What You’re Not Going to Be Again, No Matter What

At physical therapy, I see quite a few people my age (over 65) who have had joint replacements. There’s one lady who had a knee replacement. She comes in with her walker. Since I’ve been going for two months, and I’m hoping to be kicked out next Tuesday, I wonder about her. The other day I overheard the conversation that I expected. “You only have $400 left on Medicare.”

“What will I do?”

This woman with only $400 left on Medicare for physical therapy comes in twice a week. Her son brings her and the grandchildren come too. She’s very nice; clearly a really sweet woman. However, she’s not making a lot of progress, and that was the real message of “You only have $400 left on Medicare.” The therapist said, then, straight out, “You have to do something at home every single day for this to work.”

Back in the fall  I was seriously contemplating ending it all when my hip started acting up. Having been through it before, knowing the pain, the struggle to find the right doc, the challenge of rehab and the fact that I KNOW I’m not necessary to life on this planet any more (I’m retired) all conspired to make me think, “Why bother?” Pain is depressing and knowledge can be depressing and those two were hammering at my will to live. When Bear persuaded me against that (it’s good to listen to your dog from time time) I had no idea where this was all going to take me. What did she say? “If you do that, you’ll have to find a home for me and I’m your dog.” There was more, but that’s the salient part.

I began to see that fixing my hip would mean my walks with her would be a lot more pleasant for me and longer, probably. I started looking at the positive side of it and moral support from friends — here and in my 3D life — helped a lot. But walking Dusty and Bear at the slough even though it hurt, I think that was the biggest thing. My body was telling me in no uncertain terms how much that meant to me.

Today, having this morning finished (meaning I know the whole story now) The Schneebelis Go to America, I headed outside to clean up messes that have been lingering since before the surgery, really. I had put the lawn mower under a tarp since it was complicated getting it out of the garage — but now I’ve found a kid who’ll mow my lawn for 20 bucks so I put the mower away. I systematically looked for canine ordure I might have missed when it was not so easy to clean the yard. I spent time weeding and giving thanks to my garden for carrying on without me.



The Scarlet Emperor Bean, Cao Xueqin

I think it’s all very nice and interesting that the birds planted sunflowers for me and that the Scarlet Emperor Bean is 8 feet high and is actually making beans. I’m not going to eat them — though I understand they are yummy — I want more seeds. I love this plant and I want it everywhere next year. THEN I’ll eat it.

And walking is good — I have been doing two dog walks each day since I can’t walk 3 dogs at a time at this point. The Airdyne continues to be good (I’m going 12 miles which is the equivalent of a 6 mile hike, my favorite length for a daily hike in olden times). I’ve managed to do the Elliptical Trainer at physical therapy for 15 minutes which is awesome considering it takes a lot of leg muscle and I have never done it before. It’s almost — but not quite — like running or climbing a hill. I like it.

Inside me I’m me, but outside me, I’m an old woman, and it shocks me. It is a reminder that no matter WHAT I do, I will not be young again. That made me think about what it meant to me to be young. I still don’t know — but it does include some possibilities that don’t exist any more. About the time I turned 50 I realized I was entering the time of life when I would start experiencing the endings of the various stories of my life, in other words, the question, “I wonder what will happen?” would start being, “OK, so that’s what happened.”

  • I wonder if my brother will sober up? No, he’ll die
  • I wonder if I will fall in love and live happily ever after with someone finally? Extremely unlikely, though someone from 25 years ago will realize that you are and/or were “the one,” a denoument you won’t be able to wrap your head around, but that’s OK. You don’t have to. Just say, “I love you, too” and get on with your life.
  • I wonder if Martin of Gfenn will be a best seller? Nope but you’ll be OK with it, and you’ll write other books that won’t be bestsellers, either. You’ll learn that writing itself is the point. Some people will read them and love them. That’s going to be all you need or want.
  • I wonder how I will retire, what the circumstances will be? Convoluted and dishonest, but you’ll be happy with the result and you’ll forget about it quicker than you can imagine

Those kinds of questions. They led me to this very important question:

“What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”

“Oh honey, that’s easy. You want to walk in nature with your dogs.”

“That’s it? That’s all I want?”

“If you think about the actual days of your actual younger life, what made you most happy?”

“Ah… So that’s why Bear was so adamant.”

It has made me wonder what that other lady at physical therapy dreams of for the rest of her life. I hope she, also, has found it.

24 thoughts on “What You’re Not Going to Be Again, No Matter What

  1. Yes, yes, and triple yes. I can’t give up. I have dogs. Garry can’t give up. He has the dogs … and me. Besides, all I really want is to be able to take pictures, read, write and just hang out. I have zero ambitions. You are WAY ahead of me on ambitions because you actually write books. That’s BIG. Or, as Garry puts it: “YUGE.”

    • It’s no more important to me to write books than it is to walk my dogs. Probably less important. Maybe it’s just something I do when I can’t be walking my dogs 🙂

  2. You put it so simply, you need to think what makes life worth living and go for it! I finished your book and I enjoyed it. There were some very insightful moments and your love of hiking with your dogs shone through! I laughed at the “Punchin’ Cow” chapter. You are so much braver than me. I could never hike at night, but you made it seem so wonderful!

  3. The lady with $400 left on Medicare sounds as if she expected Medicare to make things better — she didn’t realize that rehab and PT are there to guide us through that process of making ourselves better! I’m SO glad that Bear convinced you to keep going! Does she do the double walk with you, or do they take turns?

    • I think it’s pretty hard for people for whom exercise was not a part of their pre-joint replacement life to get the message. You’e right. I am pretty sure she believed that 10 minutes twice a week on the stationary bike and some exercises at PT would fix it. Rehabbing a knee replacement is slow and difficult, but ideally she would be using a cane now at the very most. I’m really sorry for her.

      Normally I take two of them together then walk one alone. Dusty and Bailey are the best pair, but I’m switching them around so they get the idea that they’re all friends. I hoped to walk Bailey alone this evening, but Dusty and Bear are acting like they haven’t had a walk in 100 years even though I walked them around 4:00, and I can’t get Bailey out of the house alone, so, tomorrow. I need a day off, too. 🙂

  4. I understand what you say. There are times when my dogs and a walk in the woods are all that keep me going.

  5. Hello Martha. Yes, the dogs need you and vice-versa. You could have a book signing in your town to launch the Shneebelis, and Dog forbid, you haven’t had pavlova yet. So much to do Martha, so you’ll need all that time you’ve got left. Love Tracy.

    • Thank you — I’m not sure age is matter of years. For me, it’s also matter of ability. I got in a pretty dark place, but I was in a lot of pain. Bear is really special — I got her 3 years ago today! We’re going to celebrate by taking a…walk. ❤

  6. Age is mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter! Your young at heart – you love your dogs and they love you and they are no doubt eagerly awaiting their next outing with you 🙂 You are doing so well! Awesome stuff!

  7. Never give up, you might be old and grey and even a bit rusty, but there are always others more old and grey and rusty (lke me) and I do not give up. I told my therapist that she could not do more for me, I had all the exercises and yes i do them daily and she agreed. I still fall now and again, but for that there is no cure. My body has a new alteration afterwards somewhere. Eventually I become my own therapist, my own doctor, my own inspiration. Just continue it might get worst, but it will also get better. And get that Schneebeli book published that I can read it. 🙂

    • I had forgotten how completely demoralizing pain can be until it hit last fall. So often I thought, “If this is my future, I don’t want it.” But… Here I am. 🙂 I am looking forward to graduating from physical therapy — I hope it happens tomorrow. The one thing they can do that I can’t do is stretch out my tendons and muscles which makes a big difference in HOW I walk, so I don’t know. Maybe once a week. We’ll see. And your point is right on; we have to be our own inspiration — though, in my case, that big white snow-loving dog was a big help. ❤

  8. Love stories about my time in life. I’ve always read to figure life out but not much out there for someone like me~ in my 60s with most of the questions answered too for better or worse. Glad your dogs kept you going 😁

  9. Martha! I came here after your comment on our Instagram Takeover Follow-up! I didn’t know that you were rehabbing from a hip replacement and thought of stopping by to see what you were up to! I hope you are feeling better and I was bummed to read trail-running was one of the causes that led you to it, but now to think about it… It jammed my knees when I was active in the discipline! Lovely to read you and hope that you keep hugging life and smiling while you write the way that you do! (this is a mere guess, but I smile when I read you so I’d like to think that you smile when you write too 🙂 )

    Much Love,


    • Trail running was pure bliss, but it’s hard to avoid injuries, though my knees were destroyed in other ways not nearly as glamorous or interesting — I hurt one on a ski run, but I was standing still and turned too fast to see a friend coming down toward me and the other? Too stupid. I jumped over a “Keep off the grass” barrier in a city park and hyper-extended my knee when I landed… OH WELL.

      I think one’s basic body mechanics has more to do with ending up with titanium joints than anything else, but falling and repetitive motion definitely contribute. I think I should have practiced more than one sport back then, but when you can run red, rocky trails with dogs, hawks, eagles and wind what else is there? Mountain biking was a lot of fun (I got into it rehabbing the knee I hyper-extendeed) but I had to leave the dogs at home.

      I do smile when I write and the new joint has already made the trails a lot more fun. I love you guys’ blog. Thank you for stopping by!!!


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