Tag Archives: disability

How do I thank thee? Let me count the ways.

29 Feb

Hello fellow XLH-ers and other followers of my blog. Writing another post has been on my “to-do” list, but life has gotten in the way!

I’ve been inspired to write about saying “thank you.” It seems I’ve had many opportunities to say that two-word phrase recently. I’ve come to realize that saying thank you works for many situations, when other words fail me. There are three specific ways that I’ve found it to be useful.

#1 The Sarcastic “Thank you.”

#2 The Genuine “Thank you.”

#3 The “I’m-At-a-Loss-For-Other-Words Thank you.”

The #1 Thank you, sarcastic version, I haven’t had to use much. A possible use for it might be when someone says to you, “Wow, you look like $&*@ today.” Your response of “thank you” should be accompanied by an appropriate facial expression, like a smirk or that little head bobble that teenage girls are so good at doing. I’m still working on the head bobble.

The #2 Thank you, the “genuine thank you,” is one  I hope I use regularly. I hope I live a life of genuine thankfulness. Recently I had occasion to use it regarding my XLH.

An acquaintance stopped me at a social event and asked, in the most southern “bless your heart” drawl you can imagine, “Banjogrrl, may I ask you a personal question?”

“Sure,” I said. “This should be interesting,” I thought.

She asked, “Does it pain you to walk?”

I wish I could spell out “pain” the way she said it, but it was at least two syllables and stretched out as only we southerners can do it and used as a verb. (Think Julia Sugarbaker from the TV show “Designing Women,” although I think Julia was not nearly as sweet as my acquaintance is. But Julia’s southern drawl was great.)

“Yes,” I said, wondering if I need to work on my facial expressions a little more while walking. Less grimace, less tension or something, I guess.

“Well, it pains me to walk, too and I know a little how you feel, although we probably have different health problems.”

Awkward silence. “Thank you for asking,” I said to her. I was genuinely touched by her reaching out to connect with me. We didn’t go into what our health problems are, but it was a mutually understood connection.

I’ve had a couple occasions to use the #3 “I’m-At-a-Total-Loss-For-Other-Words Thank you.”

One was when another acquaintance out of the blue and with other people around pulled something out of her bag, handed it to me and said, “Have you ever tried grape seed extract? I’ve been watching you and I think this would help you. I take these pills every day and now my hands aren’t as stiff. You should try these.” Along with the bottle of grape seed extract was a brochure explaining the benefits of said product.

I didn’t know what to say to her except, “Thank you.” There were other people around and it wasn’t a good time to do the 30-second speech about X-linked Hypophosphatemia and why I might not move through this world very gracefully. I didn’t open the  bottle of pills and knew I needed to return them. A couple weeks later when she asked if I had tried them yet (maybe there was no visual improvement in my walking?) I told her, “It’s complicated but no, I have not used them and I’m returning them to you to give to someone else who might benefit from these.” Let me tell you, if grape seed extract actually helped the 1 in 20,000 people in the world who have XLH, then the pharmacies would have those pills flying off the shelves.

The other time I used the “I’m at a Total Loss for Words so I’ll Say Thank You Instead” was when I was chatting with an acquaintance as I was about to get into my car. She asked me, while following me around to the passenger side so that I could put something in my front passenger seat, “Banjogrrl, you seem to be moving a bit slower these days. Are you having trouble with your back?”

Once again, not willing to give the 30-second XLH explanation speech and as I made my way back around to the driver’s side, I responded with “I do have some bone issues.” Part of the reason for being non-specific with people is that it requires a certain level of vulnerability and frankly, I was ready to sit down in my car and go home and just not interested in being vulnerable in that moment.

So, as I was getting into the driver’s seat, she leaned in, placed a hand on my shoulder and exclaimed in all earnestness, “Be healed in the name of Jesus!”

!!!

I looked up at her sincere face and said, “Thank you,” because this time, I really DIDN’T know what else to say. We said our goodbyes and then I drove away.

Sigh. As I drove away, I started to feel aggravated. What I wish I could have said was,  “I was born with a rare disease called x-linked hypophosphatemia. I have noticeable physical characteristics of XLH and then some that aren’t so noticeable. I was diagnosed when I was ONE YEAR OLD. I’m pretty sure my parents, both of whom are alive and are people of faith, have been praying for me for the last FIFTY-FOUR AND ONE HALF YEARS. What makes you think that God would listen to you and your quick prayer of healing and not my parents?”

But of course, I didn’t say that. I said, “Thank you” because I was at a total loss of words. Well, at a loss of words that I could have said without my voice rising to a fever pitch.

Later, I recounted these three incidents which happened in a span of a few weeks to Professorgrrl and asked her, “Am I looking that bad lately? Have I gotten worse and don’t even realize it?” I mean, I know I’m not improving and healing. The kind of healing that woman prayed for is not going to happen. Healing with a bottle of pills isn’t going to happen either.

How could it? Do some people think I could wake up one morning and be 6″ taller, have all my teeth and a perfectly straight back and legs? If I did wake up like that, I wouldn’t even be me. Being the shortest and “bowleggedest” kid in the school is part of who I am. My world view has been shaped by XLH. Life is not black and white through my eyes. God does not heal or fix children with genetic disorders. God left it to the people to do that. And so far, the people can’t fix this but only a certain amount. If you want to pray for us, pray that we can cope. Pray that we will keep our sense of humor. Pray that we can find doctors and dentists who are interested in taking us on as patients. Pray that we can get health insurance after the Affordable Care Act gets repealed. Pray that the insurance companies will start covering ALL of our medications. Pray that the new drug that is now being tested will help us. Pray that parents will teach their children that it’s wrong to make fun of other children who are different. Pray, pray, pray.

And for those honest, real prayers, I say, “Thank you.” (And that’s a genuine thank you.)

By the way, today is Rare Disease Day. Go hug someone with a rare disease or who is a caregiver of someone with a rare disease.

Copyright  S.G. Hunter, 2016

 

 

 

On the brink of my 55th

6 Jul

Tomorrow I will turn 55 years old. My body feels like 75 sometimes, and my mind feels like 35 most of the time. Young at heart, with an occasional “old lady” look of uncontrollable tufts of white hairs that I can’t seem to manage with my hair brush. This is how I look before morning coffee.

Grumpy Bird

In the last couple of months, I have not thought too much about how I feel (regarding the XLH). My broken foot is feeling much better, and I am taking a significant amount of time off from my job during the month of July, which gives my body time to rest from my physical job.

What I have felt in the last couple of months has not been about myself much at all. I’ve mostly been feeling bad for other people who have had some difficult times. Serious illness, death and unexpected major  surgeries have touched the lives of some of my friends and family members.  I’ve felt fortunate that compared to what others have suffered, I’ve been doing okay.

My mother has been an inspiration to me recently, too. About two months or so ago, she fell and her artificial hip popped out of joint. It took a doctor and three of her assistants to pop it back in when my mother showed up in the emergency room. (They had to sedate her first!) My mother told me later it was THE worst pain she had ever felt. She’s been recovering at home for several weeks now, with a lot of restrictions on her activity. I have spent some weekends with her and I have been amazed at how easy she has been to care for. She doesn’t complain or whine or gripe. We’ve had fun watching some TV, talking and singing duets while I played the ukulele. I just don’t know if I could be as good a patient as she has been if I were ever put to the test.

I have mentioned in previous blogs that there has been a question as to whether or not I inherited my XLH from her, since she has some of the symptoms of people with this disease/disorder. I just found out last week that some recent blood work she had indicates that she does NOT have XLH. That would make me a spontaneous case.

When my sister told me my mother’s blood test results over the phone last week, I said, “Wow. She doesn’t have XLH! I’m adopted.”

She laughed out loud and said, “You’re a fluke.” We used to ask our mother when we were children if we were adopted and made her show us our birth certificates. I don’t know why we were convinced we were adopted.

But now that I know I didn’t inherit a mutated X chromosome from her, I am worried! What if one day I’m temporarily disabled (like she is now) and I find out that I also did not inherit her sweet nature and pleasant personality? What if I also had a mutation on the attitude gene and become a total grouch and a whiner? I take 7 pills a day for my XLH but there’s no pill for grousing and whining. Seriously, though, I hope I can be like her. I’m sure I will be put to the test one day.

In the meantime, I try to daily count my blessings. I try to enjoy friends when I’m with them, enjoy my family when I see them, inhale the sweet gardenias that are blooming right now, look at the sky, the clouds, the stars, and take in all the beauty that I can.

I like to watch the hummingbirds feeding on my back deck and remind myself to savor the sweetness of life, whenever I can, wherever I can.

June Hummer

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2015

If a Tree Falls

5 Aug

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Apparently this philosophical question has been batted around for decades, even hundreds of years. I have always thought it to be about the dumbest and most egocentric question I have ever heard. AS IF sound is completely dependent upon some human to hear it. AS IF nothing exists unless WE say it does. That’s an incredibly arrogant point of view. Just ask my dog, who hears the rumble of thunder long before I do. Sound is not dependent upon me.

However, speaking of trees, I have had some interesting trees in my camera viewfinder this summer. This tree pictured below houses some red-headed woodpeckers. Earlier in the spring when I saw it, though the tree appeared to be quite dead, it stood straight and tall. When I saw it again this summer, it looked as if it had been struck by lightning and had cracked and would have fallen to the ground, had it not been caught by a neighboring pine tree. It still houses the woodpeckers, though I’m sure they had to rearrange their nest now that it has a major case of lean-itis.

Woodpecker peering into tree hole

Leaning tree

Woodpecker peering into tree hole

Close-up of Red-headed woodpecker in the leaning tree

The other tree I have found this summer was standing quite tall and majestic in a winery vineyard. It appears to be dead, too. It strikes quite a pose as it stands completely alone in the vineyard, with no other trees nearby. You can see that there’s a bird perched in it, too.

Like a tree planted by the grape vines

When this vineyard tree falls one day, and I’m sure it will, I imagine that the sound will be something like a loud “thud” and it might even shake the ground when it hits, since there will be nothing to catch its fall. When the woodpecker tree fell sometime this late spring or early summer, I imagine that the sound it made was something like a “crack” followed by a slow “whoosh” as it fell over to rest in the arms of the pine tree nearby.

Why the difference? A scientist would have a different answer than the one I’m going to suggest. So would a sound technician. “Blah, blah, blah” is the sound I imagine coming out of their mouths.

The difference, and I’m sure you’ve guessed it already, is the woodpecker tree is surrounded by a community of other trees who caught it before it hit the ground. The landing was quite soft. Sadly, the lone vineyard tree has no other community of trees to provide a soft landing. It will fall hard.

As I get older, I have to work a little harder, I think, to make sure that I surround myself with a community of friends, family, and companions in my life’s journey. It’s very easy for me to sit at home and isolate myself in some way. At the end of the work day, I am tired, and so it takes a little extra effort to go out with friends or make plans with those I love. I have watched some older people isolate themselves, too. It takes energy to be with other people, let’s face it. Even extroverts get tired, or so I hear.

I think that some of my fellow XLH-ers, too, probably get tired from the amount of physical energy it takes to actually get out, if they are able. This probably applies to others who are becoming less-abled either due to aging or due to medical problems. One of my relatives, whom I love very much, is finally getting some help narrowing down her diagnosis of an auto-immune disease. She’s ready for whatever help she can get so that she can feel better. Right now, though, reaching out to those around her takes a lot of energy, but she is managing to do that. I think she understands the importance of community and I hope she’ll continue to reach out to me and others for support.

We’re all going to fall someday, in some way. We may fall emotionally, spiritually, morally, or mentally. We may even fall physically. (I usually have about one big “splat” per year, and thank goodness, I’ve already had mine this year so the rest of the year is looking pretty good.) I ask myself and invite you to ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with a community of others who might catch me or at least let me lean on them awhile?” I hope that I am doing that. I hope you are doing that. We need each other. Maybe physically getting out is impossible for you—I know that it is for some. Have you tried social media, like Facebook? Can you join an online support group? We XLH-ers have a wonderful group, found at xlhnetwork.org, and I know that many other support groups exist for people who need support for one thing or another. I have rarely commented in my group, but just reading the comments and emails of others makes me feel like I’m part of a community that cares and understands my particular medical condition. These days, there are support groups for all kinds of people, so it’s a lot easier to find folks with whom to connect. I even know some people who are not a part of a faith community that meets in a building somewhere because they’re disenchanted and disappointed with organized religion and yet they still meet regularly with like-minded friends who share their beliefs and desires to make the world a better place. Often we can just take a look around and find someone on whom we can lean.

Better yet, we can be that person who is close by, waiting to catch someone when they fall.

Copyright Banjogrrldiaries and S.G. Hunter, 2013-2018

I Can Dance, Part II

5 Jul

20130705_205746

 

I have finally finished the Limberjack Cow that I started making, as I mentioned at the end of my June 9th post, “I Can Dance!” She was truly a challenge, too. I felt like an orthopedic surgeon, with all the issues I faced making her. Legs fell off, knees got stuck, and she also suffered a broken knee from vigorous dancing. She had a genetic disorder, though…there was a weird little knot or something in part of the wood of that particular area of one of her lower legs. I repaired it, with wood glue, CA glue and a paper splint. So far, so good. Too bad repairs on human knees aren’t that easy! Medacow paid for it…ha!

I’ve been inspired to name her “Dolly” because of her signature song, “Buffalo Gals,” an American folk song that is over 100 years old!

I danced with a dolly with a hole in her stocking, and her feet kept a-rocking and her knees kept a-knocking

Oh I danced with a dolly with a hole in her stocking and we danced by the light of the moon.

So, Dolly the Limberjack Cow, now shares the spotlight with Charlie (short for Charlotte) the Limberjack Chicken and Corky the Limberjack Dog. She’s a little imperfect and though her maker (me) intended for her to be perfect, the materials used were imperfect, so, I got a cow with a few physical challenges. Her dancing is not very good, either. We have a strong connection, Dolly and I.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQldFJezVag

It brings to mind a quote that I saw someone share on Facebook last week.

Everything you do is based on choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period [sic]

First of all, I thought it was funny that the quote had “Period” at the end of it, but no period after the word “Period.” Yes, I am the grammar police.

Second, it sent me into a mini-rant. I’m small, so everything I do is mini-sized. Professorgrrl wisely told me that I take these kinds of posts and quotes way too seriously. She said that most people on FB don’t consider who is “in the room” when they make broad generalizations in their posts. In person, this person might have thought more carefully about what she was saying if she saw that there was a physically disabled person in the room, or a mentally challenged person in the room, i.e., people who had no choices in things they were born with that do influence everything they do, and every choice they make if they do have any choices at all. And had she said it with me actually in the room, I wouldn’t have been able to keep my mouth shut and would have probably said some things that I regret. But since she posted it on FB, I was able to contain myself and not make any comments. So far, anyway.

I am certainly not suggesting that most people have no choices in their lives. But the quote insinuates that we have many choices, and it’s up to us to make the right decision based on our array of choices. It’s a very America-centric view of decision-making. Here in the U.S.A. we have almost too many choices about many things. If you don’t believe me, go to WalMart to buy an apple or look up directions to anywhere on Google Maps. (I always get three routes to choose from.) However, I have been to countries where people were born into abject poverty and have no choices about most things, even survival. Are they “responsible for every decision and choice” they make? In a situation like that, making a decision or choice might be either an impossibility or a luxury. The same goes with mentally challenged people or many physically challenged or disabled people. If a person gets rheumatoid arthritis, did they choose to become disabled? Or collect disability payments IF they’re available? And the person with a genetic disorder, like XLH…what choices does that person or the parents of that child have? Pretty limited, if you ask me. In the real world, there are many people who do not have a wide selection of choices from which to make the “right” decision.

I had an interesting conversation with my father yesterday, as a matter of fact, regarding choices. As he has gotten older, he asks me more and more questions like, “How are your legs? How are your knees? How are your hips?” He’s worried about me, and I think worried about my future. Yesterday, he said he wondered if he and my mother had done enough for me when I was diagnosed as a one-year-old child. My mother has told me that the orthopedist told her to exercise my legs everyday and she did, she says. I wore leg braces when I was four and wore them for about a year. I took a high dosage of Vitamin D (50,000 I.U.’s daily) until puberty. My father, in our conversation yesterday, said he has often wondered if they could have chosen another doctor who possibly could have done more. He was even tearful when he said this to me. I reassured him that they did the best they could do, and from what I can tell, that was the standard treatment in the early 1960’s. That is definitely not the treatment today, because we now have discovered so much more about this genetic disorder. But in the early ’60’s, my parents had two choices…get the only treatment for me that was currently available or do nothing. And, to be good parents, they really had one and only one choice, and one doctor in town who even knew anything about this disorder. So, they chose to follow that doctor’s orders. In a lighter moment in the conversation, he said that it was so very hard for him to see me in those leg braces, but that I had quickly learned how “to fly” in those things and he was amazed by that. I had no choice as a child but to follow my parents’ orders…wear the braces. Eventually, I also chose to not let them inhibit me from running, too. (His statement reminded me of that moment in the move Forest Gump, where he runs right out of his leg braces…that was my favorite part of the whole movie!)

Yes, sometimes our choices are limited, and for some people, there might not even be the luxury of any choice. We are not all dealt the same hand, that’s for sure. Even in the XLH community, there are some who have very debilitating and extremely painful manifestations of the disorder and others, like me, who can still get around unaided and get by with less meds. My heart goes out to those whose choices are so limited or even non-existent and I think of them when I read those inane posts on FB. Sometimes I just want to say to those FB friends, “Look around and consider who else is in the room when you say that.” It may be a limberjack cow like me with a bad knee who can’t dance very well, or worse, someone who can’t dance at all.

So, who is “in my room”? I’d like to honor some people who have had few, if any, choices about their circumstances in life and who have made the best decisions for themselves that they could, given the limited choices they have had. A young friend of mine with cognitive disabilities comes to mind. She’s made some terrible decisions in her life and I am not sure she has been able to understand that she could have made different decisions that would have made her life easier. I do not hold her completely responsible for her bad decisions, either, given her inability to carefully think through things before she made these poor decisions. My dear uncle, whose body is racked with pain from arthritis and gout and several other medical problems, has shrunk from 5’10” down to 5’2″. Whenever the doctors or nurses have asked him, “Do you drink?” he has answered wryly, “Not yet.” The “choice” to suffer was not made by him, but passed down through his genetic code. His current choices are extremely limited–try to live or not. I would not judge him for whatever decision he made regarding his quality of life. He certainly didn’t ask for this circumstance. There are other people “in my room.” I honor and admire and respect them for doing the best they could with their lot in life and the limited choices they have had. I certainly honor both my parents for making the only choice available to them in regards to my treatment. There was only one decision to make–to be a good parent. No other choices were possible for good, loving parents. And, as it turned out, administering 50,000 I.U.’s of Vitamin D a day until puberty was NOT the correct treatment and some have even suggested it was a really bad idea. But it was the early ’60’s and there were no other “standard” treatments at that time. Are my parents “responsible” for making that decision? I certainly don’t think so!

Who is in your room?

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017

I Can Dance!

9 Jun

I can dance! Okay, not really. I mean, I used to be able to cut a few moves when I was younger, since I am a musician, after all, but with this whole aging thing, plus the addition of having XLH, my moves are not very cool looking. I have very good rhythm from the waist up, but my lower half can’t bust any moves, and if I try, well, it’s not pretty. It leans more towards being comical. It’s a shame, too, since I do have good rhythm, and all.

I have recently figured out a way around that. I play in a music group and we now have a percussionist on occasion and when we play in retirement homes, we’ve been bringing out the handmade limberjack cat that I’ve had for probably 15 years or so. I became concerned that the cat was a little too special to cart around to these gigs, and decided that what we really needed was a limberjack dog. If you don’t know what a limberjack is, check out my video of Corky, the Limberjack Dog that I made.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zpa7KRIcRQ

Being somewhat obsessive in nature, I decided that I just couldn’t stop with making only one limberjack. So, I felt like I needed to make a Limberjack Chicken, to dance to “Cluck Old Hen.” Now, this chicken can REALLY bust a few moves! She throws in a little tap dancing, too. I admire her fancy footwork.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8A8plyxSBI

I have a confession to make, too. I have watched these videos several times. I have always loved watching people dance; even ballet thrills me. Maybe there’s a touch of envy, too, when I watch others dance, but really, I am just fascinated by the strength and agility that it takes to be a good dancer. I even like watching ballet. I think good dancing is really fun to watch. Watching my limberjacks dance on the videos gives me a similar feeling, with a little comedy thrown in, because I KNOW there’s no way any of God’s creatures could do what those crazy limberjack dolls do.

When I posted my limberjack dog and my limberjack chicken videos, I had a few friends who enjoyed them so much, they wanted me to make one for them. Now, I can tell you that this is not a business I want to start. You can buy a homemade limberjack for $30-$40 online, plus shipping, and I don’t know how in the world people can charge so LITTLE for making those things. Maybe I’m just slow in the shop—it did take a little longer for me, of course, since I had to draw my own designs, but still—it’s not a money-making operation!

So, here’s what I’m doing, instead. I am offering my detailed woodworking plans (with the drawing of the dog and the chicken) along with photographs so that you can make your own limberjack dog or chicken. Maybe you can’t dance due to physical challenges, but your hands still work, so you can give these a try. If you know a woodworker (they don’t have to be very advanced—I’m not!) then ask them to make one for you. Perhaps you know a physical therapist or someone who works in music therapy with kids or adults who can use one of these, too. I’m not charging for my plans but I am making a request: if you’re a woodworker, make two of them—one to keep and one to give to someone who might not otherwise be able to dance or who works with kids or adults with physical disabilities. I showed the videos to my physical therapist friend and she asked me to come do a “show” for some of the physically challenged kids that she works with. Kids love these. As a matter of fact, adults love these. Now, maybe you don’t know of someone that you can give one of these to. So, if you want my woodworking plans, then please consider making a minimum $5 donation (that’s about the cost of a set of easy woodworking plans these days) to XLH Network, which can be found via the internet at www.xlhnetwork.org. Many XLH-er’s have either never been able to dance or perhaps, like me, they know their dancing days are over, at least from the waist down. Your contribution is tax-deductible.

How to request the plans: I am hesitant to post my email address on a blog, due to the prevalence of spammers, so here’s my idea. You can send me your email address in a comment to this blog. I will copy the email address and send you the plans (in a Word document for the instructions and a pdf. file of the drawings) but will not “approve” your comment (if it has your email address in it) to be published in my blog. If you want to make a comment to my post, like, “Cool! Love the chicken!” then you can send that comment separately from your request with the email. The nice comment will be “approved” and shown on the blog, but I’m not going to let your email address be shown. Those spammers…they are annoying, aren’t they???

Just so you know—I am now working on a cow and a rooster. The music is still playing so why stop with two dancing limberjacks?

Mobility

4 Dec

I have been inspired to write about physical disabilities today. Unfortunately, the inspiration came from a neighbor who recently had a fall…in front of my house!

The day after Thanksgiving, my neighbor informed Professorgrrl that a couple weeks prior, she had tripped over an uneven section of the sidewalk in front of our house, late at night when she was walking her dog. Her fall landed her in the emergency room with cuts on her face and knees and a sprain in her ankle. She wanted Professorgrrl to know about this in case we wanted to call the city and let them know of the accident and that she had “taken photos” of the sidewalk where she fell. She said that in her hometown up north, if two people fell in a particular section of sidewalk, the city would take action to repair the sidewalk. But, two people have to get hurt before they will do anything…

Professorgrrl is VERY passionate when it comes to the subject of access for people with physical disabilities. She recently bought a car specifically because it would hold her, me, her mother and her mother’s walker at the same time, so that we could all go to church together. One of the reasons that she chose this particular church to attend is because the handicapped access was so easy…there is parking in front right at the door, a ramp, a place to park the walker and wide aisles in the sanctuary. She is also considering getting a new hair stylist for her mother because the handicapped entrance at the current beauty shop is through a narrow back door that leads into the break room where the hairstylists are hanging out between appointments and not real interested in moving their butts out of the way when “Mama” comes through with her walker. We’ve found another place that has a very nice ramp into the front of the building, and so we’re going to check it out. If this new stylist doesn’t cut “Mama’s” hair as well the stylist at the other shop, though, then we’ll keep taking her to the place with poor access, since for “Mama” beauty trumps convenience.

Professorgrrl is also sensitive about this because she knows that I have been known to stumble or fall when my legs or knees aren’t cooperating. And just as an aside, last year on one of our early morning dog-walks, I tripped over some uneven section of the sidewalk about this time of the year. I remember that because I was wearing a hoodie. I clearly remember the sidewalk rapidly advancing towards my face as I was falling forward when all of a sudden, I felt a hard pull on the neck of my hoodie and I stopped in mid-air, my face inches from the sidewalk. Professorgrrl had caught me by the hoodie mid-fall and stopped the fall before its potentially painful conclusion. That was the strangest feeling I have ever had. It was as if some angel had reached down from the heavens and rescued me from a LOT of pain. I am pretty sure I would have broken a knee or two or something, but fortunately, I did not.

Unfortunately for my neighbor, though, there was no one to catch her before she hit the ground one night a couple of weeks ago when she tripped on the sidewalk. And this has really made me think about how I am very unaware of some of these dangers for others who are unsuspecting because I am usually so extra careful, that I often pay excessive attention to every step I take, including those in front of the house. It had never really occurred to me to call the city to repair those sections, because I know they are there and know to be very careful. Another neighbor, who was curious as to why the city was spending so much time in front of my house, was not surprised when I told her they were replacing two sections of the sidewalk. She said she always warned her granddaughter to be careful and not run on the sidewalks on our block because they are so uneven.

So, I realized that because I now scrutinize every place where I’m about to place my feet, I have assumed that others do the same. That’s just not the case. They’ve not needed to think about whether or not they’ve lifted their feet high enough or if they can catch themselves and keep themselves from falling.

I wonder if, perhaps, most people, like my neighbor who fell, go along in life for 60 years or so and one day find out that they are not as sure-footed as they used to be. They may trip and almost fall, or they might actually fall and all of a sudden, they might think, “Oh. I didn’t see that thing that tripped me up.” Or, “Oh, I’m a little stiff today and I guess I didn’t step up high enough.” We all probably do it. One day you’re going along and can read size 8 font and then all of a sudden, one day you realize you need a size 18 font to read comfortably or, worse, reading glasses, a magnifier and a flashlight.

I have never been extremely sure-footed, and am getting less sure-footed with age, and as a result, it never occurred to me that perhaps I ought to look around and notice the sidewalks in my neighborhood that might trip SOMEONE ELSE up…someone who doesn’t realize how treacherous old sidewalks in an old neighborhood can be and hasn’t constantly monitored their every step before they take it, because they didn’t need to.

The GOOD news is, Professorgrrl called the city last Monday, and on Tuesday morning, they were out there at 9 AM pulling up five bad sections of sidewalk…two in front of my house and three in front of the church next door. On Wednesday, they had poured concrete into the forms they had made for the sections in front of the church. On Thursday, they came and poured black asphalt in the sections in front of my house. I was informed that this was something new the city was trying…where the sidewalk sections are crumbling and being raised up by tree roots (planted in the median by the city) they are pouring asphalt (which has more “give” to it than concrete, and won’t crack as much as concrete will as those tree roots continue to grow). This Monday morning, one week after the phone call, they sealed the asphalt sections and painted those sections to look like concrete. They also filled in dirt, planted grass seed and spread hay where they had dug around to replace the sections in front of the church building.

Sidewalk repairs- asphalt with sealantSidewalk repairs- asphalt with sealant

I have to say I was impressed with the speed in which they made this repair. I guess nothing says “fix this ASAP” like “emergency room” and “took photos of the sidewalk.” The new sections look great. In fact, they look so good, I wish they had gone ahead and replaced the entire length of our property so it would all match. But, that’s the Martha Stewart side of me coming out. I thanked the guys last week for coming out so quickly but now I even feel inspired to call the city transportation department and thank them for making our little section of the block safer. In fact, I’m thinking that I may also encourage them to take a look around the neighborhood at several other spots that I have now noticed are actually as bad or worse than those sections they repaired in front of my house. I hate the thought of more neighbors having to take a fall before the city does something about this. I thought about all the neighbors on my block…the youngest one is 50 years old. We’re not getting any younger on this street and changes in our mobility will likely occur…hopefully we won’t become disabled, but likely we will become “less-abled” or “differently-abled.” We XLH-ers have perhaps gotten an early start in that department, but we’re certainly not alone. And there are many folks out there who have it much worse.

Sidewalk repairs- painted asphaltLooks like concrete…but it’s not. It’s painted asphalt. Martha Stewart would not approve.

So, I am now reminded that I need to look around and think more of those around me who might not be aging so gracefully. Professorgrrl’s mom often complains of back pain, something new that she has acquired in her senior years, and is convinced, to hear her tell it, that no one has suffered like she is suffering with her back pain. For her, this may be true, because SHE has never suffered like she is now suffering. It’s new to her, and it has come as a shock to her system. It’s not just the pain she feels…it’s the shock and sense that her body has now betrayed her in painful ways that she never imagined.

That’s just not the case for me. I have always imagined it. Something about wearing braces as a child gets into your psyche, I guess. I have always imagined that I would end up as physically challenged as I was when I wore those stiff metal and leather leg braces when I was four years old. That thought was reinforced to me when I was 22 years old, a recent college graduate, and my parents presented me with a life insurance policy after I had gotten my first job and said, “Sign these papers for this insurance policy. We think you should have it, because it has a disability clause should you ever become unable to work and support yourself.” The thought occurred to me that maybe they knew something I didn’t know. So, it has not especially been that huge of a deal to have some new pain or physical challenge, because I have always assumed that I had it coming.

But for Professorgrrl’s mom…it’s all new and a huge slap in the face! She is not aging very gracefully and it took a lot of convincing just to get her to start using a walker. Of course her dad also had a unique perspective on physical pain, which I have always found to be somewhat amusing. It was pretty much this: “When the doctor asks you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, always choose a nine or a ten. That way, you’ll get the most medication you can get for your money. Maybe even some free samples.” He loved a good bargain.

So, I have a new resolution for myself. When I take my morning walks, I need to pay attention and view the sidewalks from others’ points of view. Are they wheelchair accessible? (I have seen two neighbors over the years who used the sidewalks for a daily outing in their wheelchairs, one of them even walking her dog as she drove her electric wheelchair. Accessibility not only includes safe sidewalks, but there should not be any tree branches that would impede a person in a wheelchair.) Are they accessible for someone with a walker? (I’ve seen one elderly neighbor who used to take walks with his walker on our sidewalks.) Are they baby-stroller accessible? (One huge bump might send a baby flying out of there!) Can you walk on them at night safely? (That might include making sure all the street lamps have working bulbs. Seeing an uneven section of sidewalk before you walk over it may prevent an accidental fall.) These are all things I need to think about…things that will make my neighborhood “walking-friendly” and safe for my neighbors, most of whom I like.

Tucker the Beagle and Deacon the Jack Russell Terrier, would also add: “Is our path free of all things that might otherwise prevent my humans from safely walking me every single morning without fail, through rain, sleet or snow?”

We all know that they are only thinking of me and Professorgrrl and not themselves, of course.

Dogs_and_shadowsSafety patrol

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017