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Convalescent

October 26, 2016

Three weeks on crutches and I am so annoyed by not being able to walk without them yet that I’m about to go out of my mind. This is what my brother and I used to call the “couch grouch” stage of recovery. It is no fun for anyone. Just as well that Ron has meetings all day and into the night for the next few days, and that most of my local friends are similarly busy with big events on campus.

It’s exhausting to walk with crutches. I keep hoping that I am at least developing big biceps, or something. Monday night I walked what felt like the length of a football field to get to symphony rehearsal, and by the time I got to my seat and got the violin out, my arms were trembling and so tired that it was hard to play.

Everyone has been so helpful and sympathetic and I feel ungratefully irritable at continuing to have to ask for help with the essentials, while I sit around and watch the plants go unwatered because I can’t carry the can and it’s not that important to water the last of the mums before frost comes, anyway.

Walking anywhere with crutches becomes a performance, like in John Sutherland’s poem “Convalescent:”

His first steps echoed his plans perfectly.
Exactly when his shadow nudged the door
The trees’ applause began; beside the drive
The martial pines stood stiffly at attention.

Later there was the moment when he posed
Gazing into the river. In that hush
The sky flexed like a shutter; like a lens
The water clutched at his undying image.

But heavy, even as he climbed the hill,
Tugging at progress like a regal train,
The hard road twisted heaving after him;
Heavy as hail upon the sweating leaves
The dust shook like a storm behind the car
Whose windows peopled all the grove with eyes.

You’ve got to be plucky and brave when you’re convalescent and go out in public. Anything less could turn into a spectacle.

For the last week, I’ve been reminding myself of the man with one pants leg pinned up who passed me on crutches, going out of a local restaurant as I was going in. He looked up at me, grinned, and said “I’ve been looking for someone to race!” However hard my road is, his is probably harder. I try to keep thinking about that and be grateful.

Yesterday a package arrived, sent by a friend who lives in another state, containing all the ingredients for afternoon tea. So I’m trying to look forward to that, and other sedentary pleasures.

Inside, though, I’m an ungrateful grouch, tired of reading, tired of writing, tired of mostly sitting still while everyone races about, even when they’re doing really nice things for me.

My brother sent me flowers with a note that read “”hope you are up and kicking soon. You kneed to get better. For now you can be kneedy.”

Yep, he knows me.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2016 11:16 am

    Crutches are a full body workout for sure. I can remember not using them properly and rubbing my skin raw on my upper body because I didn’t know how to use them without having them be big abrasive tools. I hope you are more skilled than I was.

    • October 26, 2016 11:20 am

      I’m pretty darn skilled. I have wooden crutches that were given to me at Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1985. They have no padding on the top part that goes under the arms, but it doesn’t matter, because I don’t let that part touch me at all. You’ve got to hold yourself up with your arm muscles if you really want to get anywhere without injuring yourself more, as you remember!

  2. October 26, 2016 12:40 pm

    Wishing you a speedy recovery! Also, you’re allowed to be grumpy – take advantage of it while you can 😉

    • October 26, 2016 12:49 pm

      Oh, I’m taking advantage all right. I owe all my friends (and my son) big favors after this past month!

  3. October 27, 2016 4:25 pm

    I imagine it must be hard to have to rely on others all the time for mundane things. But it seems like you’ve got a good perspective on it all. I hope you are back up to speed quickly!

    • October 27, 2016 4:43 pm

      Thanks! I drove myself to campus and back today (power brakes), and that helps.

  4. October 27, 2016 4:31 pm

    I have never had to use crutches before thank goodness. My husband had, when he broke his hip in a car accident and he hated them too, stopped using them as soon as he possibly could! Hopefully this all will soon be a fading memory.

    • October 27, 2016 4:46 pm

      The crutches are more maneuverable than a walker, which I also have, from the left knee replacement. It’s so irritating, though, to not be able to take a step without help. I’m bearing more weight on the knee every day, so am telling myself to be patient.

  5. October 29, 2016 9:26 am

    Ugh, sounds terrible! I’d be cranky too — I hate hate hate having to ask for help and not being self-sufficient. I hope you are convalescing at a speedy rate, or at least speedy enough that you can soon dispense with the rotten crutches.

    • October 29, 2016 9:35 am

      Every morning I get up and test to see if this is the day my right knee can bear my weight. Alas, it is not this day.
      Yesterday I spent a lot of time obsessively doing the exercises to build up the muscles around the knee. I guess I’ll continue that today. It’s something to do.

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