I haven’t walked a mile all at once since my last posting. It felt like such an accomplishment at the time, and it was, but somewhere inside I thought that if I just got there one time, it would keep coming to me. Not so. To complete that mile, I had to take the day before off from exercising, and I had to push past numb, unsteady legs at the end. But I went back the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that because I know that I need that daily exercise now more than ever. But on the following days, I could only do half a mile, three-quarters on the odd day I could manage, if only just. It doesn’t take me long to rally afterwards, and I’m able to go about my day just fine, fortunately. For now.
I want to be able to walk a mile all at once every day. And then to be able to go farther than that every day. But these legs! They have a different opinion on the matter. So on a few days last week, trying to do what I can with what I’ve got, I did a half mile in the morning by myself as usual and then a half mile after work in the afternoon/evening with Alvaro and Maggie. That was working well until Maggie started showing issues with one of her hind legs, carrying it from time to time and avoiding stairs and jumping on furniture. She normally zooms from one place to the next, so I knew something was wrong. And after going through ACL surgery this summer on her right leg, TWICE, her left leg may be next up to bat.
When a dog ruptures its ACL, it has a 50% chance of rupturing the other one within a year or two. I really hoped that the gods would decide we’d been through enough this year with my relapses and diagnosis and Maggie’s two surgeries keeping her in a cage for months, but no. Yesterday, we went back to the surgical vet. Her ACL may have a partial tear, he said, but he’s certain that her knee needs attention as it’s “loosely flopping” around instead of staying where it should be, and that is putting extra strain on her ligament. Did I mention that she had both knees supposedly surgically corrected several years ago? We’re trying anti-inflammatories for now, and Maggie keeps trying to convince us that she’s all better, but it’s probably just temporary relief, so she’s scheduled for surgery in a couple of weeks. Six to eight weeks of confinement for recovery will follow.
After the vet yesterday, I picked up my dearest friend for happy hour before going to a reading, part of the Creative Writing Forum hosted by the community college where I work. After weeks that were overwhelming for both of us, we needed that time together. It was restorative, seeing our colleagues—good friends, all—and listening to an incredible poet share her work. Still, I couldn’t help but note from the chair where I sat in the front row that only a year ago at the same event, I was able to stand the whole time without thinking about it. I miss those days when I could take being upright for granted.
Goal: Keep on walking. Stop focusing on distances.
Goal: Get through yet another surgery with Maggie.
Goal: More happy hours. More poetry.
Something else happened this week, and the sadness of it keeps sneaking up on me in waves. My aunt Florence passed away on Sunday. She was my mother’s older sister, and for my whole life, she lived in a tenement building she owned in Rhode Island. There are three apartments there, and they’ve always been family-occupied; my sister used to call it the Walton house. When I was young, Auntie Floss and Uncle Henry lived on the first floor with their children. One, Kathy, lived on the third floor with her two daughters. That apartment had been occupied previously by my mom and sister. My grandparents lived on the second floor, Nana always good for a cookie, and Grandpa delighting in keeping his substantial candy collection all to himself, only offering his grandchildren “smells.” I stood there, stupidly hopeful, while my brother was smart enough to raid the stash in the bedroom. Although occupants changed over the years, that house was the heart of the family, the first stop when I’d return to visit (and usually the place where I stayed), always full of cousins and aunts and uncles, the gathering place for pool parties and barbecues. There were ten children in my mother’s family, and they would come by often, bearing donuts and coffee, visiting and laughing. It was the hub, and I still see my aunt in her living room, sewing quilting squares and drinking coffee, always ready for whomever might drop by next. That’s the picture of her I’ll hold onto.
High points this week involved spending the afternoon with my family on Sunday. My sister, my nieces, and I all gathered at my parents’ house to laugh and cry together. On Wednesday, I went by for dinner and made Halloween bags with my mom, a tradition started when the kids were young and one we love so much that we’re not ready to let it go now they’re grown. Tomorrow, Alvaro and I will go over for yet another dinner, where my mom is making her Boston baked beans, my favorite. We’ll bring Maggie, who hasn’t been in a long time because of recovering from the last surgery, and Gus, who stays by my father’s side, waiting faithfully for treats.
Goal: Love them in an active way while they’re here. Call. Write. Show up.
Goal: Learn again and again that letting go is hard. Lean into the grief without wallowing. Be the support system for others.