When I was in the hospital, four months ago today, I was lying face up in my hospital bed looking at two things, a white board with various names and numbers written and erased on it, and above the white board,a large clock. I could also see the door to the right where people came in and left, the bathroom door and when I turned my head left I saw the sun come up out the large window, like an broken egg, over a vast view of fields and sky. I slept for two hours, then woke for an hour, slept one hour, three hours. I listened to music with my headphones and called for a nurse to heat up soup. I sat on the edge of my bed feeling pain from what I imagined resulted from blood rushing down my swollen, wrapped leg in its brace; fluid going with gravity filling the wounds. I tried to explain my pain to the nurse. “There’s no pain in bed, just when I move.” I said. “She’s never had surgery before,” The nurse told the doctor.
The first night a nurse wrote the name of my surgery: “tibial plateau fracture surgery,” and described the screws and plates in my leg. She wrote her name on the board and asked me what did I look forward to, in the future, when I was out of here, when I was better? I just went along with it, and through my sleepy gaze I watched her write what I said. “Walking the dogs.” It would be so long before that happened, so I might as well not even consider it. I was glad for her effort, and I tried to stop my tears. “No problem, honey,” the nurse said. You’ll have no problem walking your dogs. I promise.”
There was something that was my life, and it wasn’t this, was the implication I think. The writing on the board was supposed to motivate me to swing my legs and push my body out of this hospital bed. The physical therapist said, “The longer you’re in this bed the harder recovery is,” and had some sort of mathematical formula. Like one night in the bed equals one month recovery. I read the board when I woke through the day and the first night. When I was too drugged to go home, I read it when I woke the second day and night.
Today, the Solstice, I loaded the pups into the back seat of Veronica Speedwell (my Honda fit), turned the key, pressed the clutch (with minimal pain) and drove to meet Karin at Union Reservoir. She’s been walking the dogs so much that they have a little routine with her. I never had a moment where I felt ecstatic and I said, “walking!” I’ve had many small moments: I can walk while grazing my hand along the wall. No pain in my knee today. Less swelling. I can see veins, I can open the garage door, step up the back steps, carry the litter box.
I’m learning to swing my leg from my hip and bend my knee and ankle, push off my left toes. I try not to hike my right hip up. I try to go smoothly over roots and gravel and step in dry places between patches of ice. (My foot moves all together, like a hoof). When I flex my toes, pain shoots up the arch of my foot. People think I’m a walking person with a limp. I’m a person who hasn’t touched down for three months and now I’m filling my muscles with my body’s weight.
The water’s low, grasses brown. Hardly anyone’s here. The sun comes out for a moment. We make it to the secret beach with the reeds. I walk so slowly that Jake sort of runs and then sits to wait for me, then runs and sits. Chloe pulls so I give her leash to Karin. I’m clumsy at it but there’s less ankle pain then yesterday.
When we get home, the dogs and I sleep like we’ve been walking all day. I walk out front after sunset and look Southwest where people say Jupiter will be low in the sky with Saturn. I see it.
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