Thursday, September 4, 2014

Walk On By

Uh oh. There's no soft place to land.
Our feet propel us out the door in the morning. (Coffee helps, too.) The same feet and legs carry us through the workday and take us on errands, a meet-up with friends, and home again. If those feet and legs fail, we don’t have pinch hitters or understudies to take their place.

My mother recently hurt her ankle and leg and has to use a walker and go to physical therapy.  She’ll recover, but simple tasks aren’t simple anymore and getting out the door involves a three-step forward, two-step back minuet.

I’m seeing my mom’s surroundings through new eyes: a staircase morphs into a mountain trail. A door that opens onto a tiny vestibule that opens to another door is a trap designed to snare the wheel of a walker. A broken sidewalk qualifies as an obstacle course.  Ever notice how many sets of steps lack handrails? Me neither, not until my mother needed a walker.

My mom’s situation is no fun, but what writer can resist stepping into another person’s shoes--and ankle compression brace? I’m learning a lot and, to my shame, realize I could have been a lot more patient in the past with people who navigated slowly due to walkers, canes, and scooters.  The nicest words I heard recently were “Take your time,” spoken by a woman who held back her kids so my mother and I could cross a parking lot entrance.

Has an injury, yours or someone else's, changed the way you view your surroundings? If so, did the change last past the recovery stage? Where do you stand on handrails: necessity or spoiler of clean design?


Liz Flaherty said...

I've never thought about it that deeply, more shame to me, but I agree that "take your time" can be truly wonderful words.

Hope your mother heals soon and well!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Liz,
I'm been guilty of false patience; a look of forbearance while counting how many seconds I had to wait for someone I perceived as pokey. Oh, karma, you showed me! Let's hope I learned to say "take your time" and mean it.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I try to remember to be patient with people who have mobility challenges. Even though we didn't have to, we recently added a handrail to a section of sidewalk with three steps leading to our apartment building, became we knew an elderly tenant sometimes had trouble. But we've held off on other modifications that would be burdensomely expensive. It's a tough choice to make sometimes. Good luck to your mom and best wishes for her recovery!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,
I get that modifications have to be made when they make financial sense. It was thoughtful of you to add a handrail to steps on a sidewalk. My brother lives in a condo-like development of single family houses and has two brick steps to his front door and no handrail. Adding one would cause a whole set of problems because of the community's architectural restrictions.

Thanks for the good wishes!

Patricia Rickrode w/a Jansen Schmidt said...

I know exactly how you feel, Pat. When my mother was slowly dying and had to use these devices I gained a whole new appreciation for the pace at which some folks have to travel.

Now, I often see old people shuffling along as if they are really trying very hard not to hold up the line or to make it across the street before the blinking hand tells them the time is up. I try to say something encouraging or acknowledge them in a kind way. Sometimes I say, "I hope I get around as well as you when I'm your age," or "don't try to be a speed demon, you're making the rest of us look bad." I don't know if it helps, but it makes me feel better in my own little self-absorbed world.

I hope your mother is back on her own two feet again real soon.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt

Lark Howard said...

Sorry to hear about your mother, Pat. My mother needs a cane or someone to hold on to when she walks these days--so hard for a woman who was always so active.

One of the reasons I'm so determined to stay fit and able to walk is seeing so many older people struggling to get around due to illness, frailty or injury. Even with recent codes requiring handicap accessibility, life is hard if someone has mobility issues. I'm all for rails, ramps and other accommodation in public places--and they don't need to be unattractive.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patricia/Jansen,
Your little world is made of kindness. Self-absorbed? I don't see it.

Your encouraging words to shufflers (and fellow bloggers) make a difference.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark,
I feel for your mother and the chip-chipping away of her independence.

Let's hear it for good-looking accommodation in public places! (Can we get Steve to work on it?)