Life in an Obstacle Course

“Does anybody around here think?” I grumbled to my Sweet Baboo the other day.


That time, it had to do with the outdoor water faucet. It was supposed to rain: Storm, in fact. Thunderstorms were coming our way, said all the local TV meteorologists. Ditto, said The Weather Channel. Therefore, the garden did not get watered.

Thunderstorms, huh? I love thunderstorms. I sleep well through them. But we didn’t even get a small sprinkling. The storms got as far as the Illinios-Indiana line — and dissipated. I watched the radar. There they were: blue stuff, yellow stuff, red stuff; then they weren’t.

Out I went to water the garden, only to find that whoever had brought the garbage bin back from the curb had parked it right smack dab in front of the faucet.

Now, it’s difficult enough for me to reach the faucet. There is a deep pocket of white rock right in front of it that my scooter gets stuck in. Therefore, I have to park beside the rocks, lean w-a-y over, and turn the handle with the tips of my fingers. Add a garbage bin parked in front of the faucet? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Hence, the question when he called later to find out if I wanted him to pick up anything on the way home.

I mean, it’s not like anybody around here has seen me jumping, running, skipping, or even walking lately. You’d think they’d remember there are places I can’t get to if barriers are places in the way. The short version of the backstory is: I ruptured my Achilles tendon, got a bone infection, had to have a below-the-knee amputation to stop the spread of the infection. I get around on a mobility scooter.

Another example: I want to shampoo my hair. “So?” you ask. So I used the last of my shampoo and need another bottle. I have a stash of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel in a cupboard in the back hallway. If only I could get to it.

There is, in the back hallway, a broken fan (why isn’t it out with the garbage?), a free-standing toilet paper holder that hasn’t been used in nearly one year, a metal folding chair, the leaves for the dining room table, and something white and tubular. They’re against the wall, but take up just enough space that I can’t get my scooter through.

How many times have I asked my grandson to get me a bottle of shampoo? I lost count. Not as long as I’ve been asking him to clean the front porch and the deck. (My cleaning lady was going to come and do it, but I cancelled her because … it was supposed to storm.) I finally asked my husband, who got it for me. He even put it on my shelf in the shower.

But wouldn’t it be simpler to just keep the hallway clear?

Used to be, I’d get up, make a pot of coffee, and drink it. My stomach doesn’t like that any more, so I finally sent my grandson out to get one of those one-cup-at-a-time coffee makers. He came in the back door, walked through the kitchen, through the dining room, most of the way through the living room — and put the box with the coffee maker on the sofa. Then he left for work.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t brew coffee in the living room. Unfortunately, the box is too large for me to maneuver it into the kitchen while operating a scooter.

And, oh, how many times have I asked the others who live here to leave a couple of different sized plates and bowls within reach so I’ll have something to eat off of? Many more times than I can count.

Now, there are dishes I can reach, but they’re along the lines of my grandchildren’s “baby” dinnerware. Not that there’s anything wrong with having, say, a sandwich and berries on a plate featuring a purple dinosaur or a kitty with a big bow on its head, but it seems somehow demeaning. Not to mention that it makes me feel as if I should be cutting my food into small pieces.

And why are those dishes still around? One gran just turned 19 and the other will be 21 before the month is over.

Time to put my foot down, I guess, so I can make it through my own house. Thankfully, I still have a foot to put down.

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  • Deb

    Jan, it really really sounds like you live in my house. We moved the kitchen table out so I could get around with my rollator, but the three cases of water are still sitting in the middle of the floor – for the last month and a half. I had to out and out nag to get him to move the buffet (covered with a brilliant blue tarp) off the walkway in front of the house so I could get from my makeshift ramps to the driveway without my boot squelching in the mud (we did have storms). That was left over from the May yard sale and he intends to bring it into the living room, but only after he moves the second (broken) recliner out, otherwise I won’t be able to get to the kitchen at all! Good luck with your household! I guess it doesn’t make sense to anybody if they haven’t had to live it!

  • doon rothmani

    Ok, first, you have my sympathy. As someone with all four limbs intact, I am not going to judge how you deal with your condition. It must be so traumatic and scary and depressing and life changing for that to have happened.

    But it seems to me that you still have a leg and two arms, right? There are people who have run marathons on one leg. Maybe you should get a pair of crutches so that you can get out of your scooter from time to time and go where you want(albeit short distance)? Maybe you should also have a manual wheel chair and reserve the scooter for going long distances outdoors. With a manual wheel chair you could maneuver the tight spaces around your house, and at the same time use your arms and upper body, as well as your good leg, and keep your body active.

    Yes, you need to put your foot down. Put your good foot down on the floor and walk when you need to, instead of living like a paraplegic. Put your good arms to use and not turn everyone in your family into a nurse.

    “Invalid” is a status that, while no one wishes for, has its advantages. But its better to keep using what you have then wallow in your disadvantage, and risk losing everything you still have through disuse.

  • Jan Chait

    I’m sorry, Doon. I didn’t realize I was supposed to be traumatized, scared, and depressed. I’ll have to try that some day. In the meantime, my Pollyanna gene is too dominant to let that happen. In fact, I woke up from surgery making amputation jokes.

    I did try a wheelchair after surgery to reattach my Achilles tendon. Trouble is, I live in an old house and the wheelchair couldn’t go through all of the doors. I couldn’t even get to my bedroom. A scooter is narrower and gets me all over the main floor of the house.

    There are two reasons I don’t wear a prosthesis: I have level 4 osteoarthritis (bone-on-bone), which makes it very painful to walk, and I’m allergic to the lining in the sleeve that holds the prosthesis on my leg. I do need to talk to my prosthetist about that. Knee replacement surgery? I had a pin put in my toe and lost part of my toe. I had a screw put in my heel and lost part of my leg. Apparently, my body does not like metal implanted in it. I’m unwilling to try “third time’s a charm” with my knees — and my surgeon agrees with me.

    I cook (and I mean from scratch; not from grabbing a box from the freezer and nuking it), I clean house, garden, work, do community service, nurture a grandchild or two, keep my husband happy, do lunch with friends, travel (I recently returned from a two-week Panama Canal cruise), and do all those normal things.

    There are, admittedly, some things I cannot do. For example, I cannot do laundry, because the laundry room is in the basement. However, I can (and do) fold the laundry and put most of it away.

    As for the things I mentioned in my blog — the garbage bin in front of the water faucet, the items in the hallway and the out-of-reach dishes — I see nothing wrong with people picking up after themselves and being considerate of others. That has nothing to do with disabilities and everything to do with common courtesy.

    I hope you keep all of your limbs. Perhaps the feelings you were (wrongfully) attributing to me are more what you would feel for yourself.


  • jim snell

    Jan Chait: What a response. Such spirit and no nonsense – no flies on me.

    Load blunderbus with grapshot and blast point blank range.

    Have a great day!

  • Deb

    Great response, Jan. Maybe Doon needs to know a little about someone’s background before taking potshots. You are the least “wallowing” person I have the privilege to know.

  • SSP

    Oh Jan, you are such a whiney titty baby, I don’t know how you stand yourself…..kidding, my friend. Tell them damn kids, in no uncertain terms that their rights in YOUR home are about to be revoked should they choose to leave THEIR crap, or any OTHER crap, in your path. They have the entire basement to trash! You know the adage…a place for everything and everything in its place. You don’t ask for much, and I have eaten your cooking….Threaten a box meal or two, and I bet they straighten up.

  • doon rothmani

    First of all, I’ve read a lot of your writings since 2006 and if i gave the impression that I think you are anything less than awesome, i apologize.

    The point of what i was saying was not that you were actually depressed or frightened, or that you should be so or anything along those lines.

    I was saying that one should try to be physically fit/active and independent despite the loss of a limb. And it seems that, from what you are saying in your blog, that you are not doing this to the extent you could be.

    I read some of your other entries regarding your diet and exercise. I know that you approach things with humor, and also give others hope that they can control diabetes without being super men and women.

    But I have to say that you also express attitudes about diet and exercise that are not conducive to effectively fighting this horrible disease we have (I was diagnosed with type 2 a year and a half ago).

    For me (and this IS JUST ME) I don’t think about exercise as being optional. And as for diet, I don’t try to fit diabetes into the way i (used to) eat. It’s not about what foods I like too much to give up. You know why? Because after watching my brother in law die a slow painful death from diabetes complications (end stage renal disease), I realize that I like having kidneys and not needing dialysis 3x per week MUCH more than I like sweets or carbs.

    I hope you can put your “blunderpuss” down long enough to consider what I’ve said in the spirit in which it was said. Old chinese proverb – It takes far more wisdom to take good advice than to give it.

    Ask yourself whether you are putting more energy into rhetoric, retort and self-justification than you are into actually figuring out a way to remain physically active and independent despite considerable obstacles.

  • Jan Chait

    You know, Doon, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes on January 2, 1986, so I have 25 years on you. I understand where you’re coming from — been there — and really do appreciate your concern. Maybe in next week’s blog I will discuss some of the diabetes-related evolutions I’ve been through in the time I’ve been dealing with it. My attitudes have changed over time and probably will continue to do so. Maybe yours will, too. Just sayin’.

    BTW, I haven’t touched a blunderbus since I was 18 years old (won a turkey at a turkey shoot — we shot at targets, I hasten to add). That was more than 40 years ago. But I’m probably still a good shot. ūüôā


  • doon rothmani

    yes. I think i am working things out in my head.

    One thing that annoys me is that when I was diagnosed, my doctor said “you have to go on medication right away”. I said “Doc, can I control my diabetes through diet and exercise alone without meds?”. His reply was a very cautious “yes, maybe”, but then he indicated that I would almost surely not be able to lose the 50 lbs needed to bring me to “normal” weight, which, at 5’8″ meant dropping from 200lbs to 150lbs.

    The thing is that, although I am an extremely weak minded person with no willpower whatsoever, I have been able to (through proper psychological self conditioning and an approach to exercise that is too involved to get into here) follow a relatively aggressive diet and exercise routine.

    When I moved to chicago, my new doctor was annoyed with me because i was not on meds. He said that he would give me a hemoglobin test, and after that, if i didn’t want to take meds I could, in his words, “find another doctor”. When he saw the result though, he said I was “normal” and might be considered to be “in remission”.

    Then I read things on the internet, including a scottish study indicating that proper exercise will cause remission in MOST patients, and other studies that indicate that a restrictive diet will cause remission in almost all patients, etc etc, and wonder why the hell the diabetes community is de-emphasising this? Yes, experts agree that diet and exercise are extremely important in controlling diabetes. But always and consistently is the idea that diabetes patients are basically too lazy and gluttonous to do this, even to save their own lives.

    And so, when it comes to this issue of diet and exercise, I see a lot of “enabling” on the part of experts(and I consider you to be an expert). Yes, eat cake and candy and ice cream, just less of it. No, don’t bother to lose your emotional attachment to poisonous food, just try to be “good” on most days. Exercise as often as you “can”, sure you’re too busy to do it so don’t be consistent, but, again, try to be “good” and do it more often than if you didn’t have diabetes, etc. etc.

    These criticisms are not aimed at you personally because they seem to be universal among people in the diabetes community. And I also, as you have gently pointed out, am NOT in the position to give you advice. And you are exceptionally smart and courageous and doing such a great service in general with your blog in helping others cope with their condition. I guess my comments were just a reaction to what I talk about above, and in responding to you as I did, I am missing the mark.