Friday, May 7, 2010

Oh, Oh, Oh, Ouch

I hadn't really known J. in high school, though her cousin, who lived a couple of blocks from me, was my best friend -- he was as shy as I was, but neither of us could hang up from our long nightly phone calls. The most beautiful night I've experienced was when we'd walked down hill to the beach, came upon the shore dotted with phosphorescence, twinkling and starish. He left for Harvard a year before I graduated from high school.

But a couple of years ago, near the time of our 50th reunion, J. came into Boston on the way to visit her son and grandson in London and we met at a hotel near the airport, had dinner and had a chance to talk. When she arranged a small gathering of folks from that reunion not all that long ago, I went up to Portland, kicking and screaming with nervousness, and had a marvelous, informative and quite curative time.

So, I was delighted when she was staying at the same hotel this Wednesday and we had time to talk again. By this time, I had gone to the doctor because I was squealing with pain. Finally, with the help of smart, practical friends, I had figured out that my precipitous walking, knowing no bounds, constantly pushing myself longer and longer and uphill at that, had caused the damage. My first question to the doctor was whether he had a sense of humor. "Yes." But I have to say that he found it hard to laugh at what I've done to myself (even though I find it very funny), telling me that it's unprofessional to make fun of a person who was such a dope that she'd not factored in that she'd been lying down two months, then began walking like a maniac. The upshot was that I left there with a prescription to physical therapy and instructions to buy a cane.

I had planned to drive myself to meet J., but with orders not to drive, much less to walk, I got dropped off around 4:00 and picked up at 9 something. With my cane. We were quiet a pair because J's recent operation to mend the continual pain in her back didn't fix the problems, so she's in the holding pattern, waiting for a diagnosis about what will happen next that might alleviate her constant discomfort. She can stand and walk, more-or-less, though lying down is painful. I can lie down and stand, if I can get up, but not walk. But we could talk for 5 hours, non-stop. 

She has a marvelous way of calmly analyzing difficult situations she has faced. I could ask her any question I wanted and she would quietly discussing it. We time-traveled from the time her mother gave her "The Story Didn't Bring You" when she was ten or so, young enough to laugh with her best friend about all those strange things that would happen. (No, her mother didn't discuss the book with her, but at least J's nervousness about this information would be shared with someone else. And well before the fact. Whereas my father handed me the book on the fateful day there was blood in my pajama bottoms. My mother was in the hospital for a last ditch experimental treatment. He told me to read it, then went off to work, but of course I didn't. And I lied to the pediatrician when she asked if I had. I gather that the book was the talisman of that era, a way of informing girls about the unspoken.) 

And after drifting into lots of other directions, we discussed strategies for pain management. A number of years ago I went to a pain clinic to deal with fibromyalgia and learned a number of techniques, one of which is using relaxation tapes. Pooling management strategies of our specific discomforts started in the restaurant under the guise of just having something to drink and lingered on to the least offensive meal in the restaurant. 

I had an appointment with the physical therapist the next day and she was getting up at 4am in the hope that the airport in London was open, in spite of new volcanic eruptions. 

Since, in spite of my careful attempt to manage where the pictures would land in the blog, they are as out-of-order as I am right now. So the white cat is Krissy's new project.  I hadn't noticed when he appeared in the yard about the time that Parker visited, assuming that she was merely feeding one of the old strays that have lived outside in this neighborhood for years, through hard, hard winters. But this is a new creature that she's sure lived in an old lady's apartment a couple of blocks away, in a building that was condemned not that long ago. And she's determined to find a home for him and puts out food near the back porch even though she now has to wear boots and long pants when she goes outside because he's taken to biting. She's put an ad on Craig's List, certain that people who rescue feral or abandoned cats will come and get it. (Actually, someone is coming tomorrow to get Mr. White, she hopes, so there's probably an answer to her particular problem of hardly being able to go out to the garden.)

She's a determined rescuer, having started with Paco a puppy found in a dumpster in a Hollywood studio, going on to Happy, found on a street in L.A., to Ella, her favorite dog, sick with cancer when she was found, incontinent for the three years that she lived, the most beloved.

I got to photograph the cat because I had the compulsive urge to clip some ivy when I got back from the physical therapist where I'd been told, to my great relief, that the problem with my back is just muscular, caused, you guessed it, by having started to walk to far, and up hills, no less, after my muscles had become too weak to hold up the pelvic area that attaches to the hip bones. Even if I'd had strong core muscles they would have been useless by then. So, I was given exercises to build up strength, told to use heat and cold treatments, not to use the cane inside and got one of those wonderful electrical stem treatments that put me in such a state that I truly believed I could bend to work in the garden! A little.

I have joined the community garden in Chelsea, though I'm even less able to work in it than I thought I would be by now. But Krissy has been helping me, walking over to till and plant seeds almost every morning. I hope she might be able to get a plot, but it's great that she'd sharing mine now, doing so much work there.

A couple of days ago, VesperSparrow e-mailed me, "I know you don't like fussing, but has something happened?" Clever Lady. What had happened is the result of my bull-head determination. But her inquiry reminded me of a story that my father once told about when I had started to crawl and came up against a swinging door that I was determined to get through. He must have been sitting there, probably in the kitchen of a house they'd rented before buying the house my mother loved so much on Litchfield Road. He said I crawled up to it, push at the door, only to have it come back and hit me every time I tried. The implication, though I don't remember his exact words, was that I wasn't going to stop trying, no matter how many times I got banged around. That's just the sort of dilemma that amused him. Since my father almost never talked about the years before my mother died when I was twelve, this story must have illustrated how pigheaded, his term for me, for what I've always been.

On Monday, I was back at square one with Krissy accompanying me up to class where she commandeered a student, "Will you walk her downstairs after class?" So, at 4:00, there I was, being taken along by this marvelous extrovert who mentioned that she's getting married on August. T. was born in the South and has that charming ability to engage the crankiest person. Her grandmother had 20 children, twins and triplets, and T. fully expected to have ten using the same method. But she only had three separates, girls, the youngest of whom started college last fall. Somehow, between the Photo I that I taught and she took last summer, she met a man (also interested in the arts, who talks and laughs), whose wife died three years ago, leaving him to raise the youngest of their seven children who was then fifteen. So, T. will have her ten children in not that long. After I knocked into a wall, she took my arm, so I was literally 'walked,' embarrassed and humbled at my tottering and T's holding onto my arm, but thoroughly enjoying the terrific story.

We have one more dinner at the Victoria after my last class on Monday!

W. has become my supplier of books, since I've pretty well gone through my shelves. The first one that he lent was the massive M.F.K. Fisher that included 4 or five books, the most charming of which was "Gastronomical Me." I've never been interested in food or in cooking, but I have to say, there are good writers. Krissy returns what I've read and he send over another four or five.

Relaxation tapes do help! Now I have to keep playing them. The only good thing I have to say about my learning curve is that after my last bout in physical therapy, two summers ago, I did the prescribed back exercises almost every night until the point I got this colitis attack in February. So I had learned something, lacking in common sense as I happen to be.

There's hope.


  1. I loved A Year in Provence. And you are a most beautiful and interesting looking woman.

    my word verification: Ovenco the name of my new cookbook.

  2. I, too, have the hardest time arranging the pictures in my blog. I do believe I am computer-challenged. May your body mend and your mind soar, Roland

  3. Thank you, Radish...and Roland! I appreciate your comments...
    I'd be delighted if my mind started a bit of a soar or a tiny sweep upward...
    and Radish, I think you're joking about the cookbook, but i wishes mightily that you weren't..

  4. Melissa, nope, not joking. The thing is, I'd have to cram it full of nonsense and poems so I wouldn't really know how to market it though I have an idea, something to do with my abandoned opera but I don't want to say more because I might jinx it.

  5. Your father is right, Melissa, you are one determined soul, by the sound of your blog at least. You keep on going even when your body screams at you to stop and then you write about it after wards.

    I to love travel with you, through all the food talk, the pains and the joys. Thanks

  6. I don't know what I find more compelling, your sense of humour, your attitude to life, or the fact that yuo still meet friends from fifty years ago. I love these snippets of your life. And the way you write about them is so fluid and effortless. I read this post a couple of times. Of course, you've run out of books! Yours life's one! :-)

    I wish you better and hope you don't have to be on prescriptions for too long.

    Greetings from London.

  7. I like seeing thru your eyes!

    Any chance of indolence? Isn't that a rich word?

    Love from Mim

  8. Thank you all...I appreciate the comments...and the encouragement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    maybe the next blog will be three months on the Island of Indolence, but my mind seems to have briefly awoke this morning...hurrah!

  9. The Island of Indolence sounds like a place we might all benefit from visiting from time to time. . . any pace and place of replenishment must be good for us?

    I do love coming here, Melissa - wandering the pathways with you and your friends. For all the toughness of recent times, you respond with grace and resilience and courage. Good humour, too! Your wee girl's bull-headedness has proven itself to be a very fine attribute indeed!

    Onwards - take best care.