One day, I will not be able to walk. I can’t ignore that fact any longer. My calves protest under the onslaught of this newly identified disease. I know that losing a few pounds would help, but not that much.
The fact that I’m still walking at 67 bespeaks of the wonders of persistence. Not for nothing did Judge Peggy Stephens McGraw take judicial notice of my relentlessness. When a doctor told my mother that I would not live to graduate college, she rolled her eyes, took me by the hand, and marched me out of his office. When another physician cautioned that I’d be bedridden by 25, I gave him my best Miss Manners blank stare, paid his bill, and left. At forty-two, I fired a doctor who gave me six months to live.
But the tide swells. The crack will swallow me whole. I appreciate the time that I’ve stolen from the great leveller. I stand as often and as proudly as possible, but the hand which I’ve been played mostly contains jokers and the Ace of Spades.
So from time to time, I gaze at the world from the driver’s window of my car, just to remind myself of the view that I will have for the last decade or two of my life. It’s not a bad sight; I can see most everything if I roll down the window and lean outward a bit. On my recent trip down memory lane, through the streets of Kansas City, I kept my new phone at the ready and my eyes wide open.
Some amazing experiences awaited me during that visit. My son came to Gillespie to meet my sister and me for lunch. My friend Jeanne drove all the way from Webster Groves to St. Charles to leave a jacket on the porch of my AirBnB. I spent an hour with a man whom I had not seen since our eighth grade graduation. I drove across the state to spend a comfortable week in the home of my friend Brenda. I had dinner with someone who knows a secret or two about me, and will never tell. Dozens of people gathered to celebrate the release of my first essay collection, including two of my siblings and one of my sisters-in-law. Everywhere, people hugged me — after assuring me of their vaccinated status, of course.
I had to drag myself on the plane to come back to California.
When I scrolled through my photo gallery a few days later, pangs of longing rose within me. There really is no place like home. If only the Pacific straddled the border of Missouri! I’m sure the folks in Kansas wouldn’t mind.
With the help of a walking stick, I can make my way across the meadow in the park where I live. I can stand on the edge of the levee road and watch the sun send its shimmers of gold across the San Joaquin. I can slip behind the wheel of my Toyota RAV4, and drive through the Delta. But I can only see the streets of home when I close my eyes. I won’t lose that when my muscles decline to the point of no return. I will always have the memories. I will never forget my drive through the city, in September, with a hint of autumn in the Midwestern air.
It’s the fifteenth day of the one-hundred and fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.