Little Free Libraries

Geocache coordinates add fun to some travelers’ days. Pokemon-Go compels other drivers to stop. My husband plans our side trips around cheap gas. Before a recent trip, I asked to visit as many Little Free Libraries as possible. Hubby quit mapping gas prices, went to the website of registered Little Free Libraries in 50 states and 70 countries and began writing down addresses.

Little Libraries look like a book-filled cupboard set on a pole. Designs vary from plain wood with unbreakable glass to crafty affairs reflecting the owner’s interests. Book lovers establish the Little Free Libraries so others can read books.

Visiting the libraries took us off the Interstate and into residential neighborhoods, parks and older shopping districts. I read the backs of many books, took a book and left one. I prefer reading any day over shopping or visiting a tourist attraction.

We quickly saw that Little Libraries tend to be in neighborhoods with tidy yards and houses in the middle range for cost. These libraries offered the best selection of books inside the prettiest and the most inviting Little Libraries. The garden districts also had the only missing Little Libraries: registered but no longer in existence.

About a third of the libraries we found in city parks, built of raw, unpainted wood with an unbreakable window and a couple of shelves for books. In one park I found a cupboard stuffed with adult books and a separate unit sparsely stocked with children’s books. I wished I had brought some of the kid books begging for shelf space at my house.
Well meaning civic groups sponsored the most disappointing of the libraries I visited. The great idea faltered and left behind a peach colored cupboard with double doors and multiple shelves with a few, aged, paperback books without covers. A pocket park in the restaurant district had a Little Free Library off to the side, unnoticed, unattended and under stocked. It offered only yesterday’s newspaper, a couple magazines and two books. I left extra books to help.

“Take one, leave one” fails quickly if everyone takes. We met one librarian who used three vintage house windows to build her Little Free Library into her white picket fence. She came to talk after I had selected a book.

“We have been visiting the Little Libraries,” I said. “We have seen such variety. One was stuffed with children’s books.”

“I used to have a shelf for children. I took them from my children’s old books. They are all gone now,” she said. Books to new homes. Children to college.

Little Libraries reflect differing personalities, interests and creativity. Beside the box painted black and white stood a matching lighthouse. That site included a board for posting public notices. It was shingled with shellacked book covers aged with time and weather, I could still read the titles and see the cover art work.

The most elaborate set-up had a “Free books” banner we could read a block away. It included a wrought iron table and chair, a patio of flagstones and a warning against leaving any political or religious material in the library.

Bright daffodils, jonquils and purple hyacinth surrounded a cheerful green box with a rainbow painted on the roof. That box held a lot of interesting books. I only took one. Another painted in primary colors had a porcelain knob painted with flowers and inside a collection of bookmarks.

Whatever their appearance, each Little Free Library still stood because someone has a vision that books and information should be available to anyone, even a passing tourist looking for a book to read.

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Give a flipper

The young college student felt no bumps in her road as she focused on Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you. The Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
On her worst days of college she remembered that God rejoiced over her. She loved God, just as she loved her father. She made the verse her motto and shared it with her father. He reveled in watching her mature, marry and begin her family as a pastor’s wife. He comforted her through two years of funerals as she and her husband buried four grandparents.
And then her beloved father died in a plane crash.
Stunned, the pastor’s wife attended yet another funeral. Afterward, she wanted to stay in bed for days, weeks and months at a time.
“If it wasn’t for my four-year-old, I would not have bothered to get up,” she said.
A couple times a week, she had to get out of bed, find clothes for her child and to take him to church for Mother’s Day Out so he could play and learn with other children.
That’s where she met her Stalker.
The day they met, the pastor’s wife had forced herself of bed, pulled on yesterday’s sweat pants and dirty t-shirt. Maybe she ran a comb through her greasy hair. Who cared how she looked? Her father was gone. Everyone was gone.
At the Mother’s Day Out she felt a flicker of her life before the season of death as she passed an impeccably dressed mother escorting in her perfectly garbed son.
Their eyes met. The depressed woman looked away. The other woman did not. “She became my Stalker,” the pastor’s wife recalls.
“My Stalker stopped and said, ‘I know you are busy with the ministry, but we have a small group at our house. We would love to have you come, or maybe we could meet for lunch?”
“I don’t eat lunch,” the pastor’s wife answered abruptly.
Her Stalker persisted, “Maybe we could meet for coffee?”
“No, thanks.” she walked away.
Her Stalker kept inviting her until she agreed to meet for coffee.
Over coffee, her Stalker asked questions and the pastor’s wife answered.
She slowly told about the funerals of four grandparents and then her beloved father’s sudden departure. “After all that, my ‘give a flipper’” is broken,” she said fighting tears and daring the other woman to try to understand the depth of her grief and loss.
“I lost two children with miscarriages,” her Stalker said. She knew.
They began occasionally meeting during Mother’s Day out. Over coffee, they talked through their grief as their sons played.
One day, as the pastor’s wife backed up her car to leave the church, her Stalker signaled her to roll down the side window.
The pastor’s wife did. Her Stalker tossed a package through the window, waved and drove away. The pastor’s wife reached over and picked up a scuba diving flipper with the attached note, “If your ‘give a flipper’ is broken, here’s mine. This morning for the first time I read Zephaniah 3:17. It made me think about you. ‘The Lord your God is with you … He will rejoice over you with singing.’”
“I had never told her about that verse,” the pastor’s wife said, still astonished many years later.
Slowly she regained her “give a flipper” because, in the the midst of soul-searing grief, her Stalker reminded her that God rejoiced over her with song.

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The “I hate to clean house” cleaning tips

Housework never has made my list of “Favorite Things to Do.” I thought about writing a book called “I Hate to Clean House” like Peg Bracken’s “I Hate to Cook” cookbook, but I didn’t have enough easy household tips. My house cleaning tips appall real homemakers.
The sticky, mud tracked floor needs mopping: throw water on the floor before you drain the sink after washing dishes. Grab a couple of old rags, toss them on the floor, rub them around with your foot and voila! the floor is clean enough for another week.
The carpet needs vacuuming after one too many popcorn parties: I clear my throat when the husband walks into the room and point to the floor. Voila! He returns with the vacuum cleaner and runs it over the popcorn. His mom trained him to make neat vacuum cleaner lines in the carpet.
All flat surfaces have a layer of dust: Do not move anything. The dust free area underneath shows how much it needs dusting. If it can’t be disguised any longer, dust only things at eye level.
The early morning sun shining through the window highlights spots and streaks. Look for the window cleaner. If you are lucky, by the time you find it, the sun is over the house, and the streaks and spots are no longer visible.
Clutter blocks the path through the house: Walk through kicking toys and clothes aside. Toss the bigger items in the unused bedroom. Wait until you have company coming before you find a place for all the clutter.
The sink overflows with a week’s worth of dishes: Hubby walks in the kitchen for a snack, I clear my throat and point to the dishes. He insists that the dishes must be arranged a particular way in the dishwasher. Let him do it his way. Voila! Clean dishes!
Dirty clothes spill over the edges of laundry baskets: Sort clothes. Put white stuff into the washing machine. Note to self: Do not put red anything in with white stuff, hubby does not like pink undies. Blue jeans into basket. Clothes that might need to be ironed in another basket. Drop in soap, start machine. Return sometime in the next day or so and toss damp laundry into clothes dryer with a fabric softener sheet. Note to self: pull clothes that might need ironing out of dryer early and hang them to finish drying.
Clothes are dry: Immediately fold the largest items like sheets, towels and blue jeans. Voila! it looks like most of the folding and sorting is done.
The rest of the dry clothes need sorting: Assign each person a basket to hold their clean clothes. When they want clean clothes, tell them to check their basket. If they want them folded, they can do it themselves.
The basket of unmatched socks overflows: Get rid of different socks. Assign everyone a color of sock to simplify life. The year we had two foster boys plus our two big boys, they all wore the same size of sock. I assigned each boy a color: black, blue, brown or turquoise, which made sorting socks easy. My husband used to sort socks until all the kids left. Now we each do our own.
Cobwebs dangle from the corners: Cover a broom with an old pillowcase and sweep them away.
That takes care of my housekeeping and leaves me plenty of time for choosing a book to read from that pile beside the bed. Trust me, none of those relaxing books have a title resembling, “How to Clean House in 12 Easy Steps.”

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Gold in the buttons

I tore open the last of a pile of small paper envelopes holding spare buttons from dresses long ago discarded and discovered gold.
“Look what I found,” I laughed as I showed it to my husband. “someone’s gold cap for their molar.” Obviously,
I laughed again when I told my daughter about striking gold, “What do you do with something like that?”
“Sell it on Ebay. People buy all sorts of things,” she said speaking from experience.
I dismissed the notion until I looked up dental gold and found several completed listings with prices that caught my attention. The impression of a tooth was worth its weight in gold. Those few grams would pay for a couple meals at a restaurant.
Copying other postings, I snapped a picture of the gold cap on our metric scale with its weight showing. I began the auction at a third less than its real value. Then, just because Ebay offers sellers the option, I keyed in a “buy it now” price of a third more than its market value.
“Hey if someone wants to pay that much for it, I’ll take their money,” I told my daughter.
Within an hour someone had a bid and two had offered to pay the retail value. I declined. I wanted to see what would happen.
The price rose a few dollars every day. Meanwhile other sold items needed to be packaged and shipped. Five days before the gold auction ended, someone bought a small brooch. I went to the ebay shelf to prepare it for shipping and could not find it. The rest of the day, I spent hours fulfilling my New Year’s resolution to be more organized an found the pin in an unlikely spot.
Three days before the auction of the salvaged dental gold ended, I went to get the finger-tip sized cap and my heart sank, I could not find it.
“I know it is here.” I muttered as I sifted through organized shelves of items.
My husband joined the search. Nothing.
I asked a friend to pray it be found. I did not want to have to end the auction as “item no longer available for sale.”
As I prepared supper, I vaguely remembered putting the tiny piece of gold in an envelope so I would not lose it. I went back to the basket of small items, pulled out the white envelope I had ignored earlier and found it. I could enjoy the rest of the auction.
The bids topped its retail value and ended at a dollar beyond my “buy it now” price.
My husband carefully packaged and insured the gold for its selling price and we dropped it off at the post office.
Three days later, the buyer sent a message, “There is no tracking showing for my gold.”
Say what! After all that fuss, it surely could not be lost in the mail!
I checked the tracking number. We talked with the postal clerk.
I wrote the buyer. “If it does not show up in a week, we will refund your money.” … and there goes my trip to the restaurant, I thought.
I rationalized, “it was just a novelty that someone else long ago lost in their collection of extra buttons. It didn’t cost me anything.” Then I prayed and left it alone.
A couple days later, I looked at the post office tracking website. “Delivered at or in mailbox.” the post office reported.
I could keep the money, eat out and tell the story of the day I found gold in “them thar” hills of buttons.

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Let’s not eat out

I do not like to go out to eat. I fail to see the appeal of selecting and ordering a meal only to be told the kitchen can’t fix what I want. Still, my husband wanted a restaurant breakfast, so we went. The waitress came to our table, looked at my husband and said, “I bet you want biscuits and gravy.”
He looked at her astonished, “Yes, I do.”
“We are out of biscuits.”
He mused barely a second, “Do you have toast?”
“I can make some. So you want the gravy on toast?” He nodded. She left to place the order and returned to announce, “We do have biscuits.”
Must be fresh out of the oven, I thought, so I ordered a couple without gravy.
She brought my husband a bowl with biscuits and gravy.
A bowl?
Well yes, you need a bowl when the gravy is as thin as soup with two microscopic pieces of sausage floating in the gravy-soup.
He looked at me in disbelief, “Have you ever seen gravy this thin?”
“No.”
He did not complain. His mamma had taught him to eat what was put before him. He ate and analyzed it, “The cook did not heat it long enough to thicken the soup into gravy.”
She brought plain biscuits. “Do you have butter?” I asked.
“Yes. Do you want some jam?”
“Sure.” I know we don’t eat out often, but I sort of thought those items came without question.
I also thought that the biscuits would hot.
They weren’t. They couldn’t even melt the butter.
I noticed a special on milk shakes and ordered a strawberry shake.
Several minutes passed before she returned, “I haven’t forgotten your milk shake. I have it started.”
“Okay, thanks.”.
Five minutes later she returned to report, “We are out of milk. I can bring you the strawberries and ice cream I scooped up. Otherwise they will be thrown out.”
Free food. Sure, why not.
She returned with a bowl heaped with vanilla ice cream covered with a thick layer of strawberry laden sauce. Some people call that a sundae. That day it was a milk free, unmixed strawberry shake.
I began nibbling on the sundae that had no crunchy nuts.
My husband finished his breakfast platter and ate some shake/sundae.
We waited for the bill.
It never came. Finally, he went to the cashier to pay.
The bill did not include a charge for the shake/sundae. The free food reminded me of the time we went into a high end restaurant carrying a gift card funded to cover several meals. We studied the menu, ordered and sat back to wait.
We waited and waited.
The floor supervisor brought us appetizers, “These are on the house.”
She returned 10 minutes later with more free food.
The waitress re-appeared and asked, “Did you really want to order this food?”
I thought of that line from the 101 Dalmatians, “Do you have cloth ears?”
Out loud I politely said, “Yes.”
Eventually our food arrived, followed by the supervisor who said, “The meal is on us.”
We had no complaints about the free food. It really did taste delicious. The poor service we received every time we tried to use our gift card, though, deterred us from returning once we finally depleted the gift card.
After being jinxed with similar experiences through the years, I prefer to stay home and do my own short order meal prep. That way I know who to blame if the gravy is watery … and how to fix it.

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Driver’s license and the exchange student

The exchange student’s contagious grin and affable personality quickly made him welcome in our home and at school. Like our sons, he lived on the computer. Unlike our sons, he wore saggy jeans and an oversized shirt. My husband, a retiree, took a a deep breath and kept quiet.
Our guest’s parents requested we help him get an American driver’s license and save them the exorbitant fees for learning to drive in Europe.
“No problem. I’ve taught all my children to drive,” my husband said.
Unlike our sons, this teenager passed the written exam the first time and went straight to the empty school parking lot to learn the basics: shifting, turning, braking and parking. He relished the feel of the car’s power and quickly learned to control it. They drove the quiet back roads before tackling small town traffic.
“I think you are ready to take the road test,” my husband announced. The day the state examiner came to test new drivers, hubby went to school and picked up the teen.
Prospective drivers arrived at the parking lot in clean cars with their paperwork in hand. They knew the rules of the strict, older woman who gave the examines. “If the car is not clean, the examiner will not get in your car for the test drive.”
The rest was standard: Sit up straight, check the rear view mirror when backing up and signal before turning.
Easy.
He failed the road test.
The retiree and teenager came home disappointed and spent another week practicing turns, parking and backing up.
Once again my husband arranged for him to leave school early again. Exiting our clean car, the confident teenager handed his paperwork to the state examiner. They drove around the block.
Again, she did not find his driving skills adequate to trust him alone on the roads. She would not pass him.
It did not make sense. The written test challenged everyone, not the road test.
During a visit with my daughter and son-in-law, we talked about his failing the driving test. As we talked, I looked at my son-in-law who works in an office where he has to wear a neat polo shirt and khaki slacks every day. I thought about the examiner, the older woman verging on retirement.
“I think it is the clothes,” I interrupted.
“What?”
“I think his clothes are failing him. Can he borrow a pair of your slacks and a shirt?” I asked looking at my son-in-law, a man of similar height and build.
“Sure,” he went to the bedroom and selected slacks, shirt and a belt.
The teenager looked at me strangely, but the next time the examiner was in town, he pulled on the borrowed outfit, looked in the mirror and said, “I like these.”
He drove my husband back to meet the parking lot where tests are given. Again, she accepted his paperwork, slid into the passenger seat and directed him to drive around the block.
They returned, parked in front of my waiting husband and both left the car grinning. He had passed. He could get a permanent license.
As she signed and stamped the papers, the examiner told my husband, “I have never seen a driver improve so much in one week’s time.”
Their first stop was a department store where the exchange student bought khakis and a polo shirt ­ and told others the examiner’s unspoken rule: dress professionally.
A couple months later the exchange student returned to Germany with a driver’s license and two important lessons learned, “Clothes make the man” and, “first impressions do matter.”

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Mom’s on the phone

A fire in the upstairs bedroom of the old farm house sent Mom down the road to Auntie’s house to call the volunteer fire department. They flipped phone book pages frantically searching for the number. Mom’s finger yanked the rotary dial, letting it spring back after each number. In her haste, she called a wrong number. She waited as all the switches on the party line fell back into place so she could try again. That long wait became part of the story of the day the house burned down.

In the next 10 years, phones and services improved, except for the cost of long distance calls. When Mom and Dad moved the family across the country, Mom could not sit at her mother’s kitchen table and visit. She only called after notifying Grandma in a letter when she would be calling. My grandmother, born before the wide spread use of phones, rarely used her phone. And, considering the cost per minute, Mom wrote a lot of letters.
As family finances improved and her grown children moved to other states Mom called regularly. She knew exactly how much each minute cost and what times cost the least. During the high day time rates, Mom only called to announce new grand babies and emergencies.

There were no emergencies.
There were lots of grand babies and phone calls. Mom wanted the contact. When I moved, the phone company took a couple days to install my new phone. Anxious to hear my voice Mom had called information for my new number and reached me before I had time to call her. Our number has been the same for years, but you better believe that when our area code changed in the 1990s, I quickly updated Mom.

In the 1970s we all knew the best rates went from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. For many years, Mom lived a time zone west of us. Eager to hear the latest news, she woke early enough to call after breakfast my time yet still be on night rates her time. She liked a loophole in the billing: night rates applied the hour we talked after her day rates began.
Thanks to her, I developed a mental meter that began ticking during any long distance phone call. The day my husband called collect from Mexico to talk about his short visit, I anxiously kept saying, “This is an international collect call.” Those seven minutes cost $63. I was as shocked as Mom was the day she learned AT&T had closed the rate loophole.

She called totally shocked, “I just got my phone bill for last month. AT&T has changed the billing. Any call continuing after day time rates go into effect is no longer charged at the night time rate.”
We all grumbled about that. We looked forward to those early morning phone calls. Before AT&T broke up and the advent of today’s cell phones, we knew the truth of the adage, “Talk is cheap until the phone bill arrives.” We quickly found another calling schedule.

I can no longer visit with my Mom on the phone. She never saw the proliferation of low cost cell phones, caller ID or unlimited talking. If she had, I am sure she would have had signed up for all of them and had every family member and the fire department on speed dial.

Thankfully, these days with multiple choices in long distance contracts, I can enjoy a phone call from any child or grandchild at any hour; and if the house catches afire I only have to punch in 911.

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Family portrait

Little kids wiggle, look away, cry, make faces and pick their noses. They are unable to sit, smile and say ‘cheese’ for the photographer. We take a lot of shots to hopefully get one good portrait. These days, with six married children, 18 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren in five northern, southern and eastern states, it’s nigh unto impossible to gather all in one place for a picture. Even capturing a shot of our six adult children is not easy.
In the early 1980s we had one baby, one high school graduate, and four in-between. I held the baby so she faced the camera. Through frozen smiles we commanded, “Stand stand still until the camera’s timer clicks.
They look happy in the print. Prints don’t capture our words.
In the mid-1980s: the graduate joined the military, added a wife and two daughters. Another graduated, and photos of all six and their families in the same room at the same time did not happen. Formal photographs show only the four children at home.
In the 1990s: As the youngest grew older, group shots dwindled to whoever we could find to pop into “just us” pictures. Once kids graduate from high school and get a job, they don’t drive a couple hours, let alone across state borders, for a family photo shoot.
In 2000, we held a family reunion celebrating my husband’s 60th birthday. Our college students and young parents with two in car seats made the long drive north. We passed out coordinating sweatshirts, lined up families and took a lot of pictures of everyone – except the two grandchildren who stayed at home.
Eighteen months later, at the youngest son’s wedding we had our first and only photo shoot with the entire extended family. We also posed with our six children dressed in black suits and wedding gowns. I was so proud to have those pictures.
The following two years we had two more weddings. Each time one or another of the six did not make it.
In 2006, a family reunion of my extended family promised to be one time we would have all six families together … until one entered a long term treatment program. At the reunion, 74 of the 75 people there lined up by families. One of our six wandered away as parents posed with squirming children. We smiled, said “cheese” and photo shopped the wanderer into the picture.
What is it with our six and their families? Can’t they stand still? Evidently not. At the next three summer family weddings at least one of the six and their family failed to make the wedding or the family pictures.
We tried family reunions during schools’ winter vacations and only to learn our UPS employee had to work overtime from fall to early January.
This year we fixed that. We went to the UPS man’s house. Five families drove up to 15 hours across six state lines ­ while the three week-old great-grandchild entered the hospital with respiratory distress. Grown grandchildren had other plans for New Years Eve, so again, no big family picture with everyone in it.
We did, however, have all six of our adult children together briefly on New Year’s Day. We quickly arranged them by age and took our first group shot since the 2001 wedding.
Last week I ordered prints for my gallery of family pictures. Perhaps someday we will gather everyone for a family photograph. Until then, I am proud of the photographic proof that our adult children made the time to come together, stand still, smile and say ‘cheese’.

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Then and now traveling with kids

Car trips with kids have certainly changed since the 50’s when I rode in the back seat of a station wagon with my brothers and sisters. Recently I rode in the front seat of a van with young grandchildren to a family reunion. Much has changed ­ even from when I had young children.
For one thing, in 2017, the baby’s car seat does not yield to anyone sitting beside it. Its straps do not yield to the one-year-old’s wiggles. Mostly, she played contentedly with toys her brother handed her, sucked drinks and delicately nibbled bits of food.
In 1978, our baby sat under the glove compartment accepting snacks, drinks and toys through the 12 hour trip to my parents’ house. The station wagon’s seat belts went unused most of the 12 hour drive. Instead, the boys laid on the seat, the floor or across the pile of suitcases.
In 1959, I played in the back. Seat belts and baby car seats did not exist. My mother created a shelf of beds on suitcases circling the back of the station wagon where we slept late into the night and played during the day.
In 2017, the kids forced to sit all day beneath shoulder straps and seat belts had permission to play on their electronic game tablets and watch hours of DVDs on the drop down screen that came with the van.
My voice would have enjoyed that in 1978 when I read aloud the Narnia Series and the Lord of the Ring Trilogy to break up the monotony of the road. Better that than bored kids pestering each other and whining, “He’s looking at me.”
Wait, even electronics gadgets have not changed pestering each other.
As teenagers in 1967 my brothers and sisters and I spent our cross country trip reading, sleeping, writing letters and trying to find license plates from other states. We did not have cell phones to stare at, just miles of scenery.
In 1957 traveling with my mother meant short stops at the grocery store. We waited and played in the car while she bought white bread and a pound of thick sliced bologna. She slapped meat between two slices of bread and handed us our sandwiches.
I told my husband that. He added, “and a bit of mayo.”
“No mayo. Just bread and bologna,” I emphasized.
In 1967, my sisters and I took turns sitting in the rear of the station wagon with the cooler of food and spread mayo on bread to make cold cut sandwiches for everyoyne else in the swagon.
In 2017, the van pulled up to the fast food window and we ordered hamburgers, some with and some without mayo. Then we handed each child a neatly wrapped and identified sandwich.
I loved the heated seat heating my back in 2017. It kept me warm and the back seat kids did not suffocate from the heat.
The heat of summer in in the south and southwest demands air, lots of air in the car. My brother always said our wagon had a 260 air conditioner: open two windows and drive 60 miles per hour.
Now when the temperature outside goes up, so do the van window. We want to keep the air conditioner’s cool air inside the van.
As our recent trip ended, I discovered one thing had not changed: Kids’ road weary whines, “are we there yet?” and their tired mom’s response, “No, and if you don’t quit asking ….”
Proving again, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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no instruction manual for broken leg

Broken legs do not come with instruction manuals for recovery, and I needed one after tripping down one step resulted in cracks and breaks in my left leg and a broken left wrist. Two surgeries left me stunned and bewildered. No one gave me a repair manual for healing. They did give me a prognosis of six to eight months for recovery. I thought they meant weeks.
They didn’t.
We measured my healing over the next five months with sighs of relief as we said good-bye to the open cast, the black brace with velcro straps, the walker, the wheelchair, the shower chair and the equipment’s scuff marks left on walls, doors and furniture. At six months the orthopedic surgeon shook my hand and said “good-bye.” Leaving his office with a stiff, swollen leg, I still wondered about the healing. I found the answer when folks stopped me in the store, on the street or in the gym to ask, “How are you doing?” Every single one then talked about their own healing process.
A former city official said, “After my knee replacement, the surgeon said, ‘when you sit in the lounge chair watching tv, lift and bend your leg as many times as you can.’” I still do leg lefts and march the leg when I am sitting at church, in the car and in the lounge chair.
At church, my friend said, “get your leg up on a chair and bend it as deep as you can.” Since my knee resisted bending, I tried anything. I stepped on the chair seat and bent into it. I laid on the bed and walked the leg up and down the wall. I did leg slides. I measured the leg’s bend by the distance the heel moved up the division on the lounge chair’s foot prop. The heels match these days, but I still don’t bend the leg underneath me and sit on it as I once did.
Once the doctor said, “Get up and walk,” I went shopping. I grabbed a grocery cart for balance and wheeled my way through the store. Near the check-out a woman I know from a repair shop stopped and asked, “How are you doing?”
“Okay. It just takes a long time.”
“I know. I had a tibial plateau fracture last year.”
I studied her standing without a cart for support. “How long did it take to heal?”
She smiled, “six to eight months. I still limp sometimes.”
I actually found that encouraging.
I asked a friend about her husband’s crushed leg. “He could not put his foot down for five months,” she said, “He did all the exercises and says that is why he is walking.”
Five months! That got my attention. The summer went by with my exercising five to six hours every day. At three and a half months, the doctor gave me permission to stand and walk.
At six months, I joined an exercise class and met an ankle surgery patient. We commiserated, pedaled stationary bikes and walked together at turtle speed.
During my annual physical. I tried again to gather notes to address the swelling. “Well, you do have a lot of hardware in there. It takes a while. When I had to wear a boot for a tendon injury, it was a year and a half before I walked normal,” the doctor said.
It is nine months since I broke my leg and the only instruction manual I have is: “Healing takes a lot of exercise, a lot of time and a lot of listening to other folks’ experiences.”

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