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Not all waiters work in restaurants (08/16/2006)
By Frances Edstrom

Now that I'm off of what I think of as my "heavy duty" medications, I'm feeling much stronger"¦and much antsier. I feel as though I could just jump out of bed in the morning and resume my old life, but here I am, still on the journey to Oz, singing "If I only had a hip."

My new hip will be installed September 22 if I am infection-free. Until then, I must be patient, something that is very, very, very hard for me. I'm the sort of person who is not used to waiting for things to come to me.

As I was waiting on the front porch for my sister to come and get me one day, I said, "What's the old saw about those who wait?"

"All things come to those who wait," she said.

"Oh, darn," I said, "I was hoping it was "all GOOD things come to those who wait."

All things do seem to come to me, as I wait. The only problem is I can't do anything about them. If I see a scrap of paper on the floor that I want to throw away, I can't bend down to get it. When the newspaper hits the front step, too bad for me. If there's a can of pop on the counter, I can reach it, but I can't carry it. If I want to take a book to the front porch, it has to be small enough to stuff in my waistband, or I have to wait for someone to take it there for me. If dirty clothes should go in the laundry or clean clothes should go in the dresser, someone else around here is going to do it.

But I must remember things have progressed greatly. Our old 1891 house is by no means handicap accessible, but we've adjusted. I can get out of my temporary bed by myself. I can now get dressed by myself, with help from my crutches to reach for and open things. No one is willing to let me go down the front steps by myself, since it's pretty scary even when John or my sister is helping me. But once down, I've devised a method of getting myself into and out of the car. Of course I can't drive the car, but if I wanted to I could sit in it all day and even all night long.

We experimented with a trip to the grocery store in my wheelchair. I discovered that people who shop for groceries (is that just about everyone?) are generally very nice and helpful sorts. It's no problem asking perfect strangers to reach something on a top shelf, but I just couldn't work up the courage to say, "Could you hand me all the different brands of half and half from the top shelf? I want to compare them. Oh, and could you hang around to put back my rejects?"

Carrying things around at home is a real problem. We rented a walker and bought a carrier to put on the front, but it isn't working the way I had envisioned, as there is a small step between the room where I sleep and the rest of the house, and I can't maneuver the walker up or down it without putting myself at great peril. I've also experimented with putting things in a bag hanging around my neck while I crutch from place to place, but that method has several drawbacks as well. First, a cup of coffee doesn't make it very far and second, if I put too much in the bag, I'm in danger of throwing myself off balance or even strangling myself.

I am able to get out of the house for brief periods, but those of you not on crutches or in wheelchairs would be amazed at how much preparation is necessary for such a trip. First, I have to assess how difficult it will be to get into and out of a place. Second, I have to know how long I will be there, as sitting for long stretches is still a significant pain problem. Third, I have to envision how well the place will accommodate a wheelchair, and if it doesn't what sort of seating will be available (I must have chairs, not low, preferably soft, with arms). And fourth, I am embarrassed to admit, it can't be far from home, since I have not yet tried to use the ladies room in a public place, and am not sure I could do it without help (!).

I am very happy that Al Gore, or whoever it was, invented the Internet, because it is my lifeline to my work. I can't gain access to everything I need, and my coworkers are still doing a good deal of the heavy lifting for me (thanks, guys!), but I can write and edit from home, which gives me a lot more pleasure in life than doing the crossword and watching the wind blow the leaves in the big cottonwood down the street. It makes being laid up not quite so bad.

Right now the phone is ringing. My sister is out watering the flowers. John's at work. Whoever is calling will have to wait. Just like me. 


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