Thursday, February 28, 2019

How I Walk

Some days I feel as though I'll never walk normally again. It's a feeling that catches me by surprise. I find myself forgetting I can't get up off the floor, that my thighs are feeble that my core strength is slow to rebuild and then I push my nose over my toes, as the physical therapists encourage us to do, and I remember that standing and balancing and walking are still exercises that require thought and don't come naturally. 
My sister wrote me an encouraging note reminding me to be patient. She went through some tough  surgery which in Europe involves no bills or debt collectors or fighting with recalcitrant insurers but she spent five years recovering her ability to function. You wouldn't know it now but the path from here, where I stumble, to there where I stride seems endless.
At the gym a delightful neighbor full of vim and vigor and laughter told me about her car wreck that broke all the bones I broke plus a few more and she too walks and exercises with no sign of once being broken. So I know that indeed eventually I will throw away my cane and walk normally without rolling like a drunken sailor. My wife found this walking stick with a seat on Amazon. Many people who see it in action are amazed by it:
I use it, rather than my rolling walker these days when I am setting off for an uncertain destination. When I go to the pharmacy where bottling a  handful of pills takes forever and standing in line to drop off a prescription takes an eternity my three legged cane/seat is a godsend. It is heavier and clumsier than my basic cane but it is wonderful when I just need to sit.
I have increased my hours to 32 per week in eight hour shifts. I start at ten at night and work till 6am four nights a week, which puts me back with my regular night shift and that feels really good. I no longer feel like a supernumerary working with whichever shift needed coverage. However eight hours straight is taking some getting used to. In the old days I worked 12 hour shifts every two days and added overtime. Nowadays I feel as weak as a kitten by comparison. Patience they counsel.
My colleagues have donated sick leave to help me out as mine ran out after four months away from work, which was quite a long time. The donated leave is wonderful as it means I have never missed  a paycheck since this fiasco began at the end of August. My health insurance is covering the bhills such that my wife isn't panicking and a legal eagle is looking into why the women who caused the accident had so little insurance, not even enough to cover the cost of the helicopter flight to the hospital. Luckily because I'm a county resident my $15,000 share of the flight ($25,000 for the insurance company) was waived. I am very glad the private helicopter company that used to fleece people is gone, hopefully forever.
I drive myself to and from town, backing into the driver's seat and swinging my legs into place after I have sat down. I keep my cane on the passenger seat, and my phone is always in my pocket. These days its a 911 device in case I fall. The odd thing is my nerves in my thighs are still growing back so I can't feel it in my pocket and I have developed what looks like a nervous tic patting my thighs to make sure my lifeline is where it should be.
Climbing stairs is a slow difficult process fraught with the possibility of failure. Because I can't feel my right leg properly I'm not sure where my foot is so stepping up of down involves swinging the leg more like a croquet club and when it hits the back of the step I know it's safe to put weight on it. Climbing or descending stairs also requires putting my weight on only one leg at a time and that is exhausting. There is so much to think about I'm surprised I have time to think about writing this page. 
I walk with my camera, I think about the settings and choose black and white or color, I look for contrasts and oddities and it takes my mind off my walk, my slow gait, my dog slowing down patiently to allow me time to keep up. The camera helps me to see more than ever the world around me rather than looking dismally within myself.
Color:
Black and white. In this case I prefer the monochrome. I think the absence of color lends itself to the peeling paint and the contrasting sky. There I wasn't thinking about the burning in the elg I can't feel properly. That's a paradox, I can't feel the leg but it hurts when I use it. Explain that, I can't.
Eventually it will all sort itself out. Soon I hope I will get to wear shoes again. The doctor is pleased by the reduced swelling in my feet but I still have to shuffle around in slippers like an old man. Later this month I return to the hospital for one more operation, this time to remove a blood clot filter inserted in my groin which I shouldn't need anymore as I am quite mobile and blood clots shouldn't be forming in my legs. One more step to being normal which is I find a highly desirable state to be in. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Key West Bight

It was early in the day,  a slow walk around the harbor with Rusty in one hand my cane in the other and my camera around my neck. I have been struggling with low light situation that always seem to come out better with my iPhone and i wanted to see how to get the Panasonic to do better. I knew the problem was me.
I set the camera in full automatic mode figuring that would replicate the phone camera and the results seemed to improve. So off we went.
My life has slipped back into a certain routine, commuting up the highway, dropping into town from the suburbs and then drifting back to the suburbs alongside Highway 1.
We have been talking about how to get me swimming this summer, a desire that was spurred by the sight of a woman pulling herself down our canal with a powerful over arm stroke. I have so much weakness to overcome I figured buying a long aluminum ladder would enable me to bypass the vertical dock steps we normally use to get in the water. I find the idea fascinating and I am going to investigate further. If the canal is impossibly deep the ladder would have to be impossibly long to get a decent angle to climb out, but I live in hope...
Walking the docks put me in mind of sunset cruises which I haven't done in ages. I am in a reflective enough mood these days watching the sunset might be quite the thing to do. Must be the influence of all these boats. We went ahead, Rusty and I, loitering on our way.
The boat is a  charter operation yet it looked more like a quiet comfortable study afloat....I was impressed!
Hindu is quite a well known boat, a traditional wooden boat that has apparently attracted a more modern catamaran sidekick.
Reality intrudes, as this is also a gas station,
...and there was a customer getting ready for a day on the water one imagines:
Rusty sat beside me and I sat and pondered boats afloat, a world away.
Looking to the east the sun was coming up and infusing the sky, we walked towards it drawn like moths to the light.
Cuban Joe's they call the independent hardware store, filled with fisherman's needs and sailor's accessories holding the line against mass marketing and chain stores. 
And soon enough the sun was up, the light was white and we were homeward bound.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Pancake On A Stick

A couple of weeks ago we visited the winter Artisan Market at Higgs Park and so it was this weekend we went back, this time well before they closed.
On our first visit we missed the weird pancake on a stick food which was why we made a beeline to the taste of Brazil.
My wife knows one of the workers at the stand and so she was able to confirm they had won the lottery and secured one of the sought-after spaces at the market.
My wife got the pancake with grilled onions in addition to meat and cheese and it was excellent. 
 We sat in the shade, sipped ice cold Cokes and listened to music suitable for our generation. It was exceptionally laid back and pleasant.
My lunch was a tapioca enchilada filled with cheese and ham and I should have asked for grilled onions. The pancake was of a firm consistency not strongly flavored, petty much as you might imagine tapioca flour to be. As a fan of tapioca pudding I was glad to know this stuff is "healthy" in the modern jargon. It tasted much better than that.
Since the accident I have not been drinking much alcohol at all, and thus my already feeble tolerance has slipped a few notches, but I was surprised by the reasonable prices on display at the event and they were doing a good business in the massive sweltering heat. 
Drinking at the market is fine but not outside. It is a very tolerant atmosphere and there was no one even remotely badly behaved at the market that I could see.
 Shade was welcome everywhere.
And I mean everywhere. Rusty was at home, far from the heat and madding crowds. He has a dog door and comes and goes as he likes, switching between shade, sun bathing and air conditioning. He likes to sit in the unfenced driveway and watch the world go by. Visiting the market would have been hard for him.
And they came and went from the bar. Resilient people. I like he heat at Latitude 24 but I do appreciate being able to enjoy air conditioning too. I am not at all like some of my friends and acquaintances who rejoice in living and driving in daily humidity. Stepping into a cool dark living room after a spell outdoors always pleases me.
I heard that yesterday was a day of record heat in the United Kingdom with the highest February temperature ever recorded of 68 degrees in Wales. Around here everyone has been noticing the high temperatures this February and highs all week should be above 80 with humidity to match. Okay be me as outlined above.
I have seen pictures of vehicles trapped in blizzards in the Upper Midwest but it is odd how one gets used to these conditions in the Keys being the norm year round. A friend of mine from Virginia is taking off today on a madcap journey to bring home to me a Suzuki Burgman he spotted online on sale in Texas for a ridiculously low price of $2000, and with only 400 miles on the clock. "You've got to have it" Eric said, as shipping would cost another thousand he offered to use his airline miles to fly to Houston and ride the scooter back to me by next weekend...Astonishing. His big worry is thunderstorms along I-10 as he rides East. I envy him the 1400 mile trip and can't wait to see him and the scooter next weekend. I won't be able to ride it for a while but I'll sit on it and make vroom vroom noises until I can.
My wife loves the pickle guys so that stop is required each visit. They had one really hot model that I incautiously tasted... I am not the asbestos mouth in the family.
Fresh bread is not something one eats every day at my house but we got some really decent homemade fish sandwiches out this ciabatta. 
 Fruit makes for great vibrant colorful pictures so I did.
 Take pictures of heirloom tomatoes...
 And passion fruit which oddly enough feel as light and insubstantial as ping pong balls. Who knew?
 A great day at the market followed by a movie (Stan and Ollie the tearjerker...)...
... and a reminder that just because we live in the Keys doesn't mean we can't get to see the fruits of agriculture on our doorsteps. Great stuff! 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Mindfulness

I have heard the term mindfulness used a fair bit around me since the accident. Then a friend pointed out that perhaps, I'm abbreviating here, mindfulness is actually gratitude. I can't say I'm sure that one excludes the other but the point was that a better description of my state of mind might be "gratitude."
I am not fond of quoting definitions but in this case allow me to make an exception to my rule...from Wikipedia to keep it simple:
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.
Keeping that description in mind I don't see any mention of gratitude so perhaps there is a distinction worth bearing in mind.
I mentioned to a friend that my brush with death changed my outlook considerably however it hasn't changed everyone else's! This tends to leave me out of step. Everyone can see my physical improvement, my ability to walk with a cane, my relative independence at home and my increased hours at work, now 32 per week. But inside my head the things that were so positive for me are impossible to see and harder to explain.
Gary's description of "gratitude" fits the bill I think, much better than "mindfulness." Which still leaves me with a difficult explanation to offer as to how one can be grateful for a calamitous injury...And that's where one has to be aware of the process of recovery. That's where gratitude comes in, thanks to all those who took the time to make it all a bit easier, the visits, the mail, the conversations.
However outside of the gratitude there is the simple pleasure of being alive. My dog is grateful to see me and expresses it much more than he did before. I find Rusty is attached to me very tightly these days, a form of gratitude I'm sure. Mindfulness? who knows.
But there again I am mindful as best as I can be in a world not dedicated to meditation and and introspection. I try to be aware of each day lived,a day that was almost taken from me. When I consider how easily I might not be here I have to be aware of the passage of that every day. Mindfulness even at a crude level is inherent to my every day life. As an extension of both sentiments I have far less patience with myself  on those occasions I don't live up to my self imposed requirements to appreciate every single day.
However I am also very aware that others haven't had this harsh lesson dished out to them and they aren't aware of this evolving thought process in my head. Avoiding people vexatious to my spirit has become more important to me these days. Life's too short to be around assholes is the short version. Yet in the spirit of gratitude how much allowance do I award them, how much string do I unspool for them? Do I just cut and run? It's an interesting dilemma for me as I keep asking myself how often do I forgive myself for coming up short? The answer has to be that I forgive myself endlessly and have therefore the obligation to do the same for others. Forgive them for  annoying me? Sure, but perhaps one can be mindful silently, in an interior dialogue.
Mindfulness and gratitude.What a lot to think about.