I can get up and move about without pain if I am very careful. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and remembering to stand up in a single positive move with my back erect I will feel no pain. If I lean forward or put one foot in front of the other, I will feel a little stab in my back, like a teacher poking me to do better, reminding me to start again. It is a brave move as it is the first one after lying comfortably on my bed. I could stay in bed all day knowing that I won’t hurt but whether I like it or not I have to go to the toilet and so I stand and using only one crutch – I am trying to walk one foot after the other, rather than one foot and then the other, I walk to the sitting room door. This is the tricky bit as I have to make a left angle turn and if I turn too quickly I get a stab, I have to turn carefully letting the good hip go first, that is, the left leg takes the lead. I can even do a full circle turn as long as I lead with the left leg.
I am really good on the stairs now and go up one stair at a time both feet on the tread before moving forward. If I place one foot after the other, as I have done in a weak moment, a stab of pain stops me in my tracks and I go back to one step at a time. Patience, take it slowly and don’t hurry.
In the kitchen I can discard my crutch and walk free as long as I do it in slow motion. I can’t fill the kettle in the traditional way, kettle to tap and back to the work top, it’s too heavy. Instead I take a mug full of water and pour it into the kettle. Two mugfuls is enough to cover the element and boil enough water to make a cup of tea. Yes, I am independent, I can make a cup of tea and carry it in my left hand back to my bed, my right hand has the crutch. The crutch is always with me, literally, as a crutch.
I went for a walk outside. I got dressed in my boots and anorak, put on my gloves and with the support of my crutches I left the house. Sweet smell of fresh air, how I love you. The twitter of the evening birds as they sang their last song at dusk. The trees and glowering sky, the hard path under my feet.
‘You go on,’ I said to my daughter, ‘I’ll just mince along at my own pace.’
She hurried on with the dog and I savoured the great outdoors, I grew confident and walked one foot after the other feeling the natural rhythm of walking, not relying on the crutches but lifting them lightly so that I could walk freely. I got to the end of the path and whilst I didn’t want to go back indoors, I didn’t want to go too far and spoil my freedom by running out of energy. I turned, no pain, and walked back, once again not relying on the crutches until I got to the front door where obstacles lay ahead, ledges and steps, a change of surfaces. Back inside I put aside my crutches and sat on the side of the bed, remembering to stay upright, peeled off my boots pushing on the heels, no pain, and then slid my arms out of my anorak. A deep breath and I pulled my legs up together to swing them onto the bed. A stab of pain but I must not hesitate, I lie sideways on the bed like a beached whale until I get my breath back and then I can either shift a little and lie on my lovely comfortable bed or I can turn and in one determined move sit upright shifting back to the pillows piled against the headboard.
I’ve only had one shower since the accident and that was last Friday, lying in bed a lot makes you smelly and I wanted another one but didn’t like to ask, it is quite a lot of trouble getting me organised and last time we had to go down the road to a friend’s granny who had a downstairs shower. Believe me it was worth it, I savoured the moment as I stood under the water, the smell of soap and shampoo, the luxury of water washing over your whole body. And afterwards that lovely feeling of cleanliness.
‘Do you think that you could make it all the way upstairs to the shower in my room?’ asked my daughter.
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I think I can. I will do it slowly.’
I climbed the stairs and then turning climbed the next set of stairs to the top of the house, to the en suite with a shower. The cat lay in the curve of the stairs, big and fat, black and white, he watched as I slowly made my way towards him. I had a choice, to poke him with my crutch or circumnavigate a move I could make as long as he didn’t do any quick moves. He eyed me with wonder as I passed him and reached the bedroom.
The shower was easy and once again I enjoyed the luxury of a complete wash. It was slow but then I have got all the time in the world and the results are worth it. I am learning to savour the moment. That was Monday and today is Wednesday and I am going to treat myself and make it to the top of the house for another shower. The exercise is good for me apart from anything else.
I sit and watch as the house goes about its business and I see the work that goes into both providing for the family and keeping it ticking over. Meetings, daily toil, appointments, kids ferried here and there, the hum of the dishwasher, the rattle of the washing machine, clothes to be folded, meals prepared and dispensed, housework, animals to be fed, rubbish to be sorted and arguments to be resolved. But it works like a well oiled machine as they come and go. And now they have got me to cope with as well.
‘How are you granny?’
‘I’m fine thank you.’
‘Do you need anything?’
I grab the moment and ask if I can have a glass of water or could you pass me that crutch or would you mind making me a cup of tea. I am conscious of the difference between showing concern and me asking for too much. I am so pleased that I can get up and do a few things for myself, I feel like this presence in other people’s lives.
I went away for a day and a night to stay with my lovely friend Lanky and I was grateful for the change of scenery. I was like an invalid as she fussed over me getting in and out of the car, making sure that I was comfortable in her armchair and then that night I slept in her sitting room on a rather grand fold up bed called a ‘wide boy’. I worried about it being a bit low but I managed fine and once in bed it was very comfortable. I noticed that she had tidied my slippers away under the coffee table and I wouldn’t be able to reach them, my bags were where I wouldn’t be able to reach them but it was nothing compared with the kindness and generosity of her hospitality. I slept soundly until 7.30 the next morning when I wanted to get up to go to the toilet. I was not looking forward to the manoeuvre. I found the crutch and placed it an angle ready for use, I swung my legs over the side of the bed and with a huge effort I stood upright, pain stabbed my back and I grabbed the crutch knocking over the glass of water by my bed. I couldn’t bend to pick it up and I couldn’t get a cloth quickly enough to mop it up and how was I going to do that.
Toilet, I thought, and made my way to the door. I climbed the stairs and got to the bathroom, the toilet seat was down and it is a heavy wooden one. I stabbed at it with my crutch wedging the rubber end under it to lift it, I can’t bend and it is heavy. At last I sat gratefully on the toilet, the bliss of peeing and sitting. Wiping your bum is a precarious business, too much of an angle and the stab of pain is waiting, but you want to be clean. I take advantage of being in the bathroom and having access to the sink but as I lean in to turn the tap the stab says ‘stay straight.’
On the way home I cannot resist going in to TK Max with my friend, we park the car right outside the front doors in the disabled bay. I’ll be okay I won’t go far. I walk carefully in between the racks of clothes near the door and then get ambitious and get in the lift and go upstairs to homeware. I know it’s too much, I am beginning to ache, feel weak and I must get back to the car. I go back to the car and sit gratefully waiting for my friend. We were going to go for a coffee but I can’t do it. She takes me home and back at the house I go through the whole rigmarole of getting back onto my bed. My lovely bed. I lie propped up against the pillows and silently than God. The family seem pleased to see me.