Every Step A Victory

As May arrived, it actually started to feel like Spring. The weather was pleasant; my shoulder had improved; I was walking more; my energy was up; and my economic situation was without stress. It definitely felt as though change was in the air. As I sat down one day to work on my blog, my laptop began to freeze. I had known for some time that it would probably require some maintenance because it would not take a charge and only worked when plugged in. So I wasn’t really surprised now that it was developing more glitches.

I took off Saturday from the gym and from running errands to concentrate on writing my blog. As usual, I went down to the basement, bought something to drink, and set up everything on one of the tables. Knowing that the laptop was having the charging issue, I plugged it in before powering it up. Ordinarily it takes a few seconds before the login screen comes up. But this time it seemed to be taking too long. It seemed to be frozen on the powering on screen. I shut off the computer and tried powering it up again. It still wouldn’t advance screens.

Sensing that the laptop was about to experience a major crash, I texted my friend Dave who handles all of my IT issues. I sent him a screenshot and a description of the issue. He agreed to come have a look at it the next day. He also said that he would bring a different one for me to use in the meantime.

That was a good long-term solution, but I had a 1200-word document that I had been working on. I could have written a 2000-word blog from scratch, but I didn’t feel like starting over when I had already completed over half. I resolved to leave it on indefinitely, waiting for it get to the login screen. After I logged in, I opened my email. It froze three times before I was able to compose a message, but I was finally able to attach the blog fragment to it and email it to myself. Next I opened the message on my phone and downloaded the Word document. After reviewing it, I was satisfied that the whole text had been saved. I powered down my laptop and went up to my apartment.

Dave came over the following afternoon, after I came home from the gym. Knowing how much Dave loves pho, I asked if he wanted to go to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant. I had a taste for banh mi, so it was ideal. I was rehabbing so much by now that even the increased amount of time I was socializing only amounted to over 20 % of the days I left the building. Dave and I caught up on each other’s lives. I know Dave from my adult soccer leagues, and he always notes how much better my left leg seems than the last time he saw me. Because I know how many sports he still plays, the compliments never ring hollow. Instead, they inspire me to stay active.

After an hour, we came back to my apartment so Dave could get set up on the new laptop. The only issue was that the touch pad didn’t read my fingers easily. Dave told me that he could bring a mouse for me to use. I wasn’t too worried, though. The more I used it, the more it would come to recognize my touch. After he left, I took it downstairs to finish my blog post. I had no problem downloading the old content or typing the rest of the post.

The following day, Dave texted me to let me know that the original laptop was dead. It would cost more to repair it than it was worth. He asked me whether there were any files I needed, but there weren’t. All of the blog posts were in the cloud, in email, and in the document history on my phone.
I had been needing to do some housekeeping on the old laptop. This would give me the opportunity to start storing and deleting my blog posts properly.

Getting to the gym was now becoming automatic. I got up and went through my entire routine, with almost two hours to spare. I was doing things more efficiently, but I often found myself getting drowsy as I waited until it was time to go downstairs and catch Metro Mobility. I had embedded things in my morning routine to help me to wake up. After I first go out of bed, I would grab an energy drink and sip from it for over an hour. After the assisted living staff brought up my meds and finished stretching my shoulder, I would jump into the shower. These activities would provide me with the eye opener I needed to get me through to 8:00.

However my bus didn’t arrive until after 10:00 most days. During that window of time, I would often start to experience an energy crash. Most days I would try to walk around more to wake myself up. Other days I might climb back in bed for an hour. What I feared most was falling asleep and missing a ride altogether. Missing three rides in a month would cause me to be banned for 90 days. So on rare occasions, I would drink a second energy drink before departing for the lobby.

After I returned from the gym, I would often end up taking a nap because my body felt depleted. As I got in better shape and the days grew longer, I began experimenting with skipping naps. The more intense sunlight made it harder to sleep during the day, anyway. I also wanted to see if staying awake all day would help me sleep better at night. But skipping the naps seemed to just sap me of my energy after 7:00. I crashed most nights between 8:00 and 9:00. The need to sleep would hit me so hard that I was lucky if I had the energy to take Mary out one last time. It was really starting to frustrate me.

One night when I knew I was going to get in late, I asked the staff to pack up my evening meds. The staffer asked, “Do you want me to pack your Trazodone?”

“Trazodone! Have you been giving me Trazodone every night?”

“Yeah. Every night since you said you were having trouble sleeping.”

It all made sense now. Of course I was drowsy after 8:00 pm. I was taking sleeping pills every night! The prescription I had was per as needed, so it would be easy to halt it and see how it was affecting me.

I was becoming more confident in the gym. My leg workouts without my brace were going so well that I decided to start working out without my leg brace all the time. I like doing hamstring curls there, but my leg brace makes it difficult because it covers my entire calf. Without the brace, I should be able to recover some flexibility.

On Friday morning, I slid into place on the hamstring curl machine. I pulled my foot upward toward the ceiling. I felt my leg hit the pad. I felt the weight providing resistance against it. I strained, curling my lower leg back as hard as I could. I knew my leg was barely moving, but it was progress. And it was only the first day.

Next I went over to the lying leg press machine. Without the brace, my foot had the maneuverability to slip into place. When I rested it against the pad, my entire foot was in contact with the surface. I pushed up with my leg. It was the easiest time I’ve had with the exercise since my stroke. I easily did twelve reps. Then I did the same thing for two more sets. I was overjoyed after I finished my leg workout. After years of progressing to and through two different corrective foot devices, I was finally poised to start regular weightlifting again.

That evening, my new friend Maggie told me that she was going to take me out for a surprise. She drove us up toward north Minneapolis. Soon I saw the World War I memorial come into view. I told Maggie that I had driven along the parkway before, but I had never actually walked it. Maggie has been very good about taking me walking. Not only is the exercise very healthy for my muscles, but it’s good to challenge my brain by forcing it to adapt to new places. If it can figure out how to adapt on the fly, I will be less inclined to lose my balance in general.

Maggie also prefers to exercise in the evening. I am a morning workout person. So it usually works out that when she asks me to do something, I have already had physical therapy or weightlifting that morning. This would have been too much activity in one day last year, but it is now something that my body benefits from. My stamina increases and my gait improves with every step. And because Maggie is practically as tall as I am, she can assist me when I push myself to the limit, because she can match my stride.

It was a beautiful, cloudless Spring day. Trees of all colors seemed to cuddle the memorial to the fallen. Its flag pole pierced the fading blue sky. The flag undulated endlessly in the breeze. Maggie pointed to the house she grew up in, right there along that very street. As we walked along the paths, she told me the stories of the tree and crevices where she had played as a child. This lent a feeling of enchanted innocence to the scene.

In the dying evening, we walked and talked until my leg was burning from exhaustion. So we drove to a 1950s nostalgia restaurant where Maggie used to eat as a kid. We shared the most delicious burger and malt I have had in years and talked as I listened to the songs my dad used to play for me when I was a kid. Everything about the evening seemed to blend perfectly. As Fats Domino came on the radio, I shut my eyes and imagined being ten years old and terrified as we drove across Lake Pontchartrain after a perfect evening in New Orleans.

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