Elderly Knee

Ten years ago when Jeff died, I was in the middle of middle age, and suddenly, according the statistics being bandied about because of this current health crisis, I am “elderly.” I’m not sure how that happened, but the truth is . . . hmmm. I don’t know what the truth is. Maybe that I am older than I think I am. Or maybe I really am old enough to be at risk.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that said you know you’re old when all your injuries are a result of sleeping weird, and that sure hit home. A few days ago, I went to sleep feeling great with all parts working, and I woke with a knee so out of whack and I could barely walk. Then a wrong step a couple of nights ago made it worse. Though the knee is marginally better today, for which I am grateful, I am using my Pacerpoles as if they were canes to keep the weight off that knee as much as possible.

It makes me feel sad for those poor demoted hiking poles. As recent as eighteen months ago, they helped me to maneuver cliffside trails, trek through overgrown forest paths, descend scree-laden desert tracks.

Now the poles only serve to get me from room to room, and they don’t even do much of that. Mostly, I stay in one room. The daybed seems a bit easier to navigate with a bum knee since it has rails that I can use to pull myself up, and it’s a bit higher than my normal bed, so it puts less strain on my knee when I stand up.

Apparently, not only am I in the “stay at home or else” group, I’m also in the “stay in one room” group. Perhaps even the “stay in bed” group.

Sounds elderly to me.

Luckily, I have books so I don’t need to go anywhere even if I could. I should start my car to keep the gas circulated and the battery active, but the thought of having to uncover the vehicle and try to sidle into the seat without stress on the knee is too much for me to even contemplate.

And I have food. I had a few leftover tea cakes I’d made for the open house to celebrate my one-year anniversary of home ownership. I’ve been doing a good job of staying away from such treats, so I’d forgotten I had them. (Before my knee decided to go wonky on me, I’d given up deserts in an effort to lose weight to protect my knees, but my body seems to be more interested in protecting my weight than my knees.) I decided if I was going to die from a novel disease, I didn’t want to die with cake in my freezer. How sad would that be! So I ate it. And I made a stir fry with odds and ends in my refrigerator. As you can see, I’m doing fine on the food front.

Well, I’ve been sitting long enough. I better go rest my knee.

My poor elderly knee.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

The Blooming Desert

The desert is blooming, and so, I hope, am I. Each day I do a bit more, stretching my poor deformed limb, trying to get back into my life, whatever that might be.

No — not my poor deformed limb. My exquisite limb. As Sheila Deeth, friend and fan extraordinaire, suggested, paraphrasing the blurb at the bottom of my posts, “’an exquisite wrist, wrenching to move, and at the same time full of profound promise’ perhaps?” I like her phrasing so much better than the way I describe my wrist! And I’m sure the wrist would appreciate the new appellation because it is trying so hard to move! It’s not the limb’s fault it doesn’t look the same as it used to. (Though who am I to judge? I don’t look the same, either!)

Today I used both Pacerpoles (I’d been using the right-handed trekking pole as a cane), thinking the left pole would give my wrist a workout, and sure enough, it did, though I had to carry the pole part of the way. Still, any usage of the wrist, no matter how painful, is a step in the right direction.

And, even better, both my exquisite wrist and my exquisite self were rewarded with these exquisite images of the blooming desert:

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Mini Adventure

Note to self: Do not take empty backpack to grocery store.

I needed a bit of adventure today. Since I don’t seem to see the sense in driving somewhere to walk, I decided to do a sort of hiking tryout starting from the house I am currently sitting. I donned my new hiking socks, new hiking shoes, grabbed my new pacerpoles. At the last minute, I decided to take another campingpair of shoes in case I happened to encounter issues with the stiffly new shoes, so I stuffed the old ones in my backpack (not a daypack) and headed out. The only unpaved area to walk around here is a vast field with paths leading to a shopping center, so I figured while I was there, I would pick up a couple of things at the grocery store. Those “couple of things” turned out to be an assortment of oranges and apples, eggs, a couple of canned goods, a few protein and fruit bars, and various other things my hungry/thirsty self seemed to think it needed. All fit in the pack, but eek. It weighed at least fifteen pounds.

The 2 1/4 mile hike to the store was downhill, and with an empty pack and my new pacer poles, I just skimmed along the pathway. The way back, obviously, was uphill, and with all that weight on my back and hips, I did more plodding than skimming, though I can’t blame it all on the weight of the pack. By the time I headed back, the moderate temperatures had blazed into the high nineties. (I don’t often finish a bottle of water on such a short hike, but I’d drained the whole thing before I got back.)

It turned out I didn’t need the extra pair of shoes. The socks did what they promised and kept me blister free. The pacerpoles also did what they were supposed to, kept me upright, shoulders relaxed and back, and distributed the weight more evenly. The only problem is, now my whole body aches, not just my feet!

I don’t suppose this is much as adventures go, but it satisfied something in me, smoothing out my sorrows, giving me a chance to use the hiking gear I’ve been assembling. I hadn’t planned on starting out walking with a fifteen pound pack — I’d thought eight pounds was more of a beginning weight — but I managed to get back all in once piece and uninjured. Always a good thing!

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Keep On Trekking On

I’ve been following a few women’s hiking groups on Facebook, one each for the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the John Muir Trail. I joined these groups when I thought there was a chance I would be thru-hiking one of the trails, but I really don’t think I have the strength, stamina, or will to attempt such a massive project. (The food planning alone is staggering, considering that you have to plan for six months, and in some cases, have to send the food on ahead and hope you get to it before desperation sets in.)

WANDERLUSTThough I’ve set my sights on a smorgasbord of shorter trails, working up to multi-day backpacking trips, I’ve kept up with the groups, because you never know where life might take you. (At least I don’t where life is taking me. You might have a better concept of your path than I do of mine.)

I’ve paid particular attention to discussions about gear. The trouble is, the advice is so conflicting, it’s almost impossible to sort out what would be best for me as opposed to what is suitable for younger, fitter, thinner women. Most of the gear I have purchased I found on my own, though I still don’t know if it will work for me. The tent I got is a backpacker’s dream, lightweight and easy to set up, but a bit claustrophobic for general use, so now I’m looking for something a bit larger for car camping, where perhaps I would have room for some sort of folding lounge chair. Conversely, since the sleeping pad I got is a bit heavy for backpacking, (though that’s what it was intended for), I’m looking for a lighter pad. And a warmer sleep system.

Recently I’ve been researching trekking poles since I need new ones. (I only have one that’s about worn out, and my hikes in the Redwood Forest proved the necessity for two). I’d just about decided to get a couple of the one I am now using when I noticed a brief mention of Pacerpoles in one of the groups. I immediately went to the Pacerpole site, watched the videos, read the theory, and was sold. Oh, my. These poles are completely different from regular hiking poles — they work to keep you upright, better balanced, and better posture, as well as allowing for a normal arm swing. Although the poles are not ultralight, apparently, the way they work, they don’t demand extra strength or energy. But they are only available from Britain.

No problem. They ship anywhere, and shipping costs are included in the price. And PayPal so kindly sent the euros to the Pacerpole folk so I didn’t have to worry about currency exchange. A few minutes ago, the Pacerpole folk emailed me. The poles are coming via Royal Mail. How cool! My first international mail! Well, my first overseas mail — I have had Christmas cards from a friend in Canada.

What cracked me up is the Pacerpole people sent me homework to do while I’m waiting. Videos to watch, information to read, proper body form to practice. Now I just have to wait a couple of weeks until they get here.

Meantime, I’m preparing for my road trip across the southernmost part of the country. I’d hoped to be more spontaneous, just stopping upon whim, but I know me — if I didn’t make plans to stop, I’d get into the car and drive until the car needed to be filled with fuel and my bladder needed to be unfilled. And then I’d just keep driving to the next pitstop. Since that is not what I want on this trip, I am researching various National Parks and Monuments with campgrounds and hiking trails along the way. I might not visit any of those places, but at least I’d have shorter driving goals, with a hike to look forward to if whim doesn’t stop me anywhere else along the way. (For those of you who like to plan, you’d be so proud of me — I have a notebook with maps, camping information, hiking trails, and any other information that would be helpful, such as food storage tips to keep from attracting mountain lions. Eek.)

I’m hoping by the end of the trip, I’ll be a seasoned camper, maybe even backpacker, and then . . . who knows. Probably back to dance class for a while to unkink and restore myself, while I replenish my supplies and get my car tuned up for whatever comes next.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)