Sunday, January 1, 2017

For the Moms of Lady Shasta and Three Little Pugs - Both Dealing with Serious Illness

We shall deal here with humble things, things not usually granted earnest consideration, or at least not valued for their historical import. But no more in history than in painting is it the impressiveness of the subject that matters. The sun is mirrored even in a coffee spoon. . . .modest things of daily life, they accumulate into forces acting upon whoever moves within the orbit of our civilization
— Sigfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command (1948)

December saw the city and most of the surrounding small towns come to a grinding halt.  Wind chills in the minus 30's and heavy, drifting and blowing snow resulted in a suspension of travel within parts of the city except for emergency vehicles and those seeking shelter. Out in the small towns, there was little movement, but there are those hardy souls that won't let frostbite and politicians tell them what to do.

I had the blinds and what curtains we have, closed against the cold. Since the house is atop a walk out basement with windows above the ground level,  the huge windows on the south side of the house that look out onto the Spruce trees only have some antique lace toppers, making for a lovely view but not maintaining the home's warmth.  Even with the little heater next to the desk, the chill eddy of cold licks in at my skin, as I go to get a warmer sweater and some thicker wool socks.

One needs to be prepared for such things. A few days ago it was in the upper 50's, before plunging again, another sleight of hand from the greatest of magicians, Mother Nature; Machiavellians stroke on the part of that foe, a new battle towards which it channels ancient wounds, inflicting its grievance upon the land. It will likely arrive to do battle when you least expect it, when the prolonged blow of the dark and ice sinks through the skull and lays its claim deep on the bones of the winter landscape. It will not be a day and night safe for man nor beast.
Other than the sound of my husband puttering in the basement, it's intensely quiet. No birds, no clattering of cars starting up. Just the sound of  the incessant wind, a  long, broad hum, as if through wires. There is little noise or movement, but the whine of a piece of shop equipment, maybe a half block away, the sound sticking to the cold air as if snow on a branch. Then the sound of a bell, a wedding that was scheduled this day in the corner church.

It's funny, I'm perfectly fine holing up at home for days with nothing but books, a kitchen, and some tools.  But tell me I can't drive to the store or run to the library, and I suddenly get cabin fever, peering out the window every so often, like a bird from a cage that fidgets with feathered annoyance.
I also noticed something else, something a little nicer.  My knee does not hurt.  After the fall that tore out my meniscus and the resultant surgery and physical therapy, my knee hurt, even years later.  After the first couple of years, it was bearable but always there, a deeply painful twinge,  much worse in cold weather.  Now, five years post injury, after adopting a serious military-style weight/boxing/cardio program, working out several times a week, once a week with a female trainer,  I sit here and realize, it doesn't hurt.

It's not the pain that bothered me, I've dealt with pain.  It was being unable to run, to jump, to MOVE, quickly and without effort. It was crutches, then a cane, then just walking with a bit of a limp when the air pressure dropped and it felt as if knives poked at it.  It was sliding back in time, back to when I wasn't confident in my physical abilities, when I was just a skinny, quiet little kid who was picked last for dodgeball, because frankly, I'd rather be inside reading a book that the teacher would think was inappropriate for someone my age.

It wasn't the pain, it wasn't an injury that in the grand scheme of things, wasn't  very serious.  I realized at this point that what is dire profundity to the very young, is usually just "been there done that" to those of us in middle age, which is still preferable to the six foot deep and eighteen foot square reality that faces us all eventually.
No,  it wasn't torn and missing cartilaginous tissue and the wobbly feeling post-surgery I had every time I tried to use that leg.  It was losing a foothold I'd stretched so far and so hard for. It was realizing that we treat our bodies with a sense of entitlement we may eschew in other things as if breath was some plaything given to us just for our own pleasure. I look down on the small scars as if speaking to them. You would let me run, you would let me climb mountains, you would let me explore and make mistakes and play. Now I can't walk up a flight of stairs. When our body fails us, it's like a personal betrayal

It's much as if seeing a beloved old building each and every day, an old church perhaps, the stones so study that time had not displaced it, could not ever displace it, not all of time could have.  Then one day you drive past and it's simply gone, razed and replaced by a shabbily built storefront that won't withstand a good wind.
I sat here in this spot, January 1st, five years ago, during another storm, crutches up against the wall, the curtains drawn, as the pain in my body drove for an instant upon me, the thorns of slain flowers.  On that day, I wished to be anywhere but far from home and in pain, not even strong enough to drive back to my hometown for the surgery I needed. The sky was spilling snow, the only light there was laying low to the ground as if held down by the wind itself, unable to rise and move away. It was a day in which I could only sit immobile hundreds of miles from my home as the wind howled, dreaming in an Arctic landscape of a sea that never freezes and a landscape that is forever green.

It's easy to throw a pity party, and I was on the verge on that later day I realized I was in a motorized scooter in WalMart, one place I swore I would never be.  But in that same moment, as the young man that is now my husband, smiled down at me, his having been with me, his best friend, not even an official girlfriend yet, without fail since I got hurt, canceling his whole Christmas to drive me home and tend to me and my elderly dog, I realized all that I had. I also realized that putting the small end of the crutch out in front of me like a knight's lance, I could knock the Billy Bass out of the cart of the guy with no teeth.  Oh, sorry, accident, really. SCORE!
I am who I am through hurt and pain and failures and because of them.

Because of that, I know what is important. And that is all the endurance of which mind is capable, of which the flesh has appetite for. That has kept me going on nights when all I could do was sit and hold a small faded photo, eyes, tightly shut, as if the light was diminished by its own grief, leaving only a lone huddled shadow upon the wall, pale and fading. That has kept me going when fate swiped a paw at me and I swiped back, harder, EPR's steady, left hand tight on the yoke of my comrade-in-arms, with the swept back wing of an old combat jet, planting that aircraft on a piece of hard ground as small as my fear.
I get up from my chair and open the curtains up.  I'll have a higher heat bill, but for now I want to look out, and up.  I look at the sun I've not seen in two days as the fierce wind hollowed the remaining light out of the sky, the light now holding a quality beyond heat and illumination.   In the distance the sound of a church bell, a deliberate note blowing free, like snow from a winter branch. Somewhere within, a priest lifts the Host in a series of shimmering gleams like warm rain that falls from the sky as vows are spoken, and what is broken is healed.
 - LBJ

6 comments:

  1. Very heartfelt, descriptive post.

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  2. Wishing Abby Lab and your pack the best in 2017.
    Your Furend
    Louis Dog Armstrong

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  3. Beautiful, just like your books. Happy New Year. Amy

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  4. We have these two special Moms in our thoughts and prayers. We hope 2017 brings healing to them and to their families - they so deserve it.

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Mom

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  5. Beautifully written! Yes, it is good to remember that one day we look bad at the difficult times.

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley
    Mayorz Emeritus

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  6. From my knee, to yours, Happy New Year! FYI, my surgeon says to wait until I'm 65 before hitting the Sears Catalog for my new knee...yep, eventually it will need replacement. If I wait, then the first new knee might actually last until I'm 80...otherwise, I'll be on my second new knee by the time I hit 65!

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Welcome to The Book of Barkley. This blog was created for more memories of Barkley as well as updates on Abby the Senior rescue Lab,who we adopted in 2014.

Stop in and say hello. 100% of book sales are donated to animal rescue organizations across the U.S. and Canada and Search Dog Foundation. If you have a non-profit animal organization and would like autographed copies of the book for fundraisers or a blog post featuring your organization please contact me at cliodna58@gmail.com