white Siberian husky/German shepherd mix, a two year-old female named Bella. Wow, I thought, that’s my kind of dog and she’s RIGHT HERE and the adoption fee is so low and I’ll have so much fun with her! Yay! But I’ve learned not to make serious decisions on impulse, so though I contacted the shelter, and a couple of friends about the beautiful dog, I did not rush down and adopt her. I slept on it.

When morning came I realized that the person I WAS fifteen years ago wanted that dog. That person ran trails every single day and the greatest companion possible was a free active young herding/snow dog. I saw so clearly that the person I am now could not give that dog the home she should have and that I would want to give her. I contacted the shelter right away and told them. Later on that day I went to the vet to pick up pain meds for Mindy, my sweet, arthritic elderly Aussie. I noticed how I walked and was pleased that it wasn’t lopsided or painful. And then I noticed that I pay attention to that.

I thought about Bella off and on all day. I knew I’d made the right decision for the right reasons though part of me thought, “But the dog needs a home and you understand dogs like her!” Understanding her wouldn’t be enough. I would have to be able to act on that understanding in exactly the same way I act on understanding that Mindy has pain from her arthritis, can’t walk too far and needs medication.

I decided not to look at snow dogs any more because it just makes me feel sad that I can’t be a snow dog person now because of physical limitations. It seems that getting older means saying good-bye to lots of things that I couldn’t have imagined. I decided that what I have to do is just close the door on what I cannot do and open the door to what I can. But…Dusty is lonely. All his life he’s had at least two dog-girlfriends. He’s stopped looking for Lily which is a good sign. Still, he needs a pal. Mindy is just not the kind of dog that cares about playing with another dog. Dusty’s very active and lively and Mindy just isn’t.

Today I went online to look at Australian shepherds that need rescue. I found two beautiful Aussies who could live in my life. One is five years old and suffered some injuries that caused her to have arthritis in her back legs. She’s on pain meds and needs a house with no stairs. She’s beautiful and smart, she looks a lot like Mindy — a black, white and brown tricolor. Her name is Sophie — which means wisdom. I thought about that, too. I am being…wise.

I have filled out the adoption application and now we’ll see! I hope I get to have her!

Sophie

Sophie

Mindy

Mindy