As the weather became warmer, I found myself spending more time outdoors. On days when I had to go to the gym or somewhere else indoors, I would wait in the sun for Metro Mobility. As I waited for my ride, my body would start to feel more limber and alive. I would reflect on how much hard work had brought me to this point. Now I felt unhurried and serene.
When the bus or SUV would arrive from Metro Mobility, climbing inside and buckling my seat belt were very simple. When I had started taking Metro Mobility in 2016, I had required help from the driver at each step in the process. Just getting into my seat and ready to go had been a five-minute process. But the years of dedication in the gym had given me back more control of my body. The minute changes in physical ability made me feel so proud. It pushed me to keep working on the strength and flexibility of my leg.
Living with Mary reinforced everything I was doing in the gym. For instance, my favorite strength building leg exercises were squats and leg press. I supplemented these each time I had to bend down and pick up after Mary. As recently as March, I would worry about losing balance when I bent down. But the more often I did, the more I realized that my leg wasn’t about to give out. Having to take her out three times a day also contributed to my recovery. When I was in the gym or at physical therapy, I always did some walking exercises. But these were always things that were highly structured and planned. When I took Mary out, it was often early morning or at night, my body felt half asleep, and there was no handrail. Having nothing external to depend on helped me to train my body.
My friend Maggie had been asking me about letting her spend some time with Mary. While the request surprised me because Maggie is a cat person, I told her that we could definitely hang out because Mary loves people in general.
One evening when Maggie and I were out having dinner I invited her back to my building to hang out with Mary. We went out in the backyard so Mary could run and play. After we got outside, Maggie asked me if she could hold the leash. Since Maggie could walk better than I could, I let her walk Mary all over the yard. Mary strutted, ran, and basked in the sun. Maggie thoroughly enjoyed playing with her. We stayed outside for two hours, letting Mary frolic in the dying sunlight. I don’t think any of us would rather have been anywhere else.
A few days later, Maggie invited me over to her place for dinner. She had chicken that needed to be cooked soon, so she enlisted my help to cook and eat it. She offered the day before she wanted me to come over. This was a problem because I needed to have any ride requests in before 5:00pm. Since it was already after 7:00, Metro was out. Maggie told me that there was a light rail terminal outside of her building in downtown Saint Paul. I hadn’t taken the light rail since before I left Minnesota in 2011. Since then, they’d added the line that ran to Saint Paul, so I was excited about the idea of riding somewhere I’d never been by light rail before.
Since I didn’t know where the transfer point to Saint Paul was, I asked my friend Manny to drop me off at the nearest light rail terminal. I could go online and figure out what to do next. But when I went to the Metro Transit website the next day, there was maintenance being done on it. Manny told me that he could drive me to downtown Saint Paul himself. He picked me up and drove me directly to Maggie’s office building.
Maggie had parked a few blocks away and asked if I wanted to wait while she went to get the car. I told her that I wanted to walk with her. I was wearing my business casual shoes, so I didn’t have my leg brace. Consequently, it took a great deal more effort to lift my foot every time I stepped. Every few steps my foot would drag. I had to lean more heavily on Maggie than I wanted. I also had to stop periodically to gather myself. But I had committed to walking the entire distance. In my mind, stopping short would have been admitting failure.
When we turned the final corner, I was dripping with sweat. We still had to walk about half a block, but it was all downhill. This made lifting my left foot off the ground easier, but I was still exhausted. I was so relieved when I finally got to Maggie’s vehicle. I climbed in and sat back to catch my breath. I explained that not wearing my brace and running shoes made navigating more difficult. Next time I’d plan better.
Once we were back at Maggie’s she told me that she only had chicken tenders and a few other things like rice and peppers; we had to decide what to make. She suggested we make fajitas.
“I don’t really want rice, but these would be great on top of nachos,” I suggested.
“I do have cheese and tortilla chips. Would you prefer to bake ‘em in the regular oven or microwave?”
“Just microwave ‘em this time. We can plan ahead next time.”
We cut each portion of meat in half and fried them in oil. She poured the cheese over a bowl of chips and placed it in the microwave. Next we heated up the rice and peppers. When everything was done, Maggie brought it over to the table. Using my hand, I piled a piece of chicken atop a cheesy tortilla chip.
“Too bad we don’t have any sour cream.”
“I do have some!” Maggie went to the fridge and came back with a bowl of sour cream, spooning a couple of dollops onto my plate. I scooped some up with a chip, then placed a piece of chicken on it. I bit into it, enjoying the interplay of temperatures and textures.
We ate until we were each quite full. Then we retired to watch some TV in the living room. That alone would have been a perfect evening. But Maggie suggested that we go to the lake for the sunset. We went to get ice cream first, then we drove out to the lake. By the time we reached an empty bench, the sun was too low for us to see it behind the trees.
It was still such a tranquil scene, the trees and sky reflected by the shimmering waters of the lake. We were sitting in the middle of a palette, surrounded by all the colors of Spring.
The following day, I had a doctor’s appointment for an allergy issue I’d been experiencing. For the last few months my eyes had been red and irritated to the point where I was rubbing my eyes almost constantly. I needed some type of relief.
The first thing they did was take my vitals. I weighed in at 249 pounds. I had hoped to weigh a lot less, but I was happy that my weight was below 250. I was still down nine pounds for the year and had managed to keep the weight off. I was also confident that I would be below 240 by the end of the year. My blood pressure was 119/80. My systolic pressure had been in the 120s and 130s for the last month. Although it wasn’t a dangerous level, it was still too high for my comfort. Now my numbers were back in line for me.
The doctor was very friendly and even asked me how my blog was coming. At her request, I gave her the link. She examined my ears, throat, and lungs, then asked me about my allergy symptoms. She wrote prescriptions for me, and I was out in no time. The visit had been so brief that I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I walked out to the lobby and played on social media for a while before calling for my return cab ride.
The next day was a Friday. I had scheduled a trip to the grocery store with my ILS worker. Because I wouldn’t be receiving my disability payment for five more days, I was only planning to buy a few things. My ILS appointments are for two hours. The shopping trip had taken just over thirty minutes. To pass the additional time, I asked the ILS worker to take me to a local coffee shop.
Usually I order my drink and have someone bring it to me so I don’t spill. However, my ILS worker was still out parking the car when the barista brought it to the counter. I had been walking indoors without a cane for over a month, so I decided to pick it up and walk it over to the table myself.
I scooped up the cup, rolled my shoulders back, and began taking small, even strides across the floor. The surface was smooth, so my foot didn’t catch. I was surprised at how easy it was. But at this point, not stumbling is more about concentrating on my movements. I have the strength and balance to get where I need to go so long as I think about the steps I need to complete.