It’s late summer already; you still limp and list to one side with your gimpy shorter leg. Recurring bursitis in both hips means neither comfortable, nor restorative sleep. Some days, just pulling your clothing up over your hips causes intense pain as the fabric touches your skin. Because walking is difficult and wears you out so quickly, you spend too much time in your comfy chair with your feet up. Enough of this, you get a prescription from your rheumatologist for a lift for your left shoe. Screw what the surgeon says; he should stump around on uneven legs for months after surgery. Your niece is getting married in a couple of months and you plan to make the 8+ hour drive for the wedding. The two-hour trip to visit your kids is painful enough. Something definitely has to change before you make that long trip.
In the midst of all this physical misery, your [crooked] business partner takes a powder after running up $14K in personal expenses on your corporate credit card while you were off having your hip fixed, leaving you, on your weenie little pension, holding the bag. The credit card company refuses to go after the little weasel and demands monthly payments equal to more than a third of your measly income. After explaining to the collector lady on the phone for the forty-seventh time that you cannot possibly make that kind of payment, she chirps back at you, “I certainly understand. Things like this do happen. So, can I schedule that payment for you for this week?” You give in to frustration. “You know, lady, you are either very stupid, or you are very deaf.”
They continue to harass you. By late summer, you file for bankruptcy. While going bankrupt is no disgrace, it’s particularly painful when you file with a credit score higher than 800, achieved and meticulously maintained over a long period of years. It’s not really a disaster, just more of a giant pain in the ass. You now have no credit, no credit cards and no job. Your mailbox fills up with credit card and new car offers with credit rates anywhere from 36% all the way up to 66%. And you thought there were laws against usury. You’ve been living under a rock. You could never be that desperate. Resigned to coming out of retirement to re-enter the work force, you use your downtown redevelopment contacts to politick for a job.
The wedding date approaches and you are in worse shape than ever. The thought of sitting in your car for all that time next week hurts your brain. At wit’s end, you call your doctor to see if he can help you, but he’s out of town and will call you when he comes back after the weekend. You are leaving in less than a week, not much time before you take off. When you hear from no one by Monday afternoon, you call again and leave a message. Tuesday morning, his assistant returns your call, apologizing for the misunderstanding. Apparently, someone was misinformed and your doctor won’t be back until the end of the week, after you have left. She will try to reach him. Later in the morning, she calls. “Can you be here in 20 minutes?” You throw some clothes on and rush out the door as quickly as you can limp and drag yourself to the car. A cortisone shot in the fanny works wonders and by the next day, the pain abates and you are right as rain. You also have an order for physical therapy in the rehab clinic, beginning as soon as you return from your trip.
You are leaving on Thursday. On Wednesday, now that you can walk, you decide to stop in at your favorite boutique to look for a dress for the big event. You settle on a knee-length dress for the rehearsal dinner and a mini-dress for the wedding. You still have great legs; unfortunately, that matters little, since you have no fancy dress shoes in which to show them off with either outfit. You figure you’ll find something once you get down to your brother’s and if you don’t, you’ll just wear either the one pair of clodhoppers you’ve had built up in the heel, or your too-sexy-for-your-dress knee-high boots, into which your lift fits nicely. You pack your bags and select appropriate jewelry from among the vast collection of your own, lovingly handmade pieces, each waiting for that special buyer to come along and fall in love.
On the road by 6:30 am, you stop to stretch frequently. The drive is more or less comfortable and with light traffic, you make it in just over eight hours. The wedding is two days away. You have time to visit the Amish store the next day, where the proprietor offers you a mug of fresh apple cider, straight from the press as he makes it. Your sister-in-law, the mother of the bride, discovers the day before that the dress she plans to wear to the wedding is too small. You, your brother and his wife go into town in search of shoes for you and a dress for her. The shoe shop is next door to the dress boutique. Your brother very generously buys you a pair of excellent shoes, after which, you go next door to help his wife find something suitable for such an important occasion. Both tasks accomplished, you go home to prepare for the rehearsal dinner.
The wedding goes off without a hitch, the delirious couple flies off on their honeymoon the next day, and two days later, you are home safe and sound.
PT three times a week for 12 weeks works wonders. By the time you’re done at the beginning of February, you are walking pretty normally, without much pain, but something is still not right. You can’t seem to last more than about five minutes without your leg muscles becoming seriously fatigued. No matter what you do, you endurance does not improve. You start a great, new job at the beginning of February and with your first check, you join a gym to work out, thinking that perhaps you’re just not strong enough yet. Working out is great for your body overall; you achieve great strength, especially in your legs. By April, although your endurance has still not improved, you haven’t much time to worry about how you feel. Consumed with production of a series of 6-foot-wide posters for a grand opening event at work, details of the annual art fair you manage, your art guild duties as president, working with unhappy refractive surgery patients through your non-profit and caring for your other mother, it’s really all you can do to maintain your equanimity each day.
First Fig, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light!
(to be continued)