Kudos for Camping

I used to love camping because the trip would end and I’d be deliriously happy to be back in my own bed again in a home with all its comforts. That was back in the days when camping meant backpack tents and packs and sleeping bags and Therm-a-Rests and bulky coolers and portable Coleman cooking stoves and mosquitos and wet wipes and . . . the adventure was always memorable, but heading home was even more exciting. I’m anticipating Mike will groan when he reads this. He’ll call me a baby, and I’ll smile.

Now I don’t want to go home.

When we made the transition from tent to truck camper, I knew my perspective on camping would improve significantly, and although it felt like fibbing to say we “camped” in our micro-truck-bed-home, we still experienced elements of roughing it. Since loading the camper into the truck bed took precision and patience, lots of patience, we rarely offloaded it, so getting in and out required the finesse of a pole vaulter. The bed, though more comfortable than the one in our home, was up over the truck cab. I won’t elaborate on the difficulty of certain things in that confined space.

With just the two of us, we could scooch around each other in the one-person-wide walking area between the 2-burner stove and the scrunched table, but when our two grown sons came along—one curled up in the table-bed area and one stretched out on the floor between our bed and the door at night—well, then it became absurd. We eventually traded in our two sons for an 89-pound German Shepherd, and somehow, Ranger took up even more space than our boys.

Plenty of head room over the bed, and storage space under it!
Plenty of head room over the bed, and storage space under it!

So when Mike suggested trading in the camper for a trailer with a walk-around bed, a dining area bump-out providing ample room for the two of us and the dog to do a little jig on the exposed floor, a 3-burner stove, a shower separate from the *porcelain* toilet (you should all be hearing the Celestial Angels singing now), a kitchen sink large enough to bathe a baby in (up to 3 months, perhaps) and . . . I’m going to hate myself for exposing this . . . a flat screen television, well, how could I say no?

I’m writing this from a trailer park in Moab, Utah, where Mike and Ranger and I have set up for a week. It’s been unseasonably warm here, in the 90s this last week of September, but I’m savoring the sweat. It’s 30 degrees cooler in Leadville and new snow already frosts our mountaintops. I might be ready to return to our winter paradise by the end of the week, but each trip we’ve taken since upgrading our camping experience has left me less inclined to hurry home.

With no schedule, no meetings, no news (we only occasionally watch movies on our TV), no mail, no alarms, no saving lost tourists in the middle of the night, no lots of things, sleep approaches a magical quality. We wake from dreams we can recall with surprise at the hour of our waking. We sip our coffee leisurely while considering options for the day. Shall we hike? (not for me until I’m rid of these crutches, but Mike and Ranger can go for hours). Shall we kayak? I can do that. Shall we swim? That, too. How about a nap? Always. We’ve learned that from Ranger. Let’s read for a couple of hours. Yeah. And okay, Mike, I know you want to drive one of

Supermoon, Blood moon eclipse through my iPhone.
Supermoon, Blood moon eclipse through my iPhone.

those off-road big-wheels for big boys, so let’s rent one for a day while we’re here.

After dinner last night we loaded Ranger into the truck and drove out to Gold Bar Camp to watch the Supermoon-Blood moon eclipse for over an hour. Without a smidge of light pollution, the enormous sky—sparkled with stars and streaked with galaxies—struck us with awe. Well, Ranger was unimpressed, but we’re pretty sure he was happy to be with us. I captured a few fuzzy

John Stewart's Supermoon Blood moon eclipse photo from Leadville.
John Stewart’s Supermoon Blood moon eclipse photo from Leadville.

photos with my iPhone before receiving a message from a friend back in Leadville who should win a prize for the photo he sent to me. We eventually returned to our camp site to breathe in the balmy night air while watching the eclipse’s slow progress until we yawned ourselves to bed.

We’ll head home in five days and I’m sure I’ll be happy to be back in our beautiful old home again, but not the deliriously happy I used to be in days past. I’ve come to love the simplicity of life on the road, life without too much baggage, life with a little bit of unknown each day. I know I’ll want to give away more “stuff” when I return to our wheel-less home, and I’ll do it. I know I’ll return to a routine that’s pretty darned nice, and Mike will return to one far more burdensome. And we’ll start to plan our next great escape.

Call me a baby if you’d like, but camping with conveniences is the shit.

Ranger remained unimpressed by things in the sky.
Ranger remained unimpressed by things in the sky.


It was too late by the time I realized I hadn’t asked the most crucial question: “What do I do if I actually catch something?”

My husband and I had agreed to go camping and fishing with some friends, and I was really excited about finally learning how to catch and prepare my own meal. Having spent years in the army—during which time I had travelled the world, jumped out of airplanes, and fired many types of weapons—it was a source of embarrassment that by the age of 53 I had never actually gone fishing

So I posted a “Gone Fishing” status update on my Facebook page, packed up the camper for a two day adventure and headed south with my man and dreams of landing the big one. 

Day One was all about learning how to string the rod, place the bait and cast. After opening the bale without having my finger on the line a couple times, I was able to practice the art of patience required to untangle and re-reel the explosions of silky filament. Although I felt a surge of hopeful excitement while reeling in a small branch (it sure felt like something fighting at the end of my line!), none of us caught more than clumps of moss that day. 

Nevertheless, we basked in the sun and were happy to be away from the responsibilities of home, and I felt a Zen-like satisfaction in watching the line arch away from me before hearing the satisfying “plunk” of the lure as it disappeared in the river. 

I woke on Day Two, elated, from a dream of catching a huge fish. In my dream there were four enormous tunas, all different colors, lined up sardine-style in a swimming pool. I cast my line into the pool and instantly pulled dinner for fifty out of the water. It was simple! And what a way to start my second day of fishing—with a prophetic vision! 

The morning was considerably colder than the previous day and the clouds were ominous, but I knew what I had to do. Our new location looked much more promising; there were about seven others already downstream from the spot we selected and at least one line had action. I selected my spot to the far right of the group because with only one day of casting under my belt, I was not yet feeling like a pro. My location choice also had me standing on a steeply angled embankment, but it felt nice to dig my heels into the spongy sand. 

Within five minutes of launching my first fat worm into the river, I let out a loud “OOOOOH!”—much louder than I should have, because now I had the attention of every fisherperson down river from me. This was no branch. I started reeling in my catch with vociferous encouragement from hubby, who told me to reel it in faster. How I wish I had had the presence of mind to send him up the hill for a camera, because the sight which ensued could very well have launched my career as a comedic actor. 

I marveled at the beauty of my rainbow trout as it neared shore; it was the size of a

It was THIS big!
It was THIS big!

football, and my dream of feeding the masses was about to come true. “Hurry up! Get it out of the water!” my husband directed. He was as excited as I was about my first catch. In a scene that would have inspired Hemingway, I pulled my treasure from the river…and then wasn’t quite sure what to do next. 

All eyes on me now, I responded to shouts of “Bring it up here!” by swiveling to my left away from the water with my fish swinging like a tetherball at the end of the line, and then I promptly slipped on the sand in my attempt to run up the slope. My three pounds of prime fish-fry smacked into the sandy hill, the impact releasing it from the hook and freeing it to roll back down the hill and into the water to safety. 

But he wasn’t going to get away that easily. Dropping my rod, I dove on top of the flopping fish, determined to catch it and carry it up to my now anxious husband and friends. In my frenzy to win this battle (remember the slippery slope upon which I once stood?), I ended up rolling ass-over-teakettle into the cold river, all the while wrestling with my wily rival. Up to the armpits of my fleece jacket in the cold current, arms flailing wildly as my slippery supper sought his escape, I did everything I could to re-capture my catch…but to no avail; “Charlie” was in his element now, and his enthusiasm to live another day thwarted my best efforts to wrangle him back to shore. 

I crawled from the water, empty-handed and giddy with the exertion of my unconventional fishing technique, and was the first one to start laughing. Soon, all of the stunned spectators were giggling, and it took quite a while before they returned to their own pursuits. I insisted on staying and continuing to try my luck at another catch, shivering uncontrollably for about another hour before we all returned to our campground to fry up our friend’s smaller catch. 

Some of my friends squealed, “Oh! That poor fish!” when they heard my tale…but I know the truth. When my little Houdini got back to his school, his story of the 130-pound Great White that he had let escape that day made him King of the Sea, if only for a moment. Thanks, little guy, for the thrill, but watch your tail…I now know what to do should our paths cross again!

SuperMum: Part 2

“I’ve made the decision to move in with Carol and Michael.”

Mum’s words, measured and gently delivered, put a knot in my throat. Several moments passed before I was able to tell her why her decision on September 10th was making me cry.

“I’m not stupid, you know,” she continued, “but I am proud.” She confessed that her pride kept her living alone in the beautiful home she and Dad enjoyed for their last 15 years together. “And I miss the sound of other feet in the house.”

Mum reading my novel a few weeks ago.
Mum reading my novel a few weeks ago.

Despite her wonderful neighbors and friends who checked in on her and took her to lunch and expected to see her at McDonald’s for oatmeal on Saturday mornings, Mum was lonely.

“And I know you’re crying because you see this as my last transition.”

Mum has always joked that the two of us are twins separated by years, but I’ll be damned if she wasn’t reading my mind as I sniffled at my end of the phone.

“But this makes me really happy, too,” I told her.

I spent a couple of weeks with Mum after Dad’s death just shortly before their 65th wedding anniversary and was blown away by her strength. I’m not sure why I should have been surprised. She managed our estrogen-filled household like a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company until all five of us “little chickens” flew off to build our own nests, and was there to help ensure each new nest was decorated and arranged tastefully.

The Bernier family a few years ago.
The Bernier family a few years ago.

I’ll never forget my husband’s response while living in one of our houses when he learned of an upcoming visit from Mum and Dad. “Just keep her out of my underwear drawer, okay?” Mike tolerated her proclivity toward rearranging things when she visited, but he had to draw the line somewhere. In each of our houses over the years, Mum has derived great pleasure in rearranging things, always with an eye toward efficiency, and I have always appreciated her talent.

Dad used to joke about being afraid to get up to pee in the middle of the night because the bed might be in a different location when he returned. I miss Dad’s jokes, and Mum misses so much more.

Dad never put Mum on a pedestal. He didn’t need to. They were partners. Anyone spending any time with the two of them would walk away knowing how much he adored her. And she loved, respected and defended him unwaveringly. We five girls knew the futility of trying to play one off the other if we wanted something. They were a united front.

Mom and Dad were always a team.
Mom and Dad were always a team.

Sure, they had squabbles. Sure, he could be brusque and she could interrupt his stories. And I don’t know how many years Mum hid sweets in the house knowing he would find them when she went to the store.

“Just give me a nickel’s worth!” is still Mum’s response to any offer of dessert or treats, and it has me baffled to this day because I inherited Dad’s sweet tooth. To me, “a nickel’s worth” is just a tease, and certainly does nothing to satisfy a craving. But I think Dad understood Mum’s desire to keep her man healthy, he being genetically predisposed toward heaviness, and I’m pretty sure Mum “hid” things as a compromise. I guess I should ask her about that. It amuses me to think they both understood the game.

After 65 years together, I’m certain the games they played were plentiful, and I loved the way Dad’s joke—about why they had so many children—always made her laugh.

“It’s because your mother was hard of hearing,” he would say.

“What do you mean?” someone would ask.

“Well, if she was busy, I’d ask her if she wanted to watch TV or what, and she’d say, ‘What?’ ”

They joked together, teased one another, laughed with, kissed and held one another until

Hugging. Always hugging.
Hugging. Always hugging.

the very end, and Mum remained stoic at his funeral service because she knew he would have wanted her to be the pillar she had been for him his whole life. She was not about to fall apart in the presence of all who came to honor my Dad.

So her decision to accept my sister and brother-in-law’s request that she move in with them almost two years later startled me only because I had just visited her a few weeks ago at her home. We had the most relaxing, wonderful time together, though I did bring up a few concerns I had.

Mum always does something with my hair when we visit. I love it.
Mum always does something with my hair when we visit. I love it.

A tad taller than I am, she weighs a mere 101 pounds despite allowing herself to enjoy more than a nickel’s worth of dessert now and then. And her driving, which once could have rivalled Mario Andretti’s, has become overly cautious. I’ve been worried about her, as have my other sisters, so I finally choked back my tears to tell her we all believe she’s making the right decision.

And by the end of our conversation, I could finally take a deep breath knowing that this move does not mean the end for her, but rather a new beginning, one she will accept with the grace and dignity she has modelled for her ever-growing family for over half a century now.

I have ever-so-much more to say about Mum, and Mum and Dad, but for now I’ll leave you with thoughts of your own transitions. Will you share?

We're a family of huggers.
We’re a family of huggers.

Laurel McHargue / Laurel’s email / Leadville Laurel Facebook page / Laurel’s Twitter


I jotted notes about my Mum’s major life transition shortly after Dad died just two years ago, but never got around to finishing my story. After my phone call with her on September 10th, however, I knew it was time to brush off and finish what I started.

Patricia and Charles "Pat and Charlie" Bernier
Patricia and Charles–“Pat and Charlie” Bernier

I don’t believe Mum ever made the transition into retirement when Dad hit the magic number most men in his generation aimed for and stopped working. Theirs was a different generation, one in which women were transitioning into the workplace more frequently, though they were never treated as equals with their male peers. I don’t think it’s particularly funny that we’re still debating the merits of equal pay for equal work in 2015, but I’m certain it was never an issue Mum complained about.

She worked as a Main Office secretary at my high school, and from what I can gather, she was the best. She could type 120 accurate words per minute on a clickity-clackity typewriter and didn’t need to be told how to punctuate. She was home by 4 p.m. and never failed to put a scrumptious dinner on the table for her five daughters.

Susan, Laurel, Charlene, Carol, and Christine
Susan, Laurel, Charlene, Carol, and Christine, the Bernier 5! Too bad we didn’t sing…

Dad worked for AT&T and was home by 5:30 p.m., ready for his scotch and newspaper.

LTC Charles Bernier
LTC Charles Bernier

He and Mum would sit in the living room together, Mum with her glass of Sherry, Dad with his Dewars, and they would catch up, I suppose, on their day’s events. I say “I suppose” because we kids either knew enough to respect their time together, or we were likely more interested in ourselves. In any case, it was their routine.

After 40 years of working both in the corporate world and in the Army Reserves—retiring as a full Colonel—Dad officially retired, a word that doesn’t mean the same thing today as it did then. And Mum finally retired from her still-full bottle of Wite-Out. But while Dad transitioned into a life of leisure, spending more time watching news and completing crossword puzzles, Mum transitioned from taking care of the school’s principal to taking care of Dad.

Mum is a nurturer and thrives on being needed. Dad had no reason to complain about his status as numero uno in the household once they married off daughter #5, so a new routine was established quickly.

From my perspective, Dad got the better end of the deal, he being the one who would be cared for and pampered—willing and lovingly by Mum—until his last day, over 20 years after his retirement from the workplace. When Dad died, Mum was faced with reevaluating her decades-long routine.

Theirs was a love and devotion that spanned 65 years.
Theirs was a love and devotion that spanned 65 years.

Watching her as she has transitioned over the past two years as a widow has taught me much about this woman, 30 years my elder, who is as much a part of me as my own sagging skin.

I will share more observations, and the phone call, in my next post.

Laurel McHargue / Laurel’s email / Leadville Laurel Facebook page / Laurel’s Twitter

Showering with Laurel: A Tell-All

Although I could have had a friend sleep over for the two nights Mike was away for training, I was happy to discover I could do everything by myself. After having another dagnabbit moment when I figured out how to balance on one foot long enough to pick up Ranger’s poop out back, I knew anything was possible.

This injury has made me contemplate the Wounded Warriors who compete in ultra-races, a friend who’s lived with one leg and crutches for over 20 years, and another friend who bow hunts with his teeth because he had an arm amputated after a horrible ski accident. I am humbled by these amazing people and realize I cannot utter a single complaint about my silly little 6-week recovery.

I remember deciding the first marathon I’d run would be the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon for the same reason (read about my experience here: Surviving the Death March). I would not be able to snivel around survivors of that brutal march in the Philippines in 1942 and the Wounded Warriors who participated in the race with me in 2011.

So today I took my first shower since surgery last week. Big effing deal, I know, but it felt like a huge step in reclaiming my mobility. And my social acceptability.

I’ve taken a “hummingbird flutter” each day of course (my Mum’s expression for a sink bath), but there’s nothing quite like the deluge of steamy, soaking water from a shower head. It was calling me from the sink.

Faux duct tape. Don't use it on anything you want to stay stuck.
Faux duct tape. Don’t use it on anything you want to stay stuck.

My sister Charlene shared her experience with cast wrapping and warned against using tape that would rip my skin off, so I tossed the lawn bag and a roll of faux duct tape into my backpack and performed my expert crabwalk backwards up the stairs. The deck steps out back and the ones at the front door are wide and I have no fear of crutching up and down them, but the ones that twist to the upstairs inside our 120-year-old Victorian are another story. No amount of confidence will get me to ascend/descend those any other way than crustacean-like.

I know I’d eventually gather the courage if this were a rest-of-my-life setback, but it’s not, so I’ve allowed my tip-over fear to dictate my actions.

Faux duct tape wrap
Faux duct tape wrap

Perched on the toilet (and yes, it’s a leopard print seat…to go with all the other animals in the bathroom), I wrapped my leg and secured it with the duct tape. I knew the faux product did not adhere like the legit kind, so I figured it would last at least long enough to keep out water for a quick shower and would not be like a wax treatment on my hairy knee when I removed it.

Fortunately, our shower has a shelf to hold onto and a hand-held shower nozzle attachment (need I explain why this little item is such a gem?), so with one crutch positioned outside the curtain, I was in and out in no time. I briefly considered shaving my left leg, but it was already tiring from my extra-vigilant soapy balancing act, and hey, we live in Leadville. Even I don’t see my legs 10 months out of the year, and snow is already falling in the mountains behind our house. I’ll soon be happy for the extra insulation.

A "new woman"!
A “new woman”!

I felt like a new woman—although I don’t really know what that means—when I finally hopped out, and was happy that my tape job neither ripped my skin off nor allowed water in. The little padded stool I’d positioned by the sink was a perfect place for post-shower activities like drying off and combing out and even washing my exposed toes. I’m glad to say my progress with exercises in the book

STRETCH for those toes. And think about where you leave your crutches because their goal is to fall to the floor.
STRETCH for those toes. And think about where you leave your crutches because their goal is to fall to the floor.

“Real Men Do Yoga” is paying off. Stay flexible, America!

And vain though it may sound, I even went so far as to apply a bit of face paint. Mum always says, “Don’t leave home without putting on

Putting on my "eyebrowns"
Putting on my “eyebrowns”

your eyebrowns (sic),” so my secret is out. L’Oréal or Feria or Clairol help me deceive the world about my true hair color, and a bit of brown eye shadow helps cover up the spikey-grey-Einsteinesque eyebrows that started sprouting several years ago. I swear, I can pluck at night and wake up with twirled, inch-long hairs sticking straight out from my eyebrows in the morning.

So there you have it, some real first-world struggles and small successes of a woman with one flat tire. I am reminded of how much I take for granted every day, and I know how insignificant this setback is.

Hope you enjoyed showering with me today. Maybe you’ll join me fishing this weekend. Look along the shoreline for a crazy lady talking to the face on her foot!

hat to cover toes sticking out of cast
Meet Hattie Le’Green!

Laurel McHargue / Laurel’s email / Leadville Laurel Facebook page / Laurel’s Twitter

Meet Roscoe

medical aid, walking aid
Roscoe, my knee scooter

“You need one of those scoot around things for après foot/ankle surgery,” my friend Stacy posted on my Facebook page. Shortly thereafter, my friend Kristi attached a photo, suggesting it might be way more fun than crutching around the house. And it did look fun. The next day, our local medical supply service delivered my new getabout from Roscoe Medical, a burgundy beauty complete with adjustable everything, a lockable hand brake, and a sizeable basket. My sister Christine suggested insurance might pay for it. We’ll see. In any case, I already feel like I’ve been released from a cage!

I’ve been doing really well with the crutches

Stretching my hammy
Stretching my hammy

and the muscles in my arms and left leg appreciate the workout. Scooting up and down stairs on my butt also exercises my “dip” muscles and my right thigh muscles (holding my leg up the whole way), and the maneuver I have to do once I reached the top of the stairs to stand up again works my left butt cheek squat muscles. Stretching my right hammy on the back deck railing while Ranger does his business feels great, and I am perfectly in control.

But my decision to get this walking aid was finalized after I nearly tipped over two nights ago crutching to the bathroom for a 2 a.m. pee. Fortunately, I tipped against the wall and was able to finish my business without further calamity, but I knew right then it was time for a safer mode of travel around our house.

With Roscoe I can do almost as much as I can do on two legs, but it has taken some practice and everything still requires more time. Although Ranger’s water bowl splashed all over the floor while transporting it on the basket, my plant watering container worked just great. Lesson? Leave Ranger’s bowl on the floor and refill with the watering can.

Also, Roscoe doesn’t have such a great turning radius. This was probably a conscious decision on the part of the medical community so speed demons like me won’t launch ourselves over the handlebars taking corners on two wheels. As a result of this limited turning capability, I often have to lift the back wheels off the floor—remembering to keep my hand on the brake—and position them to make it through a turn. With all the twisting and turning and lifting I’m doing, I’m getting a great core workout on top of everything else. I don’t know that I’d recommend this scooter for anyone not physically capable of manhandling it to varying degrees.

Roscoe Medical knee scooter
Backing Roscoe into small places! Mike preps his pack to take Ranger on an elk scouting hike.

And I’m really happy I spent 9 years in the Army Transportation Corps because my experience with 3-5-7-point turns and maneuvering big trucks into tight spots comes in handy when I have to visit this tiny room several times throughout the day.

The bottom line is, Roscoe has freed my hands so I can cook and clean and do laundry and …

Dagnabbit! What have I done? When I had crutches, Mike was doing those things for me. Now he knows the truth. Oh well. He still has to hoist Roscoe upstairs at night and down in the morning. And walk the dog. And pick up his poop out back. I haven’t figured out how to manage that balancing act yet and don’t plan to.

My friend Nadine told me she was going to suggest getting a knee scooter, but could visualize me flying down the street into town on it. The burden of responsibility would have been just too much for her. She knows me too well. There’s a community market off Main Street today. I wonder how many peaches I could fit in this basket . . .

Crutches–and Uniforms

“Looks like last night’s lentil soup didn’t agree with you,” Mike states the obvious as he takes away the bucket I prudently placed by my side for that just-in-case moment.

The moment was inevitable though I did my best rapid, shallow breathing to fend it off. I could feel my inner reptile taking over as my jaw unhinged and I performed my best impression of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, stopping just short of a 360 degree head spin. And then I felt much better.

crutches, casts, surgery
Following doctor’s orders

That was yesterday, and I was quite pleased I nailed the scene in only one take. I was prone for most of the remainder of the day as I will be today, being the good girl I am and following doctor’s orders to keep my foot higher than my heart for the first 72 hours other than some rather obvious times when it would be impractical.

I’ve constructed the perfect uniform for my convalescence. My Melanzana hoodie has both a front pocket and a hood in which I can transport things, and the string backpack carries my water bottle and other stuff.

I have numerous skirts which when worn commando offer another wonderful convenience, though I still need to figure out how to keep them under me when navigating

crutches and roller stool
Melanzana hoodie with front pocket, string backpack worn in the front, skirt and roller stool.

down our cold wooden stairs butt-style in the morning. Brrr. The surgical stocking is a must, and the practical, sturdy slide-in shoe for my left foot is perfect. I’ll probably need to rubber band a hat over my toes when it gets cold. Like now.

It’s been 48 hours since my surgery (read my post about that here: surgery) and my tummy still isn’t feeling spectacular, but that’s probably because my fiber therapy hasn’t kicked in yet, if you know what I mean. Hey, I’m trying to be honest here. Anesthesia, while it takes you to wonderland during surgery, can really mess you up for days after.

I was able to fix a decent breakfast using a wheeled stool in the kitchen to kneel on. It’s not perfect, but it freed my hands to scoot around the kitchen and prep something easy. The stool then worked as foot rest while I sat on the foot locker under the kitchen window to eat. The foot locker was meant to be a temporary piece of furniture in the kitchen when we moved here 8 years ago, but somehow, the West Point issued trunk has managed to be a favorite permanent fixture in every home we’ve owned since 1983.

Ranger is helpless and confused by my new routine.
Ranger is helpless and confused by my new routine.

Poor Ranger doesn’t know what to do with himself, so he settles within sight until I move. He is leery of the crutches, as I have used them to nudge him out of my way several times already. In Mike’s words, he is a “furry road block.”

Time to lie down again. It’s pouring buckets and my head is fuzzy again. A Search and Rescue mission just came in for an injured hiker, so who knows when I’ll see Mike again. Maybe it’s just a little fracture.


I fractured my right ankle just a little while hiking in Moab three months ago on day two of a two-week vacation with Mike. Although I knew it was probably fractured, just a little, I refused a trip to the doctor until we got home. I bought hiking poles and walked gingerly at each of the magnificent national parks we visited, something a doctor would have told me not to do.

With an x-ray confirming the “stable” fracture upon our return home, I earned my first knee-high walking boot for two weeks, graduating to a short boot for another two before starting physical therapy. A couple of weeks into therapy, things got worse, and an MRI showed what the x-ray didn’t: torn cartilage. It would need to be removed, and a few little holes drilled in the talus bone to release new bone ooze (pretty sure that’s what it’s called) to repair the damage.

“No weight bearing for six weeks.” The verdict was made less heinous only because it was delivered by a cute doctor. The reason had something to do with ensuring the new bone ooze had time to reach the right consistency.

Mike’s crutches mock me.

When I got home, I stared at the crutches Mike used for a couple of weeks last year after his hip replacement. I adjusted them to my armpits and took a few practice strolls around the house. It’s easy when you know you can put your foot down. After practicing up and down the stairs, I decided I’d be using the butt method instead.

pre-surgery prep
Doing my roots before surgery. Gotta look good while I’m drooling on the operating table.

The day before surgery I cleaned the house from top to bottom, removed all the throw rugs and things from the stairs, colored and trimmed my hair, did a bit more food shopping (marveling all the while at how easy these tasks were with two functional legs and free hands) and scrubbed myself with Hibiclens before jumping into my freshly washed sheets. For those who have not experienced pre-surgical prep lately, this 3-day special scrub-down is a new infection control measure against pesky things like MRSA.

As Mike was away for training, our good friend John ushered me to the hospital. I chatted his ear off for the 40-minute drive over the mountain, filling him in on all the prep I’d done including another Hibiclens that morning. After ensuring I was in good hands, he took his leave when my anesthesiologist entered, an Air Force man. We talked about the military and he told me he’d buy my novel. His unhurried visit with me was completed unexpected and took my mind off of the impending surgery. I knew he’d take good care of me.

After handing my “I used Hibiclens for 3 days” checklist to the nurse, the cute doctor came by to reassure me.

“I’m so clean you could eat off me,” I almost dared to tell him. But I didn’t. I didn’t want him to be distracted by that thought while he was fishing around in my ankle.

I wish I could remember what I was blabbing while they pushed me down the hall into surgery because I think it was profound. All I remember was a feeling of absolute bliss, and then a gentle voice asking how I felt.

It was over so very quickly, and the cute doctor told me he was happy with the procedure.

John drove me home, and although I remember being quite chatty for about 5 minutes, the after effects of the anesthesia hit me and I dozed until we got home. I’m pretty sure he was relieved when I finally shut up. He helped me into the house as I fumbled with the crutches, and I was happy to hit the couch until Mike returned a couple of hours later.

crutches day 1, cast on my leg
At least I can wiggle my toes!

I didn’t have much of an appetite, but the lentil soup tasted good, and soon it was time to butt my way up the stairs and into bed. That was yesterday, September 1st, Day One of 42-no-weight-bearing days. What a way to start a new month.