Instigation Inspiration at the Y

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The most amazing victory occurred yesterday at the Y. No, I didn’t achieve new heights of accomplishment like lifting 100 pounds over my head or doing 100 pushups. No, I didn’t try an exercise I thought I’d never master. But I did achieve a goal that I’d had for the past year, and that was to inspire someone to work out, right along with me.

For several months, a group of volunteers from my church have taken turns setting up the machines so I could use them, adjusting the seat height and the weight I was to lift, push, or pull. This is something I can’t do independently, so my friend Regina recruited these spotters for me. Thanks to Cindy, Liz, Bill, and Pat. Once a week, one of them meets me at the Y or even drives me there herself, and after making the adjustments, stands by while I sweat and strain. I had envisioned them all working out on another machine while I’m on mine, but it hasn’t happened until lately. Regina, my first helper, has done exactly that. It makes me feel good that she is making good use of her time. Usually, the gals don’t make a comment about the amount of weight I use, but the guys like to tease me with “Only 10 pounds? Only 50 pounds? You can do better than that.” to which I reply, “I’m a woman, and I don’t have the upper body strength you guys have, so leave me alone with my puny 50 pounds.”

Yesterday, Cindy put me through my paces and would occasionally try a machine while she waited for me to count to 30 and sigh in relief that I was done with that one. But here’s the part that makes me rejoice. After she escorted me to the pool and found an empty lane for me, I thought she was going home and would return in an hour to take me home after my swim and my soak in the hot tub. When I was done with my routine, and I stepped outside to wait for her to pull up with her car, I was delighted to learn that she had never left the Y at all. She had gone back to the machines, had done my routine with the same weights, walked on the track, and then gone out to get the car. She was pleased with herself, and so was I. I was proud of her, but also happy with the extra benefit of our going to the Y together. Finally, I had inspired someone to do something good for herself. I hear the adulation all the time, “Oh, you’re such an inspiration.” It always annoys me to hear that, because unless I inspire you to actually do something and not just admire me for doing it, I’m not an inspiration at all. But yesterday, I was either an inspiration or an instigation. Either way, good for us.

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A Calling

IMG_2314You’ve heard of a pastor or priest claiming he was called by God to serve in the ministry. I’ve had strong pulls to do this or that, but I wouldn’t ever call it a calling. But a few weeks ago, when I heard the sadness in my friend’s voice as she told me about her incredible medical woes, I definitely heard a whisper in my ear. “Go to her,” it said. “She needs someone desperately, and that someone should be you.” Deborah had had cancer in her left leg, a hip replacement in both legs, another surgery on her left leg, and then a dramatic fall due to a sudden breaking of her left femur. Three surgeries later, she found herself in rehab in St. Petersberg, facing the next 12 weeks in a wheelchair at home, when she was alone, with limited help from her family, no friends nearby, and oh yes, total blindness. The blindness she had dealt with all her life, quite admirably. She is a well known and respected writer, speaker, and teacher, in addition to being an active advocate for people with all disabilities. After five weeks, with another seven to go in a wheelchair, with the occasional use of a walker to aid in hopping on one foot to get to places where the wheelchair wouldn’t fit, the doctors agreed to let her go home, only if she had help. When she knew that I was on my way, she assured the doctors that her friend was coming to be with her, and they were satisfied. She did not mention, however, that her friend was also totally blind. Had they known, they surely would have said no way. But Deborah and I have been friends for over 30 years, and we had every confidence that we could manage on our own. So I bought a plane ticket, left Dora with my wonderful friend Eve, was met at the airport, was given a brief orientation to my room and to her condo, and rolled up my sleeves. My first duty was to pull off the compression stockings that Deborah was required to wear. That was a cinch, compared to the next morning’s battle with them as I struggled to pull them on. They went to the middle of her thigh, and they, being compression stockings, were very tight and unbelievably complicated to put on properly. She couldn’t help with this process, because she wasn’t allowed to bend over, but once I got them up over her knees, she could finish the job. The first day, I got it done with a minimum of sweat, and I joyfully thought I had found a new calling in life, but as the week went on, I had a little more trouble, and it was frustrating for us both. I was busy all day, but it wasn’t all picking up dropped objects, reaching glasses from a high cupboard, preparing, serving, and cleaning up after meals, assisting with laundry, fetching the ice pack, or struggling with attaching the leg support on her wheelchair. We had hours of pure pleasure sitting out on her lanai, listening to the fountain in a pond nearby, and talking about things that matter. There were no outtings, no shopping, swimming in the pool, or walks around the pond. But I was unexpectedly content to stay in the house or the lanai.

Over the span of the week, Deborah became stronger and more confident in doing for herself. At the beginning of the week, she was happy to let me go get her coffee, but by the end of the week, she said she’d get it herself. Gradually, she was regaining her independence, even in a wheelchair. People say I’m amazing, but they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Imagine a totally blind woman wheeling around her condo with her left leg sticking out, ready to be caught on a corner and then correcting her direction and continuing on her way.

Each night, after helping her get ready for bed, I would check the locks on the door, refill the water in the Keurig, write in my journal, thank God for helping us get through the day and whisper a good night to my dear Dora who was so far away. The picture shown here is Dora looking up at Eve, saying, “Isn’t it time to play ball again?” I missed her terribly, but I felt useful, and that felt good.

Helping Hands

You know how I constantly preach, “Don’t talk to the dog. Talk to me.” You wouldn’t think this would be an issue. Of course you would talk to me, except when you are saying, “I know I’m not supposed to talk to you, and I’m not petting you, but you are just so pretty and such a good girl.” No, you don’t do that because you know better. But here’s a funny situation I had never encountered until I went to get bloodwork done the other day. If it weren’t so funny, I’d be irritated, but here’s what happened.

The blood technician led me to a room and correctly told me to go into the room on the right, or maybe she said “turn right here,” but I heard how her voice was directed to the right. Upon entering the room, I had no idea where I was supposed to sit, since I go into a different room each time.

“Sit in this chair,” she said.

“I am blind,” I replied, “so I don’t know where you are pointing.”

“Right over here,” she said. So far, this is a very common scenario, the dreaded “right over here.”

“Right over here isn’t very helpful to me,” I said, in my gentlest non irritated voice.

“But I was talking to the dog,” she said.

I mean she was actually pointing to the chair for my dog to follow. So now my dog is my care-taker and dragging me around like an unthinking mass on legs. I gently told her that it really works better if she talks to me. I’m the human. I give the dog directions by using words like right and left. It’s so tragic that medical people who deal with people all day can’t think to say, “Please have a seat in this chair to your left.”

And speaking of forgetting how to use words, once again, last Sunday at church, when I was trying to find the comfortable chair I always sit in for Sunday school, a very kind woman tried to assist by putting both hands on my shoulders and turning me. She actually thought I needed to be placed so that all I had to do was bend over and sit. “Please don’t turn me,” I said, “I like to put my hand on the seat, so I know where it is, and then I can sit down all by myself. I am not a doll that you put on a chair. I am a thinking human being. Please don’t handle me. No, I didn’t say this to her. After all, she was only trying to help. But it’s just another of a thousand ways I have to educate people every single day of my life. When do I get to retire from this job?