What I love most about being retired is having the opportunity to hang out in the middle of the day with neighbors. One of the ways I do this is through walking.
Living across the street from a Park has it’s advantages, it’s easy to make a plan to meet up with a neighbor for a quick walk, talk and a visit. We don’t have to drive, there are no gym bags or locker rooms involved, we just step out the door.
Sadly, I must report this winter has “roughed-up” two of my regular walking buddies. I feel selfish admitting I miss my friends, but I can strongly empathize with what they are going through. To say I admire them for the way they choose to handle their situations is not adequate, better to say I honor them and hold them in a place of deep respect. It’s important to note: they are the ones dealing with the pain and emotions of real, physical loss.
Friend #1 twisted her knee shoveling snow and ended up with a meniscus tear. Not good. Very painful and presents major decisions like – live with excruciating pain after activity, cease all activity, have possible arthroscopic surgery to clean up inside the joint, or get a knee replacement. Friend #1 and I were getting in 6 and 7 mile walks. She is a go-getter, a sailing instructor, a “hustle up the hancock-er” and a participant in other “bling” oriented contests of perambulation. This has been a tough experience for her. Through all of it, she has still managed to get out for some miles around the park, albeit with the temporary help of a cortisone shot. I admire her fighting spirit and will continue to offer support.
Friend #2 has been my role model for retirement. She retired maybe 5 or 6 years ago, and has been happily buzzing about the neighborhood since. (I have marveled at her energy and aspired to be like her – she is in the picture of my very first blog post.) Occasionally when I would be out in my car running errands, I would see her out walking, miles and miles away from home. I began walks with her in the summer and on weekends when I was still teaching. Her loss has been the greatest loss I can imagine, yet she is a warrior.
Two or three years ago she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Walking as therapy for the PD patient, is critically important. As my friend continued her walking in a battle to fight the symptoms, I walked with her, and we talked about the changes affecting her neuromuscular system. Friend #2’s journey with PD has been one of swift decline. There has been much physical therapy, and many different doses, prescriptions and titrations of meds. Couple all of this with the realization she can’t live in her home of 30 years anymore because of the stairs – what an immense series of hurdles it’s been.
At this point in time, walking for friend #2 is a significant challenge – and it’s only been a couple of years since her diagnosis! The Parkinson’s has robbed her of her swift, coordinated, beautiful “I can walk for miles” gait. Her hip flexors don’t contract and extend in forward motion anymore, it seems as if they rotate. Her newly inverted ankles, complicate matters – the dorsi and plantar flexion I take for granted in my feet have become stiff and unpredictable in hers. Each step is slow and precarious. As if that wasn’t enough, the damn Parkinson’s causes her eyes to close. Imagine walking without seeing where you’re going. Sometimes, I need to guide her back to the path, so she doesn’t fall off of it. She is courageous and refuses to surrender to the Parkinson’s. She never complains, she just keeps trying. She always has a joke for me or a bit of humor. We never talk about the disease anymore – what’s the point?
Life throws curve balls. Curve balls suck. That’s it!
My walking buddies continue to focus on their curve balls, they persevere, the bravest of the brave women I know, determined to “square up” and hit the thing out of their life.
I have to say… I kind of wish life would stop with the curve balls for them. Enough already!