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I, who had seldom asked anyone for help with anything, learned the humbling ability of being grateful for the help I constantly needed

Most of us have found recently that our lives can change in just a few days or weeks. Mine changed in five hours on Jan. 6.

The "piece of cake" hip replacement I had that day, that friends had assured me would make me "so glad you did it", didn't.

The "piece of cake" turned out to be two femur fractures during surgery. My life changed that day, possibly forever. From an active life of boards and committees, gardening, clubs and time with friends, I found myself alone in a room in a rehabilitation center for three weeks, then staying with a friend for another six weeks, confined mostly to a wheelchair. It would be almost three months before I could negotiate stairs and return home. Even with loss, however, there have been many lessons learned, perhaps useful for others in these uncertain times.

I, who had seldom asked anyone for help with anything, learned the humbling ability of being grateful for the help I constantly needed. At the rehab center, I learned the names and nationalities, many recent immigrants, of the hardworking nurse assistants whose work is often thankless and low-paid. I thanked often. One lesson learned. 

I learned that a phone call or visit from a friend was like sunshine on a cloudy day. I had often put off calling or visiting friends who were confined inside for fear I was bothering them, but I found it was the opposite for me. Some friends brought flowers, treats or just themselves during the months I was away from home. There is nothing like the voice of an old friend to bring comfort and smiles, and a book by a favorite author is better than chocolate. Almost.

I learned why I seldom watched daytime TV: It is mostly unwatchable, especially ads touting the advantages of a wonderful new drug followed by all the reasons it could kill you. How I missed my BritBox streaming when I was away. 

I no longer pity those with walkers and wheelchairs; I learned from experience that those things are friends which enable us to leave our beds or chairs and be out in the world. My walkers will be memorialized as towel racks when I'm done with them, to thank them for their service.

I learned that just looking at even the prettiest view outside a window might as well be observing a painted backdrop. Without the feel and scent of the outside air on your face, you are a prisoner inside a box, whether it is a room or a home. Open a window, sit on a chair by an open door on a nice day and wave to neighbors. Let the outside in, if just for a moment.

A vase of tulips in my favorite color, a fast food burger when the craving hit, my favorite magazine; all of these became treasures brought by others, to be enjoyed slowly and thankfully. I learned to linger over tastes and words that I might have rushed through before, on my way to more important things.

I learned a lesson still useful: to have a goal each day, even if it is just taking a few more steps, doing a puzzle together or organizing passwords. At the end of the day it's good to feel you have moved ahead, no matter how slowly.

When your life has changed from the old normal, try a new schedule each day and find your new normal. We found it opened up new possibilities and ideas not thought of before.

These were all lessons I learned, but the one I treasure most is finding the sweet joy of returning home after almost three months away. I know now how very, very good it is to just ... be home.

Peggy Keonjian is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Community Center.


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