Columns

Limping My Way to Another Birthday

Quick question. Don’t cheat by Googling.

What do columnist Cindy Hval, former Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, former Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson and former New Orleans Saints free safety Jairus Byrd have in common?

Answer: all have suffered meniscus tears. (The meniscus is a c-shaped piece of soft and fibrous cartilage in the knee.) Sure the injuries of the latter all occurred while playing for the NFL and this columnist’s injury apparently happened while strolling around the block, or sleeping, but still – I’d like to think the four of us could bond over a beverage whilst discussing physical therapy protocols.

The hitch in my gitalong happened last fall shortly before we visited The World’s Most Beautiful Boys (our twin grandsons). I noticed a twinge in my left knee during my regular walk but dismissed it. I’m prone to dismiss twinges, which is why we arrived at the hospital a scant 20 minutes before the birth of two of our sons.

While in Ohio, chasing after toddlers proved painful, so the day our plane landed in Spokane, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment. An X-ray showed no fractures and very minimal arthritis for “a woman my age.” Diagnosed with a suspected sprained knee (though I hadn’t fallen or even twisted it that I recalled) my doctor prescribed ibuprofen, ice, elevation and rest.

Then my knee started buckling without warning. The swelling didn’t abate and the stairs in our split-level home became my idea of the old lady Olympics.

With another visit to the twins coming up, I finally sought physical therapy. After some poking and prodding, the therapist said she suspected I had a slight tear in my meniscus. She felt optimistic that with diligent home exercise and physical therapy I could avoid surgery.

That was six weeks ago, and I have seen lots of improvement, though how the injury occurred in the first place is still a mystery.

Last week I celebrated another 50-something birthday and I’ve noticed one side effect of aging is the increase of mysteries.

Example: Yesterday, I brushed my teeth after breakfast, but when I got ready for bed at night I couldn’t find my toothbrush anywhere! I scoured cabinets, tables, nooks and crannies, before finally finding it behind the coffee maker.

Obviously, I wasn’t caffeinated enough to wield a toothbrush.

A sore neck puzzled me for weeks. No amount of pillow-fluffing alleviated the ache. Then I read that many who work at computers all day don’t have their monitors at eye level which causes neck strain. Currently, my monitor rests on a copy of “E-Myth Mastery” and “Greenhouse Gardner’s Companion.”

Recently, my husband and I planned a Netflix binge of a suspense series we’d wanted to catch up on. Halfway through an episode, I awoke with a start. What woke me? Derek’s snores. We had to start the entire episode over.

“That’s what we get for trying to watch late-night TV,” I said.

Derek cleared his throat.

“It’s 9 p.m…”

Earlier this month my 90-year-old mom had another dental emergency. I scheduled her appointment and we arrived early. A full day early.

“That’s OK, sweetie,” she said. “I’m used to it. Your dad got everywhere early. He even showed up in Heaven early.”

Speaking of Mom, last week I was at her senior-living apartment making a list of items I needed to pick up at the store for her. It was a mental list, which turned out to be a big mistake.

“Did you say you needed paper towels or toilet paper?” I asked.

She narrowed her eyes.

“Aren’t I supposed to be the one with dementia?”

I may be aging, but I’m still young enough to get schooled by my mother.

Unfiltered 57 🙂
Columns

Together again, time with Mom a priceless gift

When my brother told me our mom could have a designated emotional support person, all I could picture was a fluffy service dog wearing a bright orange vest.

At the end of February, the governor allowed for one individual to be able to visit their loved ones in assisted living facilities. While my brother takes care of Mom’s finances and doctor’s appointments, I attend to her personal needs. In other words, I’m her toilet paper, toothpaste, soap and lotion gal.

Since Mom could only have one ESP, it made sense for that person to be me. Plus, I look better in orange.

Actually, I was relieved to learn I wouldn’t have to wear the vest or remain on a leash. All that was required was the completion of a fair amount of paperwork, and an introduction to the automated sign-in process. At every visit I fill out a health questionnaire and take my temperature. Surgical masks are required at all times, even though Mom is fully vaccinated.

Small price to pay to be able to see my mother again.

On Feb. 24, I walked through the doors of my mother’s apartment for the first time in a year.

“Surprise!” I said. “Do you recognize me with this surgical mask?”

She laughed and reached for me.

“Of course, I do!” she said. “You’re my baby girl!”

And then we cried because that’s what we do when we’re happy.

“I’m your ESP,” I explained.

She shook her head.

“Now, honey, you know we don’t believe in things like that.”

I grinned.

“Well, believe it or not I’m going to come see you every week,” I said.

Then I got busy checking her cupboards to see what she needed. Alzheimer’s has decimated Mom’s short term memory. As she likes to put it, “My short term memory is – very short!”

This made it difficult to discern what personal supplies she needed via phone calls. For a while she would try to go through her cupboards while I was on the phone with her, but that worsened her anxiety.

For months I’ve had to guess how much toilet paper she had, or if she was out of deodorant. That caused me anxiety. However, I was relieved to find I’d done a pretty good job guesstimating.

I was wrong about her candy stash, though. Every week she’d tell me she was out, but I assumed she’d forgotten some still in the cupboard. Nope. Mom’s sweet tooth is impressive.

As I sorted, tidied and organized, I paused in front of her wall calendar. It was still on March 2020. The world stopped for a lot of us that month, but not as completely as it did for our elders in assisted-living facilities.

Gratefully, I hung her new calendar.

I wanted to take a picture of us, so I fetched Mom’s hairbrush.

“My goodness!” I said. “Your brush is missing a lot of bristles.”

She nodded.

“Yeah, it’s losing teeth as fast as I am.”

I brushed her hair, and told her I’d bring her a new one. Then I dabbed a touch of lipstick on her and snapped a few photos.

Cindy Hval with her mom. February 2021

“How come you’re taller than me now?” she asked. “I was always taller than you.”

I assured her the only growth spurt I’d had was COVID-19 pounds.

She shrugged.

“Must be gravity.”

The next week I showed up with the biggest size bag of her favorite Wintergreen Life Savers I could find.

“Oh, my goodness! I’m going to have fresh breath until I die!” Mom said.

I pointed out I bought her the party-size bag, and she said, “Honey, if they find out we’re partying they aren’t going to let you come see me anymore!”

But they will, and now that we’re in Phase 3 she can have additional visitors, not just her designated emotional support person.

I unwrapped her new hairbrush and slid it through her silver hair while she reminisced about babysitting my boys when they were little.

She caught my hand and held it to her cheek.

“I’m glad you didn’t forget me,” she said.

It doesn’t take ESP to understand how precious these visits are for both of us.