In the stillness of morning, I take stock.
I hear the dove outside, nearby; mournful and low, repeating her call to a silent mate. Something twitters; a nuthatch or a finch, high and happy, if I can be forgiven my assumptions. I close my eyes and let the coolness of the morning wash over me.
I start with my toes and ask myself, Can the feet move? Not yet, comes the whispered reply. The searing pain in my right hip reminds me of the Oldsmobile which parked itself just there, on top of a shattered Gremlin door. One firefighter held my hand as the other worked the jaws of life. “It’s a good thing you hadn’t buckled your seat belt,” he murmurs.
It would be years before I could bring myself to wear one.
Between my spastic toes and my degenerated hip, the operated knee has swollen through the night. Funny thing to call a few inches of metal. “Operated knee”, it says, on my chart; but that was two or three procedures ago. For the last sixteen years, I’ve had this hunk of twisted, broken machinery, with a knob of cartilage inflamed in the center of the faulty joint. It’s not ready to bend, just yet. I flex it, wince a little, then go back to my mental inventory.
The sun sends its creeping tendrils through the slit in the curtain. The light rises in my little house. I reach one hand towards the ceiling of my daybed cubby, running my fingers across its rough surface. For the hundredth time, I lament the screws sticking through the loft floor. I’ve got to get someone to fix that, I tell myself.
A little tap on the metal roof distracts me. A scrub jay, perhaps; or a woodpecker. I’ve never seen a squirrel in the park. I’m not sure they live here. But the woodpeckers! Oh how they love to hammer away at the California oaks rising above our meadow!
Now I raise my feet. My calf muscles demand attention; they’ve grown even more taut as I slept. Funny thing, the brain. It keeps me moving all day despite the limits of its tortured pattern. As soon as I fall asleep, all hell breaks lose. I strain against the pain. Bend and stretch, reach for the sky.(1)
In a minute, I’ll swing my legs out and steady myself with the edge of the cabinet. Then I’ll pull myself to something like a sitting position, and hold my breath. I’ve fallen on the floor more times than I care to say. But this time, I make it, and soon I’m in the kitchen putting the kettle to boil.
And through all of these machinations, one thought shines: “Ladies and gentlemen, I woke up today, which is more than many people can say. So let’s get started.”(2)
It’s the twenty-fifth day of the sixty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
(fn 1) The linked clip does not feature “my” Romper Room. We had Miss Lois in St. Louis. But I couldn’t find one of her doing this song. My apologies to my St. Louis friends from childhood for the substitution.
(fn 2) I served as a courtroom prosecutor for the late Hon. Leonard J. Hughes, Sr. in the Kansas City Municipal Court from 1983 – 1985. He started each day’s session with this announcement.