Thoughts on My Brother’s 65th Birthday

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My brother, his ex-wife, and daughter, 1979

The other day I read an article by a guy who’d lost his brother to alcoholism. I got very angry with the writer. His whole point was that if there were a scientific and methodical way to treat alcoholism, no one would die of it. The writer (I wish I could find the article and if I do, I will insert it here) railed against AA and other 12 step programs because, mainly, they put the cure of alcoholism in the hands of the alcoholic.

Statistically, AA works for only between 10 and 20% of alcoholics. Personally, I don’t think the statistics matter when one sober person is enough (IMO) to call the program a success, at least for that person’s family.

I get it. No one wants to rely on the drunk to cure his/her own problems. Who is more unreliable than an alcoholic?

Anyone who loves an alcoholic wants a powerful outside force to come and wrest the problem from the drinker and awaken that person to the wonder of a sober life. I wanted that for my brother every single day of his life. For a time I thought I could BE that power. Later I thought I could ally myself with that power (various rehab programs and hospitals that tried to help my brother). I busted my ass working extra jobs to pay for my brother’s rehab, housing, food, medical care. In all that I learned something important.

There is no such power.

The United States already spends about $35 billion a year on alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, yet heavy drinking causes 88,000 deaths a year—including deaths from car accidents and diseases linked to alcohol. (“The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” The Atlantic)

Science continues to research the problem of alcoholism (which is as old as humanity, I think, since we started brewing brew and vintnering vino early in our history) and comes up with chemical aids to treat and help alcholics. The bottom line THERE is that even with the help of science, the alcoholic has to be motivated to use the medications or the psychological treatment.

It’s a pretty common-place notion now that many alcoholics have underlying psychological problems and that booze is self-medication. My brother very likely suffered something like borderline personality disorder. Both our childhoods were traumatic at key moments in our development, and we were very different kids. Some people are intrinsically more reslient than others, less dependent on others, react differently to stress, able to develop alliances outside the family. I am a survivor; my little brother wasn’t. Even as kids if someone picked on him, I beat them up. My reaction was to fight back or leave. My brother’s was to stay there and take it.

In 2004 I realized that though he called me, he didn’t even know where I lived, what my life was like, or much about who I was. I was just an open wallet to him and he would — and did — lie and con me to get money. It was hurting me teaching 7 classes and holding down a 20 hr/week clerical job. His life wasn’t worth more than mine. “Don’t call me again until you stop drinking,” I said on the phone, feeling like my heart was being pulled from my chest.

“Fuck you,” he said.

I never heard from him again. I was totally OK with that. I had realized that I couldn’t do anything to fix my brother. It was 100% beyond me. I wasn’t mad at him, I loved him as much as ever, I wanted him to pull his shit together as much as I ever had, but I finally understood that it wasn’t my job. I had a lot of help reaching that point, the kindness of loving friends who’d experienced something like this in their lives and some of whom knew and loved my brother, too. I took a lot of shit from some of my family over my decision, but those who understood really did understand. I will always be grateful. ❤

No one ever saves anyone who isn’t already clinging to the shore asking for help while he or she tries to pull him/herself up.

My feeling now about alcholism is that there isn’t, and will never be, a “one size fits all” cure for this problem other than the one we know and that is that the alcoholic can stop drinking if he or she is motivated to do so. I’ve known several people who stopped drinking because something outside of them mattered more to them than drinking. My dad’s sister, my dad, my grandfather — just to name three, but my list is longer than those three family members. People do stop, but my brother didn’t. He died of an alcoholism related stroke in 2010. I didn’t even know until five months later.

Today is my brother’s birthday and he would be 65. The ONE thing he refused to try was AA. Who knows?

In any case, I miss my brother, and I would much rather be baking a cake today than writing this. I think I’ll go take a walk. ❤

Two songs for my brother and me:

 

 

The best song about addiction I know:

The Cast

“Mom!!!!”

“What happened?”

My little brother held his arm as if it were a bone china tureen filled with hot soup, not that he’d know or care at all about what bone china is.

“I fell out of a tree up at the mission.” The Columban fathers had a mission a block from our house. It was acres and acres of deciduous forest. It was our playground, our happy place.

“I’ll call your father.”

She didn’t drive.

I don’t know what happened next. I don’t know where I went — probably to a neighbor’s  or maybe (I think) my grandma was visiting — or where the bone was set, but my brother came home with a cast on his forearm.

“Simple break,” said my dad. “No reason for hysterics, Helen.”

“I broke my arm,” she stuck out her left arm so we could see the crooked bit. “It never healed right.”

“Helen,” sighed my dad, “there were no hospitals.”

“She sent David for Dr. Festy.” David being her older brother.

“Had to set it with boards in the kitchen, right? They did the best they could.”

“My poor boy. Mother gave me castor oil.”

“For a broken arm?”

“I wouldn’t stop crying.”

My dad shook his head and laughed. That was my grandma. What do you do on a dirt farm with ten kids, no car, no phone, two Percherons, a 7-year-old with a broken arm? From where I sit now, castor oil doesn’t seem that crazy.

“Well, it ruins our vacation,” said my mom.

“Why?” asked my dad.

“Kirk won’t be able to do anything. He has to be in a cast for three months!”

That did not turn out to be the case. Kirk did everything a two-armed kid would do except play Little League which he hated, anyway.

At the end of the summer, we went to Montana on the train as usual. The days were long, hot, sweet and filled with family. There were sunset games of Red Rover and lots of running in the tall grass of the pasture between grandma’s house and Aunt Jo’s. There were backyard picnics with fried chicken, red Jell-o mixed with fruit cocktail, potato salad and pie. The grownups sat in lawn chairs smoking in the darkness while we played monsters with flashlights.

One afternoon our cousins came over to stay with grandma and play with us. My brother  was playing in the ditch (not supposed to because of the cast) with the two youngest cousins, girls, while I tried watercolor painting with out a brush — I was trying to use the bristly ends of some wild grass. It didn’t work. Kirk and my cousins came screeching in through the backdoor. Kirk had caught a sucker with his bare hands. This was a marvel, a feat previously only accomplished by my mom.

“Mom! Look what I caught!” He held the fish carefully in both hands.

“Where’s your cast?” asked my mom, turning pale.

“I don’t know,” said my brother, suddenly realizing how seriously he’d messed up. It turned out he’d been slipping that thing off for weeks when he didn’t want to wear it.

I still have an image in my mind of that tow-headed kid in the Hawaiian shirt my mom had made him during the months she and my dad were living in Honolulu and we were living with Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank in Montana. We’re in a doctor’s waiting room. The chairs are Chartreuse, the tile floor black and white. Kirk and my mom are called into the examining room. They get up and Kirk leaves the cast on the chair.

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

Retroactive DNA Specificity (What?)

A few years ago I wanted to know my pedigree. When Groupon offered a discount on a fly-by-night-marginally-accurate DNA test, I jumped at the chance.

I learned from it that I am 18% Native American. Because I’m a research kind of person, I had to figure that out. It seemed that the similarity between Northern, Northern, Northern Scandinavian DNA and Native American DNA sometimes yielded this result. Reindeer or Wapiti? I’m good with chasing ungulates across ANY region of the frozen north.

Left with more questions than answers about my pedigree, I forked out MORE money, this time to Ancestry, to get a clearer picture. Why? Because, at the time, it seemed to matter. Now?

Well there are just those times in life you want that $100 back.

Having invested the money in order to get pretty maps and charts explaining what I already knew, it has been kind of fun watching the whole DNA/ancestry thing evolve. Since I went into this looking for Swiss ancestry in particular (because of my novels) I was a little disappointed when, originally, all I got was a vague gesture toward Southern Europe. Ancestry keeps updating its ancestry stuff as they learn more. Today (in my relentless search for a compelling featured photo) I saw the latest changes and they pleased me. Switzerland is now on the map as is the migration of the Schneebelis which is, ultimately, all that matters. 😉

Hip Replacement Update: Doc ordered muscle relaxer for spasms, but the pharmacy didn’t get the prescription yesterday. Still, last night went much better thanks to Percocet. There is a lot of swelling with this surgery, mostly on the operated leg, but all over. It has been slowing diminishing. The best thing is that every single day, something is better than the day before. I think I might actually be able to drive to my staple-removing doc appt. next week.

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

Once Upon a Time

My brother had a little girl, and I loved her more than anything. Strangely, you can have unrequited love in your own family, and that love story didn’t work out well. Not because of me, and probably not because of her. I suspect all the other dark factors that affected my family. The photo is her with her mom about 1981.

When she was a little thing, just walking and talking, she was my best bud. I didn’t get to see her often because there was a lot of stress in the famdamnily, but when I did see her, it was the greatest.

Once we went out to eat together — her mom, dad, and I. We had finished dinner and were sitting around the table while my niece played in a largely empty restaurant. She was enthralled with the (to her) long distance between the back wall and the front windows. I joined her in the back of the restaurant about to share an adventure to the front.

“Let’s go!” she said. She’d just learned to run without falling on her face.

“Where?” I asked.

THERE!” she replied.

“There? That’s too vague,” I answered (to a two year old)

“OK. Let’s go to vague!”

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

Doors of Obfuscation

Our life’s dreams are often slow to realize and some of them are simply strange, like my dream of someday having a LOT of dogs. That was a dream I had as a kid and tried to realize as a teenager with a big red dog I brought home. The moment wasn’t right. It was not the right age/time of my life to begin my dog pack, so the dream didn’t come true. I forgot all about it for a long time, so long that when it DID come true. and I remembered it, I was in my 40s. All I could do was laugh.

But some night dreams are scary/important. I think we do work things out in sleep, some hidden conundrums — some very old ones — can work their way up the levels of our unconscious mind and teach us things using strange but perfect symbolism.

When my little brother was 10 we were visiting my Aunt Martha in Denver. She lived in a late 1950’s three story apartment next to Cheeseman Park. Now the building is condos and they sell for quite a lot of money ($213,500), but back in 1963 it was just a small, 600 sq ft, one bedroom apartment in a great location. My aunt lived on the first floor but elevated. The basement apartments had big windows so the first floor was pretty far off the ground. It had a “lanai” and to get to the lanai you went through a sliding glass door.

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The actual apartment! Thanks Zillow!

I don’t know if sliding glass doors were newish back then or that we just hadn’t had much exposure to them, but my brother walked through it. He could have been badly hurt, but all that happened was a cut on his thumb that didn’t even need stitches.

The other night I dreamed I walked into a room and my brother was there sleeping. There was a sliding glass door hanging off the rails. I was so afraid my brother would be hurt, or someone would come in and hurt him, that I began fussing with it to get it to close. When I got there I found DOZENS of attempts at repairing that door and NONE of them worked. I discarded one after the other — some made with wood and chicken wire, some with wire reinforced glass. I could NEVER get the door to close; I could NEVER make my brother safe.

In my dream, my brother slept through my Herculean efforts on behalf of his safety. He never knew. He was completely undisturbed. Then a voice in my dream said, “You have to go. You’ve done everything you could.”

Behind everything else in the dream was the fact that my brother had chosen to sleep in that room, in that bed. A very obvious cliché right there.

I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s reached the point of walking away from a beloved family member (my brother was a hardcore alcoholic) who is an addict feels conflicted, maybe forever. In my dream I answered that statement with, “What about this door?”

 

Cody O’Dog

A few times in my life, I have found myself in abusive romantic relationships. Go on, shake your head. I really did write “timeS.” Two were physically abusive (which goes along with psychological abuse) and one was pure sadistic sociopathic psychological manipulation.

It was during the third that I met Cody O’Dog.

I had recently had my first hip surgery. Before that, I had been obliged to have my sweet husky, Jasmine, put to sleep. She had lymphoma. I was in the middle of rehab, at a cross-roads, walking with two arm crutches and hoping soon to graduate to a cane.

The Evil X was still living with me (it would be a year before I’d eject him).

One evening, about a month after the surgery, I was going through Craiglist looking at dogs. One posting caught my attention. It had a simple headline: YOUR HUSKY. The woman who owned it was living in a battered women’s shelter in north San Diego County. The shelter had an agreement with an animal shelter to house residents’ animals for 3 months. For this dog, the three months were up.

My huskies — Jasmine and Lily — had come to me similarly. The woman who gave them to me had been forced to move into an apartment. Her ex-husband, who had been in jail for beating her, was coming out. She had to get out of “their” house and couldn’t take Jasmine and Lily. As I read the story under YOUR HUSKY, I thought, “That’s the right dog for me.”

He happened, also, to have gotten the attention of the amazing woman who ran a local husky rescue through which I had adopted Jasmine and Lily. She met me and the Evil X at the animal shelter.

YOUR HUSKY was a very large, very beautiful, purebred husky who had once belonged to some movie star and then to the couple. They had used him for breeding with a low-content wolf who was about to be adopted, a sweet girly dog of only 3 years. YOUR HUSKY was said to be three, but he was much older. His name was Cody. He was to belong to the Evil X. The Evil X walked him, but the dog ignored him; his eyes were on me. “You try,” said the EX his extremely fragile and flammable ego in ashes. If the Evil X hadn’t been in public, the dog would’ve gotten yelled at and yanked around.

That was the first time after the surgery that I dropped one crutch and walked. The dog was on my left, my crutch on my right. As we walked around the little park that was part of the animal shelter, the dog watched me and matched all my steps. I knew immediately that he was a spectacular dog. If you know huskies, you know that’s NOT what they do. Their attention, even when they are well-trained, is not usually on a human but on the trail, on the bushes, on possible prey, on their job.

“I want him,” I said. “He’s a very wonderful dog.”

“Really?” said the Evil X. He wouldn’t have known, anyway. The only dog he’d ever had was a Shiba Inu who bit him. (Smart dog.)

“OK,” said the rescue person. “I’ll set that up for you. The shelter has to approve your application and his owner has to approve, but I know she will. I know you two have been in contact. He’s scheduled to be put down day after tomorrow, so I hope we can do all this in time.”

Cody was put back in his cage. That night he went into a health crisis. He refused to get up off the floor and he refused to eat or drink. They took him to the emergency vet who found nothing wrong with him. Everything was done to get him to rally, but he didn’t want to. He’d been in a cage in a shelter for 3 months. I also believe he’d found the person he wanted to belong to, and when he didn’t go home with me, he gave up.

I got the OK to adopt him and we went to get him from the emergency vet, knowing it might not work. We brought him home. He still wouldn’t eat or drink. I cooked him scrambled eggs and rice and fed him from my hand for a few days. The EX — with whom I did not share a room — put a bed for Cody in his room. Little by little, Cody began to regain himself. The only problem he had was Dusty T. Dog, another male between him and his person, me. There were some fights for dominance, which Dusty never tried to win, and, ultimately, I just kept them apart. They were amenable to that so it was (mostly) OK.

Siberian huskies are very special dogs because of their long history of being bred by the Chukchi people of Siberia specifically for pulling sleds and living with people. They were not bred to be watchdogs, but to be helpers to any person. They are friendly and naturally affectionate. They are also very independent because they needed to be able to think for themselves in an emergency. They were bred to be babysitters and they really LOVE little kids. All of my huskies have instinctively cared for the kids who have shown up at my house, but Cody, in particular.

The Evil X’s daughter, Heather, came to visit with her 3 month old son. As soon as Cody heard the baby’s sounds, he was alert, ready to work. The cooing and gurgling and crying evoked an instinctive response from Cody O’Dog. Wherever that baby was, Cody was there, too. It was astonishing to watch. When Heather nursed, Cody lay at her feet. When she changed the little guy’s diapers, Cody watched from close up to be sure she did it right (and possibly to clean up 🙂 ). When the baby slept, Cody kept an eye on him. At first Heather was nervous. Here was a big, wolfie looking dog obsessed with her baby, but soon she understood what Cody felt his job to be. When the little boy got to be three years old, he started bringing home dogs. I think Cody is the reason why.

When things finally began to come to a head between the Evil X and me, Cody was there. One afternoon we were having an altercation in which the Evil X stood too close to me, towering over me, yelling at me. Cody stood up on his hind legs and wedged himself between us. I took the message from that and Cody began sleeping in my room. I called him my “knight in furry armor.”

The Evil X left and our lives changed for the better. Cody and Dusty still had an occasional fracas, but no one was ever badly hurt. They happened at entry points — going in or out of the dog run, in or out of the door. Cody stayed with me whenever I was home. He was a strong, very peaceful, fierce, sweet Gary Cooper of a dog. He was the “good guy.”

In 2010 he traveled with me to Colorado Springs for my 40th high school reunion. It was a road trip. I got him a special cover for the back seat and off we went. It was quite a journey.

Our first stop was a dreadful Motel 6 outside of Cedar City Utah. The room had a nasty vibe, AND I had been driving so long that the room was moving. I went to bed, nervous and apprehensive. The next thing I knew, Cody was up on the bed with me — something that had never happened before — and he was panting, gently, making the bed shake as a baby’s cradle might rock.

We arrived at our destination. I was staying with my niece’ 90 year old grandma who was famous for disliking dogs. But, she had liked my dog Molly when we’d passed through in 1999, so I thought she’d be OK with Cody. She fell in love with him. Cody’s calm presence made her happy. When she’d work in the kitchen, Cody just hung out while she talked to him.

“This is a dog,” she said to the daughter who was then living at home, “Not your little yappy things you have to fuss over all the time.”

During our stay, I took Cody up to see my tree.

Me and Cody and my tree

A day or so after the reunion, Cody and I got back in the car and drove to Caspar, Wyoming on our way to visit my Aunt Jo and Aunt Dickie in Billings, Montana. We stayed at a great motel next to the river and had a long walk that evening before turning in. The next day we got to Billings.

My Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank were astonished at Cody’s size. We went out to the back yard to talk and Cody lay on the grass enjoying the cool, but, in his husky way he was also vigilant.

“Is that what he does?” asked my aunt. “Just lie there? He’s so big!”

“Well, he’ll be up in a flash if there’s a reason.”

Just then an immense red squirrel came over the back fence. Cody was up. Noticing the dog who was NOT supposed to be there, the squirrel made a leap for the front fence.  Cody caught it in the air, rang its neck, and gave it to me. Unfortunately, the squirrel wasn’t quite dead so I had to finish it off. My aunt and I took the squirrel’s body out where some scavengers could reap the benefits.

Cody especially loved my Uncle Hank, and if he had a human counterpart, it would have been my uncle. One afternoon my Aunt Jo and I came home from lunch with Aunt Dickie to find Hank and Cody sleeping on the living room floor, back to back.

The morning we left, I loaded Cody O’Dog into the back seat. Uncle Hank came out to say good-bye to Cody. He bent down and put his arms around my dog, said, “You take care of Martha Ann,” and hugged him. We pulled out and as I drove away, I saw my uncle in the rearview mirror, standing in front of the garage, saluting us. He died the following summer.

Things got back to normal at home for the next year and a half. Life was school, grading, driving and then, in April 2012, Cody started losing weight and having seizures. He went downhill very quickly. On the day he died, it snowed, strange not only for Southern California but for April.

The last little walk of Cody’s life was in the falling snow.

I called a mobile vet because there was no way I could get my 85 pound dog into my car. When she came we laid Cody on the floor in my office, and I laid down beside him. She put an IV in his leg that carried a tranquilizer. I wrapped my arm over my Knight in Furry Armor, and told him he was very ill, that I loved him and that it was OK if he left me. Within seconds of the tranquilizer hitting him, he was dead.

“I think he was just waiting for you to tell him it was OK. I haven’t even given him the shot yet.”

If there’s a Heaven, Cody is sharing it with Uncle Hank. I see them in a well-equipped wood shop where Hank is making things and Cody is lying on the floor. After a bit, they take a long walk and then come home for supper. ❤

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

A Letter

My aunt died this morning. I’m happy that she only suffered the terrible pain she was in for a short time. I’m happy my cousins did not have to contend with it for weeks or months on end, unable to do anything about it. My grandma said that death was merciful sometimes, and this is one of those times.

I found the actual letter my grandfather wrote his brother’s sons, and I sent it to my cousins. It’s a pretty amazing piece of literature in its way. It’s written in pencil on manila paper. I don’t know if that exists any more.

My grandfather was born in 1870 and grew up on a farm in Eastern Iowa. He was a brilliant man, self-taught, they say, but I have his 3rd grade math book and it has trigonometry in it, so that bit about, “He only went to third grade” is kind of bogus. It’s not how far you go in school, but what you learn while you’re there. He thought of himself as a philosopher which isn’t a very useful calling when you’re sharecropping a farm on the high plains of Montana in the 30s. I never knew him, really. I was 5 when he died.

The letter is a precious family artifact. It was written in 1941 when my aunt would have been 16.  It was kept by my grandfather’s nephew, passed to his son, and then given to my mom when she went to “find her roots” in Iowa. That’s how I happened to have it. It was one of the rewards of the “great garage purge of 2017.”

This is something my cousins might want to pass along to their kids. I hope so.

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

Real Fame

I had six aunts. I now have two. Last night I learned that the youngest — Dickie (Madylene) — has gone into hospice with a large mass in her lung. She doesn’t want to go through the misery of tests and so on, so she’s asked her kids to just let her go. I don’t know how that is for them, but she is a nurse, she is not in the least sentimental, and she is very, very practical. When I read my cousin’s message more-or-less conveying this, I heard in my mind Queen’s song from The Highlander, “Who Wants to Live Forever?” No one does. I don’t. I am sure my aunt doesn’t, either. The second-to-youngest of my aunts is at “the home” with pretty advanced dementia and doesn’t want to eat or drink. Both of these women are in their 90s.

I’m very sad. My relationship with some of my aunts has been important to me and, I hope, vice versa. I grew up around these women. My mom felt her family was important, she relied on their being there, so we spent time around them. This aunt — Dickie — has kids around my age, in fact, one of my cousins was born a month after I was. We grew up as friends.

One thing I learned from these women is that OTHER adults — not just parents — can be important in a kid’s life. I reached adulthood wanting to be that OTHER adult, not the parent.

A few years ago I decided I wanted my Aunt Dickie to know who I am. We’d been close, but had gotten estranged as a result of family stuff, and I didn’t like that. I have always liked her. I sent her a letter and a copy of Martin of Gfenn. She loved the book and wrote me a letter with two messages that meant the world to me. She was proud of me and she loved me.

I sent her Savior which she liked even more and then The Brothers Path. She really loved that book. Last winter her church book group read it as their winter book. She wrote me that and said, “I’m making them order it from Amazon so you’ll make a little money.”

Later I heard how the book group went. “Please keep writing the story of my mother’s family,” she said. “I’m very proud of you and she would be, too.”

This year I’ve ploughed through the sludge of disillusionment over writing, publishing, promoting, etc. Afew weeks ago, — after months and months — I looked again at what I’m calling “The Schneebelis Go to America,” and saw it’s a pretty good story. I wondered if I should keep going, or? My aunt’s words, “Keep writing the story of my mother’s family” echoed in my mind. “That’s a good reason to write,” I thought, “so my Aunt Dickie can read my book.”

My grandfather, my aunt’s father, in 1941, wrote a letter to his brother’s kids when their dad died. He wrote:

“I’m awfully sorry but it is a natural condition to make a change. It would be too bad for us to have to be bothered with this old body for ever. It seems sad but it might be if there was no death, that life would lose its meaning and love would perish from the earth and I would rather live where love rules and death is sure as to live forever in a land without love — but I am very sad.”

I can’t say it better.

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

Getting the Boot

“I’m not a toy. I’m your sister!” So said my 3 1/2 year old step-granddaughter to her 1 year old little brother who was suddenly fascinated by her foot clad as it was in a rubber rain boot. I am sure to him it didn’t feel like a sister, but what the heck was it?

She pulled her legs under her, folded her arms around her chest, turned slightly away from him and pouted as she should at 3 1/2. The kid has NO problems setting borders.

This morning Bear (2 years old) was playing roughly with Mindy (10? 11? years old) and I  had to say, “Bear, stopas it was bordering on elder abuse.

I was really tempted to say, “That’s not a toy. That’s your sister!”

When I was the age of my step-granddaughter, I had a book about a little girl who went to the store with her mom to buy boots. Back then (I’m saying back then, good god) we put boots over our shoes, hence overshoes. The little girl and her mom got on a city bus and went downtown. They walked down the city sidewalks to a shoe store and went in. The clerk was eager to help them. They sat down and the mother said they needed new overshoes. The clerk brought out two pairs. Only two pairs. They were identical, but one was red, the other was black. The little girl wanted the red ones. They were VERY lucky that day because by the time they left the store, it had started to rain. Mother pulled on HER overshoes and the little girl had her NEW overshoes, and under mother’s umbrella, they went to the bus stop and then home.

It was a beautifully illustrated book; I remember the pictures even now. They were watercolors that went with the story and the story was told in four or five lines on each page. Both the little girl and the mother wore grey-blue coats and hats, not warm hats, but the kind of hats women wore in the 1950s. The city was not unlike downtown Denver (where I went sometimes with my mom, dad, Aunt Martha) and, as my mother read the story, I could imagine going to Denver and buying overshoes.

But when my turn came, we went to Downtown Englewood ( a LOT closer ) and it was my dad who took me. As MY overshoe story unfolded, it was mixed with the story in the book. I knew what would happen because of the story. We went to a shoe store. My dad asked to see overshoes in my size. The man was eager to help us and brought out three or four boxes of overshoes. I expected two. There were no red ones. All of them were black, some with zippers, some with buckles “Those are for boys,” said my dad and he pushed them to the side. And some  were boots you just pull on.

I was a feminine little thing back then and I chose black zippered boots with fur around the top. I wanted to wear them out of the store — of course — and I strutted down the street on that sunny October day in my new overshoes.

***

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

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.

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