Panic on a gurney

silk tree flower
Silk tree flower, photo by Jericha Rendon

Two days ago I had another day surgery, related to the breast cancer surgery of June 13.  This was meant by the surgeon to be a simple event, draining a painful, annoying hematoma that didn’t seem to be shrinking on its own.  A twenty to thirty minute procedure.

Nothing went sideways till the cheerful young surgeon arrived after 9 a,m., garbed for the operating area, to inform me that since this was all being done in the Emergency Room, guess what — she was forced to give her skills first to an emergency gallbladder before she could do me.  She estimated it would take two or three hours.

Daughter Jericha arose early, took Elf and Opus for their morning run, and sat by me faithfully throughout the event.  Before it was over I was blubbering like an idiot as one awful memory after another from a previous hospitalization featuring six or seven orthopedic surgeries.  I went into that hospital at age nine, emerging at twelve and a half with a powerful determination to avoid doctors as much as I could for the rest of my life.  I’d also lost several years of elementary school education — but the results of that have been less painfully dealt with.

We had to do this day surgery by a circuitous route because of the demands of my Medicare Advantage insurance.  So, rather that having a relatively well scheduled day surgery, there was I, taking my place in the queue at the ER, complaining — as the doctor told me to do — of breast pain.  Finding one of the two wheelchair van parking spaces to be available in the hospital’s parking lot was a promising start.

I had so not wanted to have this operation, even urging the doctor to do it as a minor office procedure.  She couldn’t, though she didn’t say so at the time.  Later I understood — but in the two week period that elapsed between her telling me we would likely going to need this and me arriving to claim that parking space I had gone back into a childish state of mind, that existential fear of “being cut up”, of having the adults in the room make painful decisions for me without explanation, then me going through long and rather horrid period of recovering while encased in plaster.

Presenting a cheery demeanor to others, when alone I would sit around in my quiet apartment with the sympathetic dogs, shaking and twisting my hair, wondering how it was that my body — usually quick to heal — had failed me this time.  There was a hematoma in the surgical site that felt very much like one of those old fashioned stone or ceramic doorknobs we had in the old family home.

A large part of my resistance to this small surgery was that my daughter and her husband were scheduled to embark on a trip to visit East Coast family just a few hours after the operation.

The surgeon had a full schedule all week till Thursday, but did not want to postpone it any longer because there is a little clamoring from others for me to begin radiation treatment, while suggesting simultaneously that this hematoma thing had to go and I heal up first.  She was on board with “get this woman into radiation” but we had these outside time limits to work with.

And then the surgeon was unable to perform my simple little thing because of the gallbladder person.  Who turned out to offer her one complication after another.  For hours.  By two thirty she sent a message from the OR, “Another hour if we’re lucky.”

Doctors.  Once in, they can’t get out.  Can’t walk away from an open patient on the table to grab a bite to eat or sit down for a few minutes after ten hours of standing.  Man, you need terrific stamina and concentration to be a surgeon.

I have an intense dislike of IVs, particularly in my hand.  The day might have gone better if an ER nurse, not knowing about the surgical delay ahead, hadn’t insisting on inserting the thing into the back of my hand.  Five hours later, when at last the call came to move my gurney from the Emergency Room to the surgical prep region, it had gone bad, and there was a small balloon on my hand.

Another nurse removed that one, gave the area some lidocaine, and put a new IV into my wrist.  Owwwwwwch!

Alas, I have never liked lying on my back, yet that’s what I did from 9 a.m. till 3:30 p.m. or so, when things began moving that horrid resting place on wheels from the holding area towards the OR.  Freeing my hungry daughter to head for the cafeteria at last.  Me, I had eaten nothing for twenty four hours.  She would bring me some hummus and pita chips for later.

At first we read, played animal trivia, considered some events in the news, talked and generally enjoyed the opportunity to be there together without the usual pressure for my busy daughter to rush off.

Eventually, though, my bad back began its typical laments, which grow louder and louder with time.  Red hot demons with sharp hammers took over the lower back until I was ready to screech.  I was not allowed to take my mid-day dose of acetaminophen and gabapentin, but nurses did urge me to take some kind of opiod.

I told them gently that since I had nearly become a demerol addict back in the horrid hospital I continue to follow a no-opioids-until-I’m-dying-for-sure regime.

They tactfully left Jericha to do her best to keep me from become seriously troublesome.

Nearby in the ER was a very large woman in a very large power wheelchair, who had a big swelling on one side of her face.  Listening to one of the doctors addressing her forcefully about the need to spend the night in the hospital for observation, yet keep turning to a nurse and saying, “Look at her face, she’s not understanding anything, she’s not really here” then throwing up his hands and walking away.   He shouted, “You could have trouble breathing and die!” Treating the woman like a block of wood — it enkindled a long-forgotten rage at medical professionals.  I just knew she was understanding every word.

An inner chant started in my mind, “Lady, roll out, lady, go home, lady, don’t let them treat you like that for two more seconds!!”

And she was understanding perfectly, because she berated the next set of medical people to approach her.  “I want to go home to my dog!  I did not come here to spend a night in the hospital!”

It looked as though she won her point, because she packed her things, shoved the curtains aside and seemed only to be waiting for her discharge papers when I last saw her.  I am hoping very much that she and her dog are okay.

Then the old memories began to bubble up as I lay motionless on the gurney.  I never lie on my back, as it is quite uncomfortable, and here I was, forced to do that for over six hours.  The gurney’s back went up and down, but there was not a lot of comfort in that.  I could not move much with that IV thing stuck in my hand, since I’m paralyzed below the shoulders I need two hands to move around.

And so it was that grumbly me fell victim to such forgotten surgical dramas as a ten year old girl sitting up on another gurney with a thinner mattress, howling tearfully at the surgical team that “I want my mommy!  I want to know what you are going to do to me and I want to know why!!!!”

And getting no answer.  One of the doctors had a little ditty he would sing to me:  “Women are frivolous, women are frivolous.”  Now I wish I had whacked him, then I just stared, wondering what that notion had to do with anything.

I would work myself up into such a state of fury that they had to cancel the surgery.  Once or twice.

Then there came the day when they wheeled me into the”operating theatre”, now knowing that I had decided that neither love nor money would tempt me to succumb to their anesthesia — and I did not.  Cancel surgery again.

However, the reward for that was being firmly masked and forced to breathe ether the next four or five times.  Ether is a dreadful thing — for years the smell, the enveloping wooziness of the stuff, would come back to me in the midst of whatever activity I was busy with, stopping me cold.  Nearly six decades later it still does, though not very often.

Nevertheless I still fought.  Successfully enough that during one spinal fusion procedure I came to well ahead of schedule, listening to the doctors talking about all kinds of things other than myself, before they noticed that I was perfectly conscious.  “Lie still just a minute while we get you sewed up” was  not a particularly pleasant thing to hear.  From there I was loaded with considerable care onto a gurney and taken to the casting room.  The technician there faced the challenge of getting me encased from head to toe in plaster without moving me much, and destroying the just-performed spinal fusion.  And he had to do it with me demanding to know what was going on every step of the way.  No doubt wishing devoutly that the anesthesia had kept me under till he was done with his work.

Much as I hated the surgeries heart and soul, the aftermath was worse.  Orthopedic surgeries are painful.  Those hammer wielding red-hot demons would pound up and down my spine, in my legs that the doctors broke in order to rotate my tibias, through my hips, my legs, my abdomen.

Yet the most dreadful memory tearing at me on Thursday involved the long, long waits lying on gurneys in hospital corridors, awaiting my turn to be wheeled in, taking my position beneath the waiting hands and instruments of robed, masked, full sized demons who would never explain a thing to me, would rip off my johnny, summarily roll me over and stick needles in my spine.  Or draw and write all over me, loudly debating their surgical possibilities.

And so on.   What I wanted, oh so badly, was to be out in a field with horse friends, picking flowers, eating apples off the trees, smelling fresh  air again.  I was as pale from the many months in that hospital as though I’d been living like Gollum, in the back of a cave or the bottom of a well.

My daughter and a nurse named Emmanuel bore the burden of my tearful memories, the uncontrollable shaking they brought on, the misery of having to lie on that frickin’ gurney for hours, and painful needle thingy stuck in my hand.

But when my surgeon popped in looking less sparkly than usual for her — but still full of interest in the surgery she was about to perform (on me), my dimmed spirits shot up and life began to seem possible once again.  Life in the present, the past be left where it belongs.

I loved that she and the anesthesiologist listened when I said I wanted — needed — the least strong anesthetic possible.  Since my daughter was on an ever tightening deadline, and she would be required to drive groggy me home down the highway, we were going to have to take the driver’s seat out and make other adjustments to the van at her house, from which I would have to drive myself home.  The distance is only a couple of blocks, but still — one needs wits.  I loved that the anesthesiologist was a cheerful, warm fellow who explained everything to me.  And did, indeed, give me something that did not leave me groggy, nauseated or otherwise in need of time that wasn’t available.

By the time they one-two-threed me off the horrible gurney and onto the green sheeted, narrow OR table in a freezing room I felt thoroughly engaged and cheerful.

I went out like a light for about twenty minutes, and woke up still on the table, the friendly team still all around doing whatever they do in there, chit chatting with each other and me, explaining that everything went fast and well — Whoo hoo!

Getting one-to-threed back onto the gurney didn’t bother me a bit.

Sensitive to my twenty four hour state of foodlessness the recovery room nurse offered me saltines.  I grabbed the two in a little packet like a starving person, took a chomp out of one.  Oh, how good it tasted!  Then ….  How come I am still chewing this thing?  …. Uh, I’m still chewing this thing?   How come I don’t seem to be swallowing it?  Why is it sticking to my teeth like cement?  Ummmmm, I can’t swallow because — yikes dry mouth!

I had to swig water to get two tiny saltines down in a ten minute time frame.  It felt like swallowing chewing gum.

We did get home in time for my daughter to show the teenage twin fellows who are walking Elf and Opus twice a day in her absence.  I do the mid-day event, which is shorter due to Fresno’s intense heat.

She and Paco did get off to start their trip, and here I am, doing my best to heal (again), to say farewell to some old demonic memories.

Things all turned out well, exactly as they should, despite my kicking and fussing on that accursed gurney. I don’t think I’ll ever again agree to do a quick little day surgery that starts in an Emergency Room.

Another good thing to come of the long day was that I got the chance to weigh myself again on the big scale in the surgical prep/recovery area.  I went on a diet the day of the breast cancer surgery.  Since then I’ve lost almost nine pounds — and that on a woman who gets very little exercise.

If I could just get Elf and Opus to pat me on the back I’d feel like a champ.

 

Oh tubby me — oh!

The tune for this blog name goes along with the fine and impressive aria O sole mio.

As a token of my appreciation of the new ear worm in my head, I give you, for three minutes and twenty one seconds, Signor Luciano Pavarotti, no twiggy build himself.

My unexpected area of focus on the day of my breast cancer surgery (June 13) was — embarrassingly — my weight.  A scale in the surgical prep area was the first one in a dozen years that I’ve been able to stand on, crutches and braces along for the ride.  It had a broad, non wobbly base and a strong railing around it.

My moments on the device disclosed that I am some twenty pounds heavier than I thought I was.  Er… pretended I thought I was, if we are being honest.  And what would be the point of fibbing to my blog?

Photos taken of me on such occasions as my daughter’s wedding and a pleasant trip to Fresno’s Japanese Garden gave me to speculate that I might be reaching more of a barrel shape than the woman shape I previously thought I had.  The surface mind poo poo-ed the notion that these images depicted the actual Emily.

The Inner Emily, nonetheless, was deep into panic mode.  Because, well, how DOES one shed weight when so many hours a day are spent in a lovely power wheelchair?

Here, for your studious picturing of me lounging around in my upcoming new, attitude-laden wheelchair is the manufacturer’s image of it and its capabilities:

tru-balance-3-q6-edge-2.0-electric-blue
Quantum Tru-Balance 3 Edge 2.0

 

 

Twenty pounds is a great deal of extra personal real estate for a very short person to cart around.

me in the recovery room
Here I lie in the recovery room, groggy and fuming…  Feeling like a dirigible.  My daughter took the photo.

Thus about the time I groggily noticed that the world was still there as the anesthesia wore off my mind began plotting means of dropping the excess Me.

The problem has not been that I eat too much.  My vegetarian diet has included almost no refined grains, little fat or sugar, lots of fruit and veggies, for years.   So maybe there’s been rather too much cheese, but who was counting?

Never slim because that’s not my body type, with or without the polio, my okay weight began shifting into bad three and a half years ago when my shoulders started with severe issues.  The doctor thought this would be either rotator cuff injuries or the wear and tear of walking around with wooden crutches for sixty five years.  Or both.  Didn’t make any difference to me what the cause was — I was, due to the incapacitated shoulders, quite unable to push myself up into the cab of my faithful pickup truck and get myself to an Albuquerque medical center for an MRI.

So I pampered the shoulders for a few months until they stopped with the hurting.  However, once recovered they were weak and unable to bear much weight.  Or allow me to walk around for long before my arms would start to go numb.

That sort of thing took away much of my ability to do things like yard work that had once given me pretty good workouts.  Less walking around is an obvious calorie enhancing activity.

So here I am.

For now I am doing the Dr. Fuhrman Eat to Live diet, which helped in the past when I also wasn’t equal to much exercise.   It’s vegan, with very little fat or sugar, tons of veggies fresh and cooked, plenty of fruit.  Legumes, a few nuts and such are encouraged.

I’ve been at it for over a week now and my clothes feel slightly looser.  Wahoo!

Meantime, Fresno temperatures have been in the range of 108º for days, rather quelling even the dogs’ enthusiasm for outdoor exercise.  But we have managed to record a few of the lovely flowers and trees around us.  Very healing enhancing, these lovely things are.

Driving through some changes

Something Wild, uTube with Lindsey Stirling and Andrew McMahon

If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding

Caught in all, the stars are hiding

That’s when something wild calls you home, home

If you face the fear that keeps you frozen

Chase the sky into the ocean

That’s when something wild calls you home, home

~Something Wild, Andrew McMahon and Lindsey Stirling

“You’re stronger than you know.”

Good to be thinking.

I’ve generally enjoyed making changes in my life, despite being a methodical person who depends on regular little daily sub-schedules, on things staying in their assigned places so I don’t need to spend time hunting for them.  As a handicapped individual with mobility challenges this aspect of organization serves me well.

Sometimes a whole lot of changes show up in a short period… and I do feel something beyond simply dizzy.

Such as now.

Only last June Elf, Opus and I found ourselves squeezed into a rental Ford Taurus that had hand controls different enough from those I’d been using in other vehicles that I barely managed to brake in time to avoid T-boning a big white panel truck.  We were accompanied from our long time home in the middle of New Mexico by an enormous rent-a-truck jammed to capacity with three generations of family belongings.  Headed for California’s gorgeous Bay Area.  Which in short order I learned to love for its glorious trees, land, mountains and salt water, for the tech companies all around, the whizz-bang techie culture, the marked diversity amongst the humans, plus many other things.

Maybe a tad less the super laid-back vineyard-visiting, fine wine cultures that can … once in a while … feel … a bit … removed from normal American life.  But hey, I’ve been a middle class person mainly,  without time for too much laying back.

Now we are preparing to leave this pleasant, if costly region for the more normal all-American mid-section of California known as the Central Valley.  That’s the place where corporate farmers struggle for water to continue growing nut and fruit trees and where over half the fruit, nuts and vegetables in the US have been grown — despite a severe five year drought that depletes ground water supplies alarmingly.  Cities are sinking as the water level drops, along with farming acreage.

It’s a place where big issues will continue playing out for a long time regarding global warming, the difficult and sometimes awful choices to be made about what lives and what dies.  Endangered salmon versus thirsty almonds.

Occupying a huge section of California between the coast and the mountains just before Nevada, this valley starts around Bakersfield in the south, ends was up around Redding in the north.  In the middle near Yosemite, Fresno, at something over half a million people, is its largest city.

My own preparations for this next move began with acquiring my first wheelchair van, a 2010 Dodge Caravan with some 76,000 miles on it.  Time to knock off denial of my gradual physical deterioration.  My dream was to whizz around in a gorgeous new little Tesla, but the reality is that electric vehicles aren’t ready to provide power for the ramps nor the space that wheelchairs need. Soooo….

Meet the van, which goes under the working nickname WV (Wheelchair Van) for now.

 

I’ve had it three weeks today, and as of next Monday it will (hopefully) be registered with the DMV and I’ll have my California driver’s license.  Such is the busy-ness of the state’s motor vehicle division that it takes that long to get the necessary done, by appointment.

Getting WV all set up with the kind of chair anchoring system you need in order to drive from your wheelchair rather than the usual seat took the entire Thanksgiving week, and then some.   Then began two serious learning curves of wheelchair driving — one, figuring out how to position the wheelchair into the lock so that the mechanism would agree to unlock and let me out when I needed it to.   Still working on that, though things are improving.  The actual driving, if one has been doing it for over forty years, comes back even after six months of inactivity.  The second adjustment — for me, anyhow — is adjusting to Google Maps on my iPhone, which must sit in the cup holder just under the right wheelchair arm.

Either Apple makes getting proper directions a bumpy process where its arch rival in smartphones is concerned, or I’m missing something.

My first trips alone in WV were up and down 101, sort of — because Maps would send me off or away from the highway and into useless little residential regions of Silicon Valley.  Where I experienced the dull thud mentality of passing streets with names like Semiconductor Way near Texas Instruments in…  well, I don’t actually know if that was Santa Clara, Sunnyvale or what.

Alone I also indulged my love of watching salt water riffle in the wind out near the western bottom of San Francisco Bay.  Seabirds wove their powerful way through air currents on business only they can understand, sailboats bobbed as pines along the shore bowed to air power.  The kind of cool, windy day in the Bay Area that makes me glad to be observing the outdoors from inside a warmish vehicle.

Last weekend my daughter, Elf, Opus and I took our respective spots in WV for an apartment-hunting expedition 160 miles southeast in Fresno.  That’s a place, in the midst of the San Joaquin Valley, I had not visited in the past, so it was with keen interest that I took stock of subtle changes in geography as we left the green coastal areas, crossed the Coastal Range east of Gilroy in the rain, to flatten out in what looked just about perfect for New Mexico.  Scraggly batches of trees crowded together in corners between tracts of land here and there.  Sky, sky, high and all around, so much vaster than what lies below the atmosphere with its burden of carbon, methane and other abnormal quantities of chemicals.  It presses down on the endless fields.

At first we were in another natural New Mexico landscape — sheep country.  Except here, rather than out with Navajo sheepherders and their dogs in rough chapparal or mountainous terrain the woolies grazed in large, flat, empty-ish square areas.  All sorts of sheep in various colors and sizes, with and without horns and black faces.  Despite the vast surrounding lots, true to their nature as herd animals the sheep clustered together.

After some miles of them, up popped a few red country billboards.  Make America Great Again, some alluding to a contentious water bill then moving through the US Congress — Is Politics More Important Than Food?

For those of you who care about the environment and/or the food grown here for so much of the country (and world) — the bill passed a few days ago.  Pitting California’s two long-serving women senators against one another.  One favored holding enough water to protect endangered species of fish and other creatures further north, the other was intent on striking a balance — of sorts— between the environment she also has long fought for, and the interests of Big Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley.  The latter was what passed in the bill this week.  (And I have much simplified what is in its complexity.)

All of that latter matter served to make getting acquainted with a special Baha’i woman near where I now live all the more inspiring this week.  She, too, is deeply concerned with sustainability and other environmental questions, and has come to champion no till farming as an emerging method that does the earth good with every crop.  A question perhaps for a different blog, no till or carbon farming has chiefly been adopted by farmers in Great Plains states — notably a “red” region of the USA.  Which serves to bring people of differing political persuasions into collaboration when it comes to things so basic to life as agriculture and maintaining a healthy earth.

If I’d thought the acreage around the lovely Gilroy area was spread out enough to be “Big Ag”, my daughter had scoffed at me.  As we got closer and closer to Fresno I could see what she meant.  That acreage goes on till the earth curves in the distance.  Often in all directions.  Never saw anything quite like it before, in person.  All in a zone of semi desert.

We will be moving to lovely Fresno within the next month. Once landed there we met up with Paco, my soon-to-be son-in-law, to visit a couple of apartment complexes, lunch with Elf and Opus at tables outside a Subway, admire a lot full of Christmas trees sprayed with fake snow, chase the dogs away from an encroaching rat, then to experience a medium-heavy rainfall that discouraged further apartment checking for that day.  After a lovely dinner at Paco’s off we rolled into the night, where there was only music to muse about amidst the blackness of scenery during our return trip.  The wistful, rhythmic violin of Lindsey Stirling with various pop singers kept us awake.

Altogether it feels like WV and I will get along, assuming that Paco doesn’t mind keeping the removable, substantial driver’s seat in his garage.

With the wedding a mere month away we now begin that awful process known as Packing the Boxes.  Moving them south bit by bit.  Sorting through furniture and other things with an eye to parting with as much as we can.

Oh — and planning the wedding, creating the decorations that Jericha wants to fill the hall they are renting.

Not dizzy much, me, till I start thinking of moving and marrying at the same time.  Thank heaven that it is my daughter and not myself doing the marrying!

And that’s the reason for the song up at the top. When life makes me woozy it’s the Something Wild that restores my belief in the goodness of being alive.

Down time beyond the next month I will love looking back at our days and friends here in Silicon Valley, at the wonderful wedding, at our WV journeys, the discovery of another new home area.  While I’m rattled those wild places do, indeed call me home even more powerfully than usual.

Transiting & lemon squeezing

wind farm
A tiny part of the wind farms around Temecula, California.  Drawing by Emily Lee

Moving involves a fair amount of self re-creation and may bring into play the re-discovery of potentials we once glimpsed, only to let slip away.

You think you are a country person, and here you are, by your own choice, in a city.  You used to roll your badass power wheelchair around quiet village streets, now your daughter bumps you along crowded sidewalks in a rickety little manual wheelchair, your two small dogs attached to your waist by a bungee coupler — hoping they don’t wrap themselves around a pole, or the legs of that umpteenth geeky guy striding eagerly towards you as he listens so intently to something on his smart phone that you are sure he thinks he’s the only person for miles.

Who would expect, though, that little city trees in somebody’s yard would produce wonderful lemons the size of grapefruits, that you could make the best lemon-honey tea ever from?  Things like that, visits and dinners with good friends, provide some golden times here.

Life in California’s Silicon Valley is pretty much what you expected, except you did not anticipate that upon your arrival in this quirkily fascinating place between techie mountains named Google, Apple and Facebook, your wheelchair batteries would go south and your leg brace would pop a rivet.  Again.  And when you discovered that these medical mishaps were occurring, you sure didn’t expect to find yourself sobbing loudly because you knew you were about to be grounded in your apartment for months.  Three of them, anyhow.

Had you foreseen how extraordinarily slow this process is right here, you would still be wailing.  Happily these misfortunes are not revealed to us all at once.  A series of small wails is more bearable than one big heart-busting fit of doom.

This is thanks to Medicare, the system which distrusts power wheelchair users so profoundly that it takes a few months to get authorizations for emergency repairs.  At least it does whenever you get into a new system, or need an especially expensive repair, or a new chair.

It was particularly galling to learn that I cannot even BUY a set of batteries privately.  “We need to wait for Medicare’s first refusal,” was the airy response to my stunned reaction at this piece of information.

So I’m grounded, other than when the aforementioned daughter manages to squeeze time in for a roll around the neighborhood one evening, or a weekend afternoon trip to pick up a friend in Salinas, where you get to see the sign — whoo hoo! — for the John Steinbeck museum, and wish you were free to visit it.  Salinas, an old, established place, is well worth a look around, anyway. So different from Mountain View, where we now live, where today’s vacant half lot is tomorrow’s newest spot for apartment development.  They squeeze these complexes into unimaginable spots…  This place, at least the section where we are, is wall to wall apartment complexes of different styles and ages.  Mountain View took off with early semiconductor companies in the 1950s, and  growth has accelerated steadily ever since.

And you sure didn’t foresee not having a vehicle of your own for the first time since you turned twenty two.  That was forty six years back.  A good long time to thumb my self-reliant nose at anyone who insisted I stay put when I was not so inclined.

To be fair, you suspected but were still stunned to discover that the cost of a decent used wheelchair mini van is around $35,000.  Not real feasible to somebody intending to survive on Social Security in the most expensive housing market in the USA.

So here I be, observing progress of balcony repairs and restorations in this and nearby buildings. Of roof repairs on condos on the other side.  Lots of time to think about how lovely my two dear roommates (and faithful dog walkers) are, how grand that I noticed a tiny hummingbird mom checking over our balcony plants one day, and was able to get a feeder up promptly for her.  How lovely that she came back with a friend or six.

Lots of time to muse over spending more time cultivating my neglected bonsai trees, over investing funds from the sale of my New Mexico home, becoming more of a non-consumer, lessening my carbon footprint, figuring out the best way to use Mountain View’s free ride service.  Time to catch up on reading, binge watch Netflix (of which I weary easily), and to blog.  Time to figure out how to get over to the bay just east of here to check out the birdlife, to visit the Googleplex on the way by.  To view progress on the Apple Donut going up in Cupertino nearby.

These days, rather than doing my daily meditations in my enclosed back yard, I sit in our second floor living room while the roomies are at work, facing the balcony.  Our newly resurfaced balcony, now that the Spanish speaking fellows have finished their work.  I find myself missing their rapid fire conversations, the lilt in Spanish that makes me smile.  They are nice guys, even moving the bonsai and other large plants into our living room during the resurfacing project.  Later they returned to put the plants back outside.

What worldly news there is lately to run through my mind is…. Just awful.   So many police officers have been shooting more black people than ever, especially young, or youngish, men, there’s no surprise when a veteran, probably black, has made a stand and shot a lot of white police officers in Dallas.  We are a racist society, definitely, and it’s time to bring that right out into the light.

Justice.  We must create that together, or perish apart.

News of the presidential campaign as it is gradually shaping up is fully as divisive and dismal as news of the shootings.  News from abroad is — well, should I be surprised or just shrug my shoulders — also very divisive.

How is the human race ever to get past glaring accusingly at one another’s differences if we keep focusing down on our otherness-es?

This stuff has snowballed to the point where it’s only too easy to miss the good news that is whispered as the rest is screamed.

Several quotations run through my mind  of late:

…”for love and unity come hard when ye fix your gaze on otherness.”

“When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.“  ~Baha’i

One cannot meditate constantly, however homebound they may be.  Time to bring back other pastimes, other ways of moving the mind outward, away from that scared, shivering little self not wishing to be hemmed in by a broken down wheelchair and fading strength.

Lately I’ve been remembering scenes that flew by us as my daughter and I drove here from my former home in New Mexico, followed by two friends driving a rental truck with my excessive belongings in it.  I love my friends a lot, but once I got here and realized the extent of size difference between my old house and my new rented condo I … almost … wished the truck had rolled over a cliff while my friends were out of it for a few minutes.

Fitting into a different space, that’s a story for some other time.  Today I am writing about mind space, adaptability, life’s inevitable changes, attitude towards that.

Part of the adaptation process has taken the form of me drawing on my iPad, using the Procreate app.  Since it wasn’t possible to take photos while driving — we were in quite a rush —I fixed a couple of scenes inwardly.  Keep it in mind that I make no pretense of being a painter or of being able to draw.  I’m a wood carver, a three dimensional artist, turned two dimensional of necessity.  These drawings are my way of exploring things I’ve seen, stripping away the irrelevant bits.

Here from my hours of enforced sitting arounded-ness, are two sketches I did this week.  One, below, is a wisp of memory from something I’d passed a number of times on I-40 headed west, in New Mexico.  It’s a Navajo type outfit, with a small ranch house, a hogan and a corral with an earth colored horse in it, set against towering cliffs.  I simplified it in my artist mind. It wouldn’t take much to visualize this place in Tony Hillerman stories.

The other, above, is of the spooky looking wind towers sticking every which way out of miles of mountains around Temecula, California,  It  (als0) wouldn’t take much to imagine these great hulks waving their flexible blades around way up there, chatting with ET.  Waves of future energy, menace to birds, bats and who-knows-what-else?

Oh, science, why is its growth so poky?

horse and hogan touched up
Some fantastic cliffs in northwest New Mexico, with horse and hogan.  Drawing by Emily Lee

…To me growth is so likely when we focus on the good, and so slow or non existent when instead we choose to look at things we hate.  To act rather than react, that is the big question.

Here is a prayer for America written in the early 1900s, more about what we can be than the way things are just now:

O God, Almighty Protector! O Thou Who art the confirmer of every just power and equitable empire in eternal glory, everlasting power, continuance and greatness! Strengthen with the abundance of Thy mercy every government which acts with equity towards its subjects, and every dominion under whose flag the poor and weak find protection.

We ask Thee by Thy holiness and bounty to pour out Thy blessing upon this government which has stretched its tent over citizens from every land, that its inhabitants, its industries, its territories may be penetrated by justice.

O God! Strengthen its executives, give authority and influence to its word and utterance, protect its territories and dominions, guard its reputation, make its ideals to echo throughout the world, reveal its traces and exalt its principles by Thy conquering power and wonderful might throughout the kingdoms of creation.

Thou art the confirmer of whomsoever Thou willest. Verily, Thou art the powerful and the mighty!  ~Baha’i

In which I learn the respect of gravity

Hurry up and wait.  That’s an expression I grew up with, and lately it’s been coming back to me. With a vengeance.

Today I was intending to be writing from south of San Francisco, dogs in the park, bonsai relocated to a second floor condo balcony.  My daughter and another roommate nearby.  Green, green, everywhere!  So different from the dry brown desert that’s been my home since 1994.

But… life proceeds in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

Trying out Apple Music, I discovered that I rather like Mary Chapin Carpenter.  That a couple of lines from her song The Age of Miracles could be my theme for this little epoch in my life:

If I’m just standing still

One day I’ll get up that hill

In the age of miracles, is one on the way…

Several times now a closing date for the sale of my house has loomed large — tickets have even been bought by my California helpers — only to be moved back a week or ten days.  Right now it looks as though it will be either the end of this week or the first part of next.  Then, bizarrely, it will take three days for the buyer’s loan to be funded.  Hence, I must wait an extra three days to have the money to pay for my wheelchair van, which will be sent from near Atlanta.   I’ll be lucky to be in residence near the deep blue sea as the second week in June begins.

But who really knows what the timeframe will turn out to be?

My belongings are as packed as I can get them without a) help, and b) missing things I really do need on a regular basis.

The default state of my mind of late is in a proper dither, half here and half at my new digs in the Silicon Valley.  Concentration comes and goes — causing me to do some really, really dumb things.

For instance, today I was out in the backyard in the warm early morning sun, doing a bit of weed whacking with my ancient rechargeable whacker that’s about ready for the great tool cemetery in the sky.

A tiny spider parachuted down onto the wheelchair footrest.  Reaching towards the ground for a small stick to encourage Spidey to climb aboard for relocation, I was not mindful that one foot was on the edge of the footrest and …. out of the chair I more or less rolled, splat onto the ground.

Spidey now owned my wheelchair, and there was no way in the world I could get myself back up. My arms no longer have the sort of strength for that.

My house is, unfortunately, a locked fortress, so even if I could think of a friend or neighbor not at work to call for help they wouldn’t be able to reach me.

Leaving that one unthinkable choice.

There was I, under the awfully hot sun, pushing my butt along, across the yard, the wide concrete area in front of the garage, through the garage — why in heaven’s name didn’t I sweep this place out??? — up the ramp and through the backdoor, down the corridor and into my bedroom.  There I have the means of getting my aged frame up off the floor.

The process requires getting out of my leg braces, using an ottoman, an old metal bath stool and my manual wheelchair to haul myself up. Onto the ottoman, and eventually into the manual wheelchair.

From there I can get dressed again.

This was another one of those accidents in life that I had promised myself would not happen to me.   Just wouldn’t, because it would be impossible to get through it .  Another such event I wrote about recently — when my wheelchair stopped dead in the middle of the street, leaving me stranded with two bags of groceries on my lap.

Coming at me kinda fast, wouldn’t you say, Self?  Universe sending me a message or something?  That I sit here in my den, dogs by my side, writing this is proof that we can, indeed, get through things no matter how much time we once spent worrying about them.

This whole process of falling generally provokes anger in me, as it does feel rather excessive to go through these things that I dread so much, when for one reason or another there is no one who can help.  So I said a special prayer, known to Baha’is as the Remover of Difficulties as I hitched myself along, inch my inch.

Is there any remover of difficulties save God?  Say, praised be God, He is God, all are His servants and all abide by His bidding.

I put that in so that, if you are so minded, you can use it for help when you need it.

Elf stuck close to me, as she does when I’m in trouble.  Here she is, showing off recently with her jolly ball, in the general area where gravity had its way with me today:Elf and jolly

It had taken me forty minutes to get from the ground back onto my feet.  By then I was shaking like a leaf in a breeze.

Thanks to the shaking I couldn’t get down the ramp into the garage on my feet — for fear I would lose my balance and have to start all over again.  So I made my way back through the house and out through the laundry room door, plodding ever so slowly along the gravel driveway to where I’d parked the wheelchair in the shade.

I hoped Spidey had vacated to live out her life in the backyard where she belongs.  But I didn’t spend much time looking for the tiny creature.

Instead I went in, got thoroughly washed, realized that the slip-sliding across the concrete and rocky areas had ripped great holes in my favorite pants AND my favorite Chuck Taylor sneakers.

I was so mad that I immediately went to Converse online and replaced the shoes with something similar.

My new braces now have serious scratch marks in the plastic backs below the knees.  Oh, well, they weren’t going to stay new looking for long, were they?

To keep myself from reflecting too profoundly on how stupid it was to reach for something on the ground without being firmly in control of gravity I picked up my Apple pencil and small iPad Pro with a sudden vision in my head.  Fortified by a cup of tea and a pear.

A couple of years ago there was an unbelievable sunset over the west mesa.  The colors, the blaze of the sun — and four or five of the strangest clouds I have ever seen. Unable to get a photo, I have tried many times to capture the essence of that sunset.

Today I found a way to get it in such a way that at least I recognize what I had seen.  Not much of an artist when the surfaces I create on are flat, the thing has its lacks. I left out  the clutter of buildings and trees between me and the mesa, too.  The mesa goes on for scores of miles, has roads, business areas and some homes hidden  along its barren, heavily eroded slopes.

west mesa weird sunset

New Mexico is known as The Land of Enchantment.  Truth is, it has a lot of utterly surreal, nearly unbelievable visual effects.  If you don’t believe me google up the Bisti Badlands sometime and just look at the images.  Georgia O’Keeffe wasn’t making things up in those famous paintings half as much as people think she was.  Those visions are THERE, once a person becomes imbued with the New Mexico spirit.

This image I did my best to sketch rudiment-ally is a vision that I will long carry with me…  Yes, it is hard in some ways to leave this place I have loved for so long.  But … I still can’t wait for that closing day to finally get here.  Then three more days after that…  Then:  GREEN!

On the tyranny of things

turtle in the window

I carved this turtle out of a piece of cedar firewood my Aunt Harriett had given me back in 1990.  She thought the wood had better potential than providing twenty minutes of warmth via her fireplace

I hung onto the fragrant cedar with its strong demarcation between the red and the lighter wood within it, until one day I saw a turtle there.  Not just any turtle, but one that would speak to getting around the world all ahoo, as a handicapped individual.  Legs in braces and long wooden crutches not always working together for smooth, comfortable ambulation.

One of my turtle’s front legs was twisted, so she walked with her foot turned backwards.

turtle's twisted leg

 

Turtles, to me, appear to radiate patience in their slow plodding along, crossing meadows, making their arduous way up out of water onto good deadwood or rocks for sunning.  Sadly, getting run down on roads because they can’t move fast enough to get out of the way.  Tucking into their strong shells preserves the turtles from many perils, but not from those unkind persons who think it fun to deliberately run over them.

Me, I’ve never been that patient about the enforced slowness and awkwardness of my condition, but in the determination to get where I want to be, to shut out who and what would make life more difficult, maybe I can channel a turtle.  Maybe.  Keep on moving forward, put my energy into the process of the journey.

At last a turtle reaches a pleasant sunning spot where it is isolated from the rest of the world by a span of water or a particularly high rock.  I, too, have need for good space in which to be away from parts the world that stares at me, that categorizes me as someone not quite a full person,  A place to simply Be Me, relating to the great and mysterious forces of life on this planet and beyond without consideration for the reactions of anyone else of the human variety.

You don’t grow well when forced to be in defensive mode too much. You need a good space in which to be away from that persistent self that would spend its time thumbing its nose at difficulties.  You need the space to put the forces of life into the kind of order you need to smile as you move forward, however that is.

Her shell, you can see, isn’t large enough for her to retract into it completely.  That’s because she needed all her energy to face the world, not to hide from it.

So here is my old turtle, saved from the fire to live out her life as my testament to persistence, patience and the good sunning spaces of life.

turtle's awkward stance

Polio Blogs 6: Hospital intermission

The changeable weather typical of early spring in the middle of New Mexico of late reminds me of the confusing alterations in life that tossed me this way and that during the several years of my childhood between major hospitalizations.  To me living in a spacious western state is as far as it was convenient to get from the crowded environment of the east coast where the polio forced itself on me and my family.

With mighty whoops of glee Elf and Opus, the dogs of today, have flown in and out of their small dog door in the laundry room for the past ten days.  It has been warm enough to coax early buds onto bare tree limbs and entice a few bees to buzz around as though there were some place to go.

figurehead on the roof
Collared Dove like a ship’s figurehead, caught up there on our roof between powerful crosswinds

Then yesterday, back to colder temperatures, higher winds, a bit of blowing snow.  People coming and going to see our home, which is for sale … Dogs zonked out on their soft beds, snoring noticeably.

The first year or two after Children’s Hospital released me, a recent paraplegic, into the big world of people with “normal” legs and effortless ambulation were not emotionally painful.  The family support team was strong and capable, eager to further my efforts to get around as though not much had happened to me.  The few people who didn’t know what exactly polio was — and so feared my presence amongst them  — were eventually brought around to grokking the lack of risk a polio survivor like me was to their children in school.

My big challenges involved working out ways to get around, driven as I was to go on doing the things I loved and paralysis be … overlooked.

Lest anyone think that I and my family were out of kilter in striving to reduce the importance of major paralysis, I should point out that in the mid 1950s polio survivors often were pushed by medical people urging families and patients to keep on going, with the goal of living a fulfilling and capable life.  Over six decades later it is apparent that a great many of us did, in fact, become pretty tough.  Just possibly this was the best thing (after keeping us alive) to come out of the medical system of those days.

This approach had the advantage of drawing all sorts of good people with skills into creative adaptations that helped us get around, long before the days when health insurance stepped in to take over so many aspects of life.

Several helpful events supported my return to the regular world:

—A carpenter friend of my mother’s built a small set of stairs, with railings, on top on the front porch steps, so I could whiz in and out of the house effortlessly.

—A wealthy great aunt passed on, leaving my mother with some English antiques and enough funds to buy a lovely new four-door Buick, in which I, riding in the back seat where I did not get carsick, felt like the new, young Queen of England when my mother drove me to school, friends’ houses, Campfire Girls meetings and for swims in local ponds.  The distribution of Dr. Jonas Salk’s new polio vaccine less than a year after my illness was just beginning to quell summer polio epidemics.  People were back to fresh water swimming in droves, which wasn’t really wise.  In 1955 there came yet another polio epidemic, which struck a little girl down the street from us.  From what I later heard, that girl never emerged from institutions.

Emmie in backseat of car
Me in that Buick

—The same great aunt’s bequest enabled my mother to remodel a downstairs pantry into a bathroom, which made a huge difference to me.  Since I had grown too big to be carried upstairs to the bathroom a few times a day, somebody had gifted us with an old fashioned bedside commode. I loathed it as an emblem of my non-normal state.

I had adopted the lifestyle encouraged by my old Children’s Hospital doctor, Fuzzy Wuzzy.  AKA Dr. David Grice.  He insisted to my mother that the fewest possible number of special adaptations would get me to “back to normal-as-can-be life” as fast as possible.

That thinking caused me  denial of a wheelchair, so anytime I needed to move around when I didn’t have my leg braces on I had to stick my feet awkwardly into the shoes attached to the bottoms of the long braces, tie the shoes, then to do up a dozen leather straps before I could “jump up” and get to wherever I wanted to be.

That taught me the value of advance planning.  I liked my braces very well for giving me back the ability to walk, yet they were uncomfortable, pinchy things that were hot in summer and icy cold in winter.  Sometimes they rubbed my skin raw.  It was nice to shuck them off to sit in the grass or on a soft carpet by a fire.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was right about a lot of things — I did grow up tough and determined to be myself in a strange, strange world that did not always welcome me.  But he was dead wrong about one thing — it is not a good idea to walk around on your crutches and braces with your head held high at all times.  That proud head and all that is attached below tend to end up flat on the ground when you don’t keep an eye on potential hazards down below.  Slippery things like water or grease, cellophane or talcum powder on a floor, ice and holes in the ground outdoors were responsible for way too many concussions, among lesser injuries.

—My parents had my IQ tested for whatever reason that seemed necessary.  They were a bit awed by the result. Then, concerned that I would puff up about it, they began alluding to people with impossibly vast brain power.  Like Einstein.

—Feeling a bit more empowered to exercise my wits, nevertheless, I finessed my brother and his friends to help me back into the world of outdoor adventure.  The first winter after my return home we had lots of snow and for Christmas Donny and I got a round metal, saucer shaped sled alternative called a Doodly Hoop.  The boys were persuaded to haul me in that up the hill behind our house, Then to give me a  flying shove down the slope — a big thrill for my newly slowed down self.  Till the day I crashed into cedar tree, hurting a finger and breaking in half the stone in a special ring my mother let me wear.

Less exciting was the necessity of fairness, to disembark and sit in the cold snow while the boys took their turns.  There were more of them than there was of me, so a cold backside got to be the normal thing when we went sliding. It was well worth it, though.

That thrill of slippery DH rides took a bit of a blow one icy evening when the boys agreed to haul me down the street so we could watch the moon rise.  Our country road had so little traffic that we hadn’t thought it necessary to mention our plans to any parents.  Off we walked and slid, pausing now and then to eat left over Halloween candy we’d stuffed into our pockets.

About the same time that my hands and feet were beginning to feel really, really cold — I was separated from the snow and ice by nothing but a thin sheet of curved aluminum — we heard the distant rumble of a car coming around a bend.

My willing haulers held a conference amongst themselves before unanimously voting to obey that useful parental rule about not standing in the middle of the street when there were cars around.  Off they shot — leaving me sitting, in my dark coat and hat, in the DH, pretty much where the line would have been painted in the middle of the street, which was too narrow to merit a line.

The sun was well down as I watched the big grill coming closer and closer.  So cold had I grown that it was difficult to get my arms up and waving, but eventually I did, the driver spotted the animated dark splotch against the white snow, got out and pulled me and the DH back to my house.

Once inside my mother subjected my frostbitten hands and feet to a soaking in cold water.  It felt like fire.  Meanwhile, into my psyche she burned every word of a ferocious lecture about not going anywhere near the road in a Doodly Hoop ever again.  This, I thought, was pretty odd coming from her, who as a child with her two daredevil brothers used to sled down a steep hill in front of their home.  That was fine till the hill ended and the road began.  Along that road one day she and her sled shot straight beneath the wheels of a car, causing considerable ankle damage.  In some maternal concern about not filling me with fears, I don’t believe she’d ever mentioned that part of the story before.

*********

The second half of the “free” time I had between hospitalizations got me more away from home and into the sparsely populated community around us.

There were the second and third grades, where the only really difficult work was getting up from my desk fast enough to say the Pledge of Allegiance with the rest of the class each morning.  For the fourth grade I was present for just a couple of fall months before fate whisked me off for horrible encounters of the doctor kind, which is a different story.

Donny and I were allowed to invite a friend each for a trip to Boston, where we saw a movie that I have forgotten, apart from its strangely brilliant, distorted colors, walked around the downtown and Chinatown areas, and ended up eating the first pizza we’d encountered.  In Chinatown.  I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever tasted — except turnip — but the disappointment  was tempered by the pleasure of having actually walked so far earlier without wearing out.

Back at home I began visiting my great aunt and uncle, a fairly short walk away along a busy highway.  Mainly, besides Auntie’s home made cream puffs and her lessons on separating cream from fresh milk, I loved hanging out in their large barn, watching draft horses come in after their day of hauling logs from forest to the sawmill my great uncle owned.

I loved those gigantic creatures.  They moved slowly and deliberately, went sensibly into their stalls after pausing for deep drinks at the water trough, and then began munching, with satisfactory sounds, on hay filling the mangers in each stall.  When nobody but Donny was looking I would try to sneak inside a stall till this was discovered by a stablehand.  He pitched a fit about how a horse had the habit of leaning his hip against the wall and if I was standing by him there’d be nothing left of me but a messy pancake.

I sniffled for about two seconds — then beamed radiantly, to be scolded like that.  For once an adult was treating me like any seven year old kid with a penchant for acting first and thinking later.

Being around the work horses soon made me want to try riding one.  Even without the leg braces the idea would have been ludicrous for anyone of my size, but my resourceful mother, who had been a horse woman herself, befriended a neighbor who raised standardbreds for harness racing.  Leo Boyle and his wife had daughters close to Donny’s and my ages, and it was not long before we were attending one another’s birthday parties.

For Halloween the year when I was eight the Boyle family had a party where we bobbed for apples, wore bizarre homemade costumes that generally required further information in order to be recognized, and then, wonderfully, were all invited outside to where a pony stood saddled, western, ready to give us rides.

“You, too, Emmy,” they told me.  Beside that magnificent being, the pony, I stood up as straight as I could, longing to be in that beautifully tooled western saddle just like Dale Evans on television.  Up I was hoisted by Mr. Boyle, very, very carefully.  Perched in the saddle, feeling as though I’d ascended a mountain instead of a little pony, I breathed in the scents of the animal and leather polish.

I didn’t particularly notice that I was listing to one side.  My mind squawked at me to squeeze with my legs, but the legs weren’t paying attention.  The saddle horn helped, but still I slid.

Happily, Mr. Boyle held onto me, and off that horse of my dreams I was pulled.

Soon my sketching began to feature horses equipped with the kind of howdah that elephants carry people around in.  This was the product of me, daydreaming, not with the idea that anyone would ever act on it.

Thus I was not disappointed when my mother did not pursue my idea. Something else was on her mind by the time she found my sketches.

She had become deeply depressed, my poor mother, by the apparent suicide of her own mother, to whom she referred, all her life, as “the best person I’ve ever known”.  After mentioning to someone offhandedly that she did not want to be a burden to her family in her old age, Grammie ran in front of a car one night.

As that happened my brother and I were sleeping soundly in our downstairs bedrooms.  Upstairs, our mother sat up in bed to find herself singing the Star Spangled Banner.  Since she was not particularly patriotic, and never could sing, the strangeness of the urge to do this rather struck her.  She did it anyhow.  Then she remembered just having a dream in which the Shrine of the Bab, a major Baha’i memorial in Haifa, Israel, slowly turned upside down.

A few minutes after she stopped singing people came to tell her that her mother was dead.  Her beloved mother, whom she had supported for some years after my grandfather — an aristocratic dreamer who felt working for a living was beneath him — divorced her in favor of younger women.  Her mother, tiny in stature, large in personality, a woman who never seemed to look on the dark side of life, a suicide.

Families have times of being shaken up completely, and this began one of those periods for us.  We kids didn’t know it, but our parents had begun arguing after Grammy’s death, as my mother resented that my father, whose family home we had moved into, did not want her mother to live with us.  Instead, my Uncle George had built her a beautiful little pine cabin behind his home a quarter mile from us.

Grammy seemed happy there, frequently entertaining visitors from far and wide.  She traveled to Wilmette, Illinois to visit the beautiful Baha’i Temple on the shores of Lake Michigan, stopping here and there to visit old friends.  At home she made and sold loaves of whole wheat bread as part of her life long drive to encourage people to eat healthy food, and took care of us a few times a week to relieve Mother.  Besides belonging to something called the Eastern States Farmers Exchange, she joined the local Grange and, as a retired public health nurse, frequently visited ailing people in their homes.  So it was a shock in the family that she was considering herself to be a potential burden.

Her death at the age of 78 was the event in our collective lives that at last overshadowed my polio, for which I found myself somewhat relieved.

For a very short time.

My mother, under strains I could not begin to understand then, may have simply decided that she needed to be free of caring for me for a while.  Possibly she felt she could spend more time with Donny — who very much needed special attention at that time — if I was sent away, and possibly she simply wasn’t thinking clearly.  What I discovered, only too abruptly, was that she had been consulting with a well known orthopedic surgeon.  His Eminence, as I called him privately, never saw me before she and he made plans to have me admitted to a state hospital.  There I would undergo a series of orthopedic surgeries that required me to lie in bed in body casts from head to foot for six months at a stretch.  Several times.

And so, just before my birthday in early January of 1958, she packed a few of my belongings, ordered me into the back seat of the Buick for the last time I ever saw it, and drove me off to the Massachusetts Hospital School for Crippled Children in Canton.  That place was my home for the next two and a half years.

The Massachusetts Hospital School for Crippled Children was certainly the reason why I identified powerfully with Jane Eyre, when I read Charlotte Bronte’s eponymous book a few years later.

 

crippled children stamps
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Easter Seals from the 1930s, long before I was born