Adjusting to Life As I Now Know It has not been the easiest of tasks, for perhaps the most obvious of reasons: my physical abilities are limited, in some regards slightly, in others severely, and since almost everything I do requires some sort of physical motion, everything seems slower, or more cumbersome, or both, than it used to be, I am not anywhere near 100 percent these days and can't envision any circumstances under which I ever will be again.

That said, some tasks are easier than others. The following are off the table entirely:

  • Transport of the trash bin. I can't make it down my newly steepened driveway, and I can't lift the bin over the curb, which is now several times as tall as it used to be.

  • Changing light bulbs. I have eight-foot ceilings, not all that high, but not reachable without a stepstool or ladder, and while I have one of each, I can't actually make it up a single step.

  • Moving furniture. (Then again, I try to avoid this anyway, but sometimes things must be moved for cleaning purposes.)

Driving is slightly impaired, though the worst of it comes when I climb in or out of my car. It helps that the seat automagically retreats to the farthest-back position whenever the key is removed; however, if I don't enter at the correct angle, I end up with one leg — the right one, generally — wedged under the steering column. (The wheel has an up/down adjustment, but no in/out; it's routinely kept at Farthest Up.) Once underway, the occasional disconnect I feel at the ankle will translate itself into hitting the wrong pedal, which is never a good thing. Exiting the car requires me to slide as far out as possible without actually reaching the point of butt/seat separation, then grabbing the door while sliding up the jamb. Inelegant, but workable.

It is never a good idea to stay seated for a very long time. I can't actually get up from most seats without help, and the longer I've been sitting, the more help I need. You'd think this would help build upper-body strength, since I have to grab something and pull up, but so far, it doesn't seem to have done so. This is especially tricky in my small postwar bathroom. There are a couple of grab bars now attached to the toilet, but the nature of the fasteners makes it slightly less stable than it ought to be: the added height of the grab-bar bracket makes it impossible to tighten the screws to the maximum. And I have to grab one of those bars to lever myself into the bathtub, which involves sweeping one leg over one end of the tub and then seizing the ceramic soap dish that's cemented into the wall; it takes both bars to get out of the tub.

The occupational therapists came up with a scheme to drag my laundry basket with the walker, using an old stretchable belt. It worked after a fashion, but eventually I figured out that it was easier just to dump the contents of the basket onto the walker's optional tray and carry it out that way. If I stack stuff with some degree of care, I can get everything on there in one trip.

Grocery retrieval is another matter entirely. Getting down to Walmart's dock is simple enough, as is coming back from it; but for a typical $60-70 weekly grocery run, I have to make three, sometimes four passes from car trunk to kitchen, each of which involves negotiating a single step. Convenience foods and pantry items, typically squared off in shape, are easy to pack onto the tray; fruit, fresh vegetables and bread, not so much.

"Is there an upside anywhere?" you may ask. Well, maybe one: that same tray can accommodate a heck of a lot of pizza. Inevitably, this has led to increased pizza consumption — instead of once a month, it's more like once a week — but what the heck. I discovered more or less by accident this past fall that with the tray in place and the height adjusted properly, I can answer the door unclad without putting the naughty bits on display; however, this strikes me as a bad idea if I want to keep getting pizza delivered quickly.

The Vent

  17 April 2017

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