Sunday, January 27, 2019

Life In Key West

My  days  as a  reforming  cripple are starting to follow a distinct pattern, and soon enough we shall be returning to life on Cudjoe Key, in a few weeks I hope. So  I thought this might be the time to remember how we lived during our stay in the Key West condo on loan to us. 
I had no idea how accurate the prediction would be that it will take months for me to get back to normal and in fact the elevator in the complex has been a great thing as stairs are still problematic for me and the chair lift at our Cudjoe home is still being checked out for secure operation and is proving more problematic than anticipated to get it working. This leaves my wife with a very long commute, sometimes more than an hour to her classroom in Marathon but she dutifully does it with a smile. I am proud of her. Rusty and I start our days together with a walk, sometimes close by in the city,  and some days I drive him out to the mangroves he loves, where he can run the trails and and road like the wild little thing he is, before going home and passing out on the couch.
After a  few hours of amusing the dog I head off to physical therapy three days a week where the lovely and talented Teresa puts me through my paces. Her training when combined with my three days a week in a  conventional gym, keep me building back my strength without wrecking my posture and my joints.

I cannot get on the ground yet so I can't do broga  but three afternoons a week I work out in a program called Aging Boldly, designed for older people but with no concessions in terms of tough sweat producing exercises. 90 minutes in the tender care of Dean the Magician will leave you gasping. On top of all that twice a week I check in with a chiropractor who is slowly and successfully straightening out my grotesque posture brought about by walking hunched and in pain. 
It is in the gym I see the greatest losses from my old life. I am learning once again to squat and slowly I build up my core strength and my muscles in my limbs. The nerves in my right leg are shot and I am told may take two years to grow them back. Currently I can only balance on my left leg and my right is difficult to bend fully. Putting on socks requires the use of that brilliant tool:
But at last my feet are shrinking enough that I can fit socks over my swollen extremities. I had a heart warming encounter at the gym. A fellow exerciser came over to me and confided she had broken all four limbs and her pelvis, right down to her wrists and fingers, when a car ran her over. I was astonished. Her injuries were worse even than mine and there was no sign of them on casual inspection. It will heal she said in encouragement and I am sure she is right judging by her own very effective example.  
At the apartment complex too a stranger stepped up, the owner of a car with a handicapped parking placard awarded to him for war wounds suffered in Vietnam. Jerry said he could see I walk with a lot more difficulty than he does and he said he would avoid using the handicapped spot in front of the entrance to give me a better chance of easy access to the elevator. It was a heart warming offer that came completely out of the blue. I was stunned and very grateful especially as he has suffered quite a bit for his service over the past forty  years. 
The other big chunk out of my life- and it's not that big! -is twenty hours a week at work in the 911 center. The surgeon has authorized up to six hours a shift but until the end of the month I am limiting myself to four. I used to show up in a wheelchair and could barely concentrate for the full four hours. Nowadays I use my walker  to get from the parking lot to the elevator and some nights when I am feeling frisky and I walk with my cane alone. I have  a lumbar pillow and use a regular chair in the office which makes me fell much more normal. About the only thing I can't do very easily is pick up stray pens off the floor. The police department has been incredibly adaptable in helping me fit back in to my work life. I am very grateful as work helps bring a feeling of normality to my life.
I make  it a point to have lunch with friends from time to time, and I ponder how my life will change when I am living at Mile Marker 23  not Mile Marker 4. I am actually looking forward to the commute, giving myself a breathing space between work and home of a mere half hour. Right now my commute is less than ten minutes which I find gives me no time to decompress. I am one of those few people who live in the Keys and don't mind driving. I'd rather be riding but another Burgman 200 is a few months away still.
I have come to appreciate over the years how lucky we are to live not only in a nice house on a  canal with a fantastic thoughtful landlord, but also in a location that gives me easy access to wilderness walks with Rusty. I know lots of trails close to my house and I never  really thought about how lucky I am to have so much open space near my home. It was brought to my attention on my few trips out of the hospital to cross Miami to the doctor's office for check ups. Miles of urbanization...
I know Florida is generally considered to be home of the boring landscape and it's true I wouldn't mind a hill or a river from time to time but I have come to be very fond of the unique and particular landscape we live in among these rocky islands. Not everyone gets to see tropical plants in the wild every day; Rusty and I do.
Yes, I will enjoy returning to the suburbs but Key West is  a special place all right and  it has occurred to me that one of the new generation electric bicycles would make  getting around town very efficient. A 23 mile commute requires internal combustion unfortunately. Or more time than I would care to commit to traveling at 20 miles per hour. I saw this apartment complex on Eisenhower Drive and I thought how little it resembles what we generally think of Key West. 
I don't mind apartment living but I know Rusty misses his dog door and his ability to come and go as he pleases. He has been a good and patient dog in all this turmoil and he as much as my wife and her shorter commute, and me with my longer commute, deserves a return to normal. As normal as it can get. I guess my family has not yet adapted to being urban dwellers. Life in the big city has been fun and thank heavens for that elevator but  I am ready to take one more step on the path to my own life.