Monday, February 20, 2017

My Left Foot

My left foot is propped up on a pillow, and getting better after surgery last week to repair my hammertoe and that nasty tendon attached to it.

It’s my fourth foot surgery. I’ve had two other hammertoes and I had the bunions done on both feet eighteen years ago.

Hammertoe surgery is not a “glamorous” one. No new unlined face, lifted eyelids or smooth neck. But, this is the kind that liberates me back into a choice of footwear.

More important, no more pain and no more stash of Dr. Scholl’s toe pads in my handbag.

It wasn’t the ordeal of the surgery that plagued me. I was adverse to the downtime of healing. Six weeks? In that Velcro shoe-thing?!

“It’s the torn tendon,” the doctor told me. “It’s added to the recovery.”

I thrive on dashing about. It fuels me. Relax? What’s that? The days leading up to the surgery you’d think I was going to the gallows. I took spinning class, yoga, you name it. I bought enough food for an army. Bought outdoor plants. And, when it wasn’t raining, planted them and fed the garden. Met with my mother’s tax accountant…

High anxiety. I knew what I was in for – a lot of lying around. I’m not good with lying around.

I’m a real sight since the surgery. I lost a front tooth – that veneer in front that they couldn’t straighten when I had Invisalign five years ago. It chipped on the breathing tube during surgery.  Pay attention when the anesthesiologist asks if you have any loose teeth or implants.  How did I forget I had a veneer front and center?

I look like Lucille Ball in a comedy bit. But, a visit to the dentist and an hour with the drill to remove what remained of the chipped veneer (no problem, foot was up on the chair) and viola, a new “tooth” in just 14 days. The cost? Don’t ask.

None of my pants fit over the bandage so I am living in workout clothes in that stretchy fabric that attracts all things lint. Tucker, our dog, keeps close but his fawn-colored hair grabs onto these legging things. I try to keep it at bay with a lint roller, but I’m a hairy mess.

Without the crutches, I hobble when I move using only the heel of my left foot. Somehow, I can’t find the right shoe in my closet that is compatible to the height of the boot, and my gait is just short of a prisoner with a ball and chain.

Hank aired me out, taking me to the movies several days after surgery. I washed my hair in the sink and found a pair of pants to fit over the bandage and threw on some bronzer and nude lipstick - didn’t want to draw attention to the missing tooth, you know…

I was feeling pretty snazzy. That feeling didn’t last long, though, as soon as we were on the street. Tentatively moving forward on my crutches, Hank beside me, cautious not to walk ahead of me on the sidewalk, I could sense the hold up behind us. We stepped aside, the couples whizzing by on this Saturday night.

Unaware, a woman in high-heeled boots, feeling “all that” grazed my crutch with the chic yellow handbag swinging carelessly off her shoulder.

My boring, sensible cross body bag fell forward as I gripped the crutch to steady myself. I felt feeble.

The theatre was below ground. No escalators for me. “Where’s the elevator?” Hank asked. I silently thanked all those modern building codes for wheelchair access.

The theatre was an I Pic with reclining seats. “Look, Heath,” Hank said. “I got us the back row." Foot up. All good.

“Want a drink?” He asked.

“I’m terrified I’ll never get up if I do!” I laughed. “Oh, to have a martini and swing my legs on a barstool…”

I’d felt vulnerable out there on the street. What an easy prey for someone to snatch my handbag, or worse, accidentally step on my open-toed boot with my line-up of stitches yet to heal.

I’ve heard people say to have gratitude. To be thankful that you can walk, ride a bike, even run.

My first night after surgery, I eyed the walker and the set of crutches in my bedroom…

“Be thankful,” my friend, David, had said during a Soul class. “That you are here. On a bike that you can pedal.”

“It’s a bitch,” my mother, confined to a wheelchair, has said. “I miss being able to just hop up and move things around in my room. Adjust a painting. Water a plant.” Adding: “It feels as if everyone is on the jet plane and I’m on the bus.”

In the scheme of things, this is baby business, my foot. But, something happens to you when you’re lying around.

You think.

And, what you think about, sinks in.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Canned Sentiment

Valentine’s Day can be a challenge for some. It was for me… I wrote this twelve years ago and when I submitted it to The Christian Science Monitor, I sent it to Op-ed instead of their Home section. The Op-ed editor contacted me: “If Home doesn’t use this, I will. I’ve got a husband just like yours!”
                        CANNED SENTIMENT                                 

My husband, Hank, calls Valentine’s Day, a “Hallmark Holiday.”  He feels it’s a commercial ploy to boost card sales, and I vividly remember my disappointment on our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple twenty-five years ago.
Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday that year. We were at home in our tiny apartment.  My husband was upstairs in the den watching the UCLA Bruins play the Oregon Ducks in a tightly matched basketball game.  
The doorbell rang.    “I got a big box of Mrs. Field’s cookies,” I called out to my husband. “They just arrived special delivery!”  
 I rushed up the stairs to thank him for remembering me on this special day, but stopped halfway up after I read the card.  “Happy Valentine’s Day to my new daughter-in-law.  Love, Bob.”
Resigned, I pried open the box and continued up the stairs. “They’re from your dad,” I said with a sigh as I plopped down on the sofa next to him.  I offered him a cookie and he took it without a second thought, then, noticed the disappointment on my face.  “Look, I love you,” he told me. “But I’m not going to let a greeting card company tell me when to show it.”
“Sure,” I said, hugging the tin a little tighter.

Four years of marriage later, Hank actually gave in on Valentine’s Day and presented me with a bouquet of pink camellias from the garden.  “It wasn’t my idea,” he confessed, as he handed me the flowers.
“It was mine, Mommy,” our toddler, Allan, piped in.
For the next five years, my husband remained resolute.  Whenever I presented him with a Valentine, he’d thank me and re-explain how he felt about the occasion.
On February 14th in our tenth year of marriage, a postcard arrived. “Happy Valentine’s Day” was scrawled in my husband’s precise script on the backside of a snapshot of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Away on business, he’d remembered. Better yet, he’d acknowledged it.
But, the change of heart was only temporary. “I missed you,” he said when he returned. “Trust me, I still hate Valentine’s Day.”
I started to dread Valentine’s Day.  It seemed as though just days after the Christmas decorations had been put away, the grocery stores and card shops rushed to pull out the pink foil wrapped candy and the velvety heart shaped boxes of chocolates. I cringed when I saw those chalky multicolored heart-shaped candies with the cute messages, the big helium heart-shaped balloons and the “dozen rose’s” specials.
But, with three children in the house, I felt it was important to make a big deal about Valentine’s for them.  So, I decorated the front door with hearts, helped make valentines, and even took our youngest son, Joe, to buy some roses for his girlfriend.  Waiting patiently in the driveway while our eleven-year-old rang the doorbell to make his big delivery, I saw him strike out, too.  The girl was at a soccer game and he had to hand the flowers to her mother. 
After fifteen years of marriage, I was tired of silently hoping every Valentine’s Day.  “Look, I’m not expecting the big gift, or an enormous basket of roses, or even a lousy box of stale chocolates from the drug store,” I told my husband. “I just want a day where we celebrate love. That’s all.  Even a message in lipstick on the bathroom mirror would be great and it wouldn’t cost you a thing.”
“Pick a day,” Hank said.
 “April 4th,” I answered, giving him the first date that popped into my head.
“I now dub April 4th ‘Heather Appreciation Day,’” he replied.  “That date will be our own Valentine’s Day.  Not Hallmark’s.”
From then on, my husband never missed the date.  We would either have a special dinner or a romantic lunch.   No gifts, just time together.  It really should have been “Heather and Hank Appreciation Day.”
Then, it happened. Four years ago, he forgot.
By 5:00pm, after several phone conversations with him, it became obvious that he had forgotten. I decided to remind him with a little humor and make him a “special dinner.”
I opened a can of tuna (leaving the lid up) and stuck a plastic fork in the middle of the can.  Placing it in the center of a big white plate, I picked a weed from our garden and put it in a little crystal vase next to the can. 
That night, with my husband’s eyes fixed on the screen of his laptop, I stood in front of him—dinner tray in hand.  “Hi,” he said without looking up, fingers still tapping the keys.
“I brought you a special dinner,” I said without a shred of sarcasm.
He looked up from the screen, glanced at the tray, and cracked a weak smile. “That for me?”
I’ve never been known for my cooking, and I could tell that, for a moment, my husband actually thought that this was his real dinner.
“I made you a special dinner for our ‘special’ day.”
“Oh, no, I forgot,” he said, sheepishly.
The next two years, he didn’t forget “Heather Appreciation Day.”  Last year, in our twenty-fifth year of marriage, we celebrated it in New York with our children.
Hopefully, Hank will remember next year.  But just in case, I’m keeping a can of tuna in the cupboard.


Twelve years later and no need since to bring out the can of tuna.

What has changed, though, is that I forget now. And, Hank reminds me.


“You’d remember soon enough,” Hank says, “if I forgot.”