Six months ago I went out the front door with the dogs for a quick walk about the yard.
Six (ish) hours later, Husband brought me back in the front door in a splint with three broken bones in my ankle, a prescription for heavy drugs, an appointment with a surgeon for the next morning and a new appreciation for my Husband.
Seven weeks ago, that surgeon pronounced me healed – though Broken Ankle and I dispute that every day. Sure the bones are healed, my plates and screws are settled in to their new home, the scars beginning to soften. But my muscles, my ligaments, they would disagree. And disagree they do – loudly and frequently. Add to that my lack of mobility and his cheerful "You're healed." couldn't be further from the truth. I’m so dang slow that when I walk with Husband, we can't hold hands because even at his slowest pace, he ends up dragging me, shuffling along.
My new normal is random mystery shooting pains that bring about sudden limping that I’m sure to others look like I’m putting my acting training to use. I promise, I’m not. It really is the only way I can walk these days – "good step, good step, ah fuck, limp, limp..."
Sure I can walk downstairs now alternating feet but only if I’m holding onto a rail for dear life. I can move things about the garden while wearing my steel toed work boots but only if I stop after an hour, mainline pain killers and put my foot up for three. I still can’t get Broken Ankle to bend enough to put on a boot but I’ve added one more pair of shoes to my rotating outfit - bringing my total to three. My very un-fancy twelve-year-old Keen’s are still my mainstay shoe of choice. Winter is going to suck.
Tomorrow is my last day my beloved red temporary handicap placard is valid. I will now have to limp from parking slots much further away from any shop. With the coming ice and snow, I dread each step. On the other hand, I’ll be less likely to be judged by the blue handicap placard folks who scan my body for injury to determine if I’m worthy of the spot. Which is funny because I’m the dumbass who will pull off my sock to show you my scars at anytime. Consider yourself warned. I’ll show you my scars without asking. I need you to know I’m still broken despite my outward health. Just be thankful I didn't feel the need to do this with my hysterectomy scar.
I’m officially that person that can feel a storm coming on and will tell you about it in the aisle of the grocery store. Broken Ankle aches with the cold, a deep throbbing ache that radiates up the calf and cannot seem to be soothed. Not even with my constant whining and tears. I baby it constantly, rubbing oils on it to break up the scaring and ease the pain, covering it in decorative socks that make me look like a pirate. Heck, I even found a tattoo sleeve and wore it to a party as an impromptu Broken Ankle warmer with my fancy dress. I’m sure I came off as way cooler than I am in real life. I’m totally considering a full leg tattoo when it all stops being tender. Surprisingly, Husband is on board with this.
Speaking of Husband, as wonderful has he has been during this ordeal – and it has been an ordeal - he still can’t touch Broken Ankle. He has never liked feet and the gnarly scar isn’t tempting him to change his mind about them. He might like to force hug me when I’m fighting with him but I can shut him down by pulling Broken Ankle and shoving it in his face.
If I’m looking for a sliver lining, that will have to be it. Three broken bones, one plate, eight screws, six months of angst, a foot that will never be the same size or color again and I have an automatic out of any fight for the rest of my marriage.
Going to call that a win.
Since I don't feel like/want to post old gross pics, here are a few Broken Ankle posts with pictures. The titles are unintentionally connected. I mean, that I was on heavy drugs and came up with that kind of throughline, well, that's just awesome. It's the little things...
My. Right. Foot.
So. Dang. Gross.
Yesterday was… all the feelings. At once, on top of each other, fighting to be felt. Which made me nauseous and sad and dizzy and … well, feel all the feelings.
But yesterday I was with two of the people I love. And Brother called and made Mom and I laugh. And Husband and Mom and I went out to lunch. And the sun was shining and the sky was blue and the birds were singing. And I have a new Jack Reacher book and a warm house and comfy couch and time to read it.
AND it was five months to the day since I Broke Ankle and I spent time in the garden moving mulch and Broken Ankle hurt but ache/sore/muscle/swollen hurt not stabbing/must inhale lots of drugs broken pain.
And then there was Joseph.
Joseph has a peculated mass on his elbow that keeps catching on things and bleeding - usually all over the white couch or rug. Earlier in the week I tried one of my butchered socks but he kept licking it down his leg, getting it caught on his foot and doing this wonky walk to get it off. So I tried the vet’s suggestion of a t-shirt. I went with one of Husband’s long sleeved one because of where the mass is on the elbow. It was not the best choice.
Because, as you can see, Joseph was not in the least impressed with my ingenuity.
Even after I rolled up the sleeves a bit, he shot me that look of disappointment that makes you want to hug him, even when he is covered in drool and smells like poop.
And while I was trying to take this picture of Joseph, I spotted a Coyote in the backyard which Tigger the Dog also spotted. So, I took this picture and sent it to Husband. The Coyote is at the back of the cement pad trying to win a starring contest with a doesn't know any better dog.
And while I was sending the picture of TTD threatening the Coyote through the window, Joseph suddenly decided the t-shirt was some sort of creature attacking him and FREAKED OUT.
Like did this massive hop-shimmy-wriggle-jump thing, with eyes bulging and weird groan-moan noises freak-out thing all over the den to get the evil t-shirt beast off. In the process knocking over a large plant pot, slamming into the TV and causing Mom and I to laugh so hard that we cried.
My quick solution to keep the blood off the carpet resulted in dirt ground into the carpet, a slimy TV, a traumatized dog and a reality check. Life keeps on going. And life can still be funny. All you need is a batshit crazy dog and a t-shirt.
Get on that. It really makes the pukey dizzy feelings go away.
Ooooh wee have I been quiet on here. Not that I haven't had lots to say. On the contrary, I've had too much to say. I've started several dozens posts - some lie dormant on my computer, some still spinning around my head - but none of the words have been perfect. None of the brilliance that spews from my angst has been able to perfectly express my feelings. My raw, painful, angry, frustrated feelings.
And there is so much sh*t on the Internet, in the news, in the air, what is my part in that? Do I really need to add my voice, my raw, painful, angry, frustrated feelings, to the masses of negative blurts? What sort of contribution am I making to the world if I do? There is so much that is icky out there, why fill that bucket with more?
So I've been quiet here and verbally volcanic at home. My jaw is clenched at night I dream of monsters and toothless attackers and crying babies and thunder – though that last might be the popcorn I ate just before bedtime fighting with my stomach to stay...
The random blurts about my life with Husband, does that further the human race or hold it back? I mean, really do you really need to know about the current disaster going on in our house right now? Is your life incomplete until you find out about how utterly horrible it is that the folks that make Husband’s toiletries have discontinued the line he uses and we had to spend an hour in Target last week testing all possible replacements.
Change is not good when it means listening to the pros and cons of a smell – for. an. hour. Even if it is in my happy place.
And the possible replacement ‘smell’ - which is something called Island - has a coconut spice bouquet that is blending in the most horrible way with the smell of death that the dogs are tooting after eating whatever was in the yard.
And speaking of dogs, Tigger the Dog fended off a coyote the other day. Barked the sucker off the property to the other side of the crick to stand staring, threatening to come back when she wasn’t looking. And then it did come back this morning while TTD was asleep on the dog bed in the sun. Is that really news that will make your morning move?
Is it necessary for you know, for me to share that the surgeon has said Broken Ankle is 100% healed. (Or heeled if you’re me trying to be funny.) And how totally disappointed I was with his lack of celebration for all I’ve accomplished. Learning to walk again is hard, ya’ll. Where was my blue ribbon for that race? How about a certificate for a free dance class or a list of places to hike in Nashville or a discount for a tattoo that will cover the Halloween scars that line my ankle? He could have at least given me a lollypop. I mean, Broken Ankle paid for his summer vacation and braces for his kids.
Also, Doc, if I’m healed, how come the sucker still hurts when I walk or when I drive or when the weather changes to thunder and lightening or when I’m just sitting about and the freaking Pain Tourette’s kicks in for no damn reason? How come I can’t walk down stairs unless I turnaround and go down backwards, reassuring myself the whole way that I can do it? How come the stupid Right thing is still swollen and a whole different color from Left thing and the only thing that makes it feel better is a freakin’ leg warmer thing that I’ve cobbled together? And when oh when will my tippy toe come back on that side? Screw doing Ballet, I want to be able to reach things on the top shelf again.
Yeah, Doc, healed, my ass.
As you can see, just lightness and joy over here… So, until I figure out how I’m contributing to the positive, I’m going to keep my negatives to myself and just be present in my very small world for a while. The mom is coming into town tomorrow and I’ve got stories to listen to more than once, tippy toes to practice, nature to stare at and candles to light to try and combat the smell of Hawaiian death… It’s the little things, apparently, that smell the worst.
This post is a mess of unfinished thoughts and feelings because I go home today. Home to Nashville and Husband and three crazy chipmunk murdering, dog bed eating, totally smelly dogs. I’m feeling the whole gamut of feeling that go along with being old in the place I was once young. Of being a parent to a parent that used to parent me. Of being mortal in a place I was invincible and unaware of my mortality.
My sweet small town has changed to a cold selfish place where every other vehicle is a tesla or a Google self-driving car and people push past each other without acknowledging each other. My stern and solid mother is shaky and slow and fragile. My dreams of what would be, what I would be, are been found dusty and unused in corners of the house. It has been a very emotional few weeks and I’m sure to feel the repercussions, the earth quaking for months to come.
This place that I grew up in is unrecognizable. Like that girl at the high school reunion whom you know only by nametag but with her new breasts and nose, hair extensions and fake tan, in a tight spandex dress showing off her newly enhanced ass, you can no longer see the person she was. The Palo Alto of my childhood is gone, hidden behind new construction, stupid wealth and new residents that do not acknowledge the past or and choose not to know each other.
I’ve been here almost three weeks and walked with the Mom to get a paper every morning and do you know how many times we’ve had someone say “Thank you” to us for moving out of their way on the sidewalk? Twice. Only TWICE in three weeks. And how people passing us walking have responded to our morning “Hello”? Only one lovely ten-year-old boy.
The rudeness and indifference that folks show each other here has been shocking and painful. It has been as gut wrenching as watching the Mom count out her dimes as the check out lady does her best to not patronize her as the line behind us grows.
And yet, there have been moments of joy. The crossing guards know Mom’s name and cheerfully greet her each morning as she walks to get her paper. The ten-year-old boy who runs past us each morning chirps his hello with a smile that often overshadows the indifference of the others. The sun has been shining in the bright blue sky most every day. And my friends, my lovely friends have not changed. They are as charming and fascinating and as loyal as they were when I was younger and saw them more often.
So there’s that.
If this world is to continue without imploding, it is necessary we see each person as a human being that matters. To spend time getting to know our neighbors and care about their well-being. To actively reach out into the community and grow as one. I hope the blowback of the Asshat spouting hate is a return to basic caring for all. Blah, blah, blah…
In the meantime, there is ice cream and sun and cheerful ten-year-old boys to pin the hope of the future on. And tonight, there will be hugs from Husband and furry, chipmunk murdering, drooling dog love to lick away my tears until the next time I come ‘home.’
Four months ago, when Joe Boxer ran his very hard head into my ankle and broke the bone causing me to break two more, I would have never believed it was a good thing. I mean, being dependent on someone for food, and care is not a good thing. Being confined to a space because you’re unable to drive is not a good thing. Being unable to do all the things you’d like to or need to because your body isn’t working the way it should is definitely not a good thing.
But it was.
Because I came to California to “deal” with the Mom to sort of get a handle on what she will need as she ages and falls apart. And if I had not sat on my ass in my own home for four months unable to do things, I would have approached this whole trip in a different way. She would not have cooperated with any of my suggestions, gentle and subtle they might have been. We would have had more than a dozen fights about nothing and everything and my mother would have fired me a dozen times.
Because taking away any control from the Mom is a war waiting to happen. This is a woman who refuses to get a cell phone so we can’t reach her whenever we want to. A woman who, and I am in no way exaggerating here, is trying to find a proctologist that will do her colonoscopy without putting her under. Funny enough, no one wants to sign on to shove a tube up her bum while she’s awake and able to comment.
My friend sent me a book during Broken Ankle when I mentioned that I’d be going home to California after and trying to determine what we were going to do with my mother and her aging body. “Read this book first, ‘Being Mortal’ by Atul Gawande.” She said.
And I said I would but really didn’t want to. I don’t do well when my world is falling apart and even less well when the world is falling apart. I didn’t want to read non-fiction about ‘medicine and what happens in the end’. I wanted to read trash with happy endings and fluffy feelings. But she deals with death and dying everyday so I listened and I read it. And wow.
This book should be required reading for every adult. Period.
We seldom know when we will be asked to contemplate the end of life. We rarely ever ask the questions of our parents or loved ones how they want to leave this world until it’s too late. Or if we ask the questions, the answers are given somewhat flippantly without much consideration. I’m sure we all might have an answer to whether we want to be resuscitated if our heart stops. And we might all have looked at someone in a nursing home bed and said, “I don’t want that to be me.” But have we asked and answered about the quality of life we want as we age?
For each and every one of us, the more important question we need to answer is this: If time becomes short, what is most important to you?
My Mom had a bone marrow transplant in 2004 which thrust me suddenly into a parenting my parent role. I did not like it at all and my mother liked it less. Being a control freak in charge of herself for 60 years, being told what to do and when and how by her obnoxiously anxious daughter was a recipe for disaster. Mom and I fought constantly during her treatment and convalescence – which likely made her determined to survive to just prove all the doctors wrong. And to she ignored all my attempts to help her, accused me of trying to kill her and generally was a shit to live with. But she survived. In fact, her twelfth ‘birthday’ was yesterday!
Twelve years ago, we made sure she answered those questions about resuscitation but we didn’t honestly look at what she was getting into and how knowing what the treatment would do to her would affect her answers. Before shoving a bunch of toxins into your body, you might want to have aggressive treatments and intubation. After, when your hearing has been messed with and your thyroid has gone rogue, and your body is suddenly ten years older, your answer might be much different.
I know I have a weird habit of ‘solving’ the “What if so and so died?” problems in the dark of the night. What car I would sell first, how would I deal with the loss, would I stay in Tennessee? But selling a car or not selling a car or moving has been the extent of my weird problem solving. Whether I’m pulling the plug or getting resuscitated have been too but how I want to live, that wasn't a question. Till now.
My question has changed from the obvious medical ones to the should be obvious quality of life one: If time becomes short, what is most important to me, to my loved ones?
I have Mom’s answer to that question. I have my answer to that question.
Do you have yours?
My name is ej. I'm a girl. I say that because with the short hair and the short initials, folks aren't always sure. More brilliant insights to who I am in About me