Friday, July 5, 2013


ME:  Hey, is it you again?
IMAGINARY INTERVIEWER:  Yep.  Here I am again.  (Laughing)

ME:  So you are.  I know you said when I talked to you last April that you’d be back, but when it didn’t happen earlier I thought maybe you were just a figment of my imagination.
INTERVIEWER:  Maybe I am; maybe not.  But that’s beside the point.  I chose to drop by today mainly to see if you were still walking each morning.  And since you are, I’d like to ask you a few questions about it.

ME:  You’re welcome to ask away.  But I have to tell you this: My daughter laughingly said this walking thing I’m doing is caused by OCD.  I was once accused of bull-dogging genealogical research, not letting go of problems until I got them solved.  That’s not OCD; it’s just that I have a great interest in what I’m doing!  The walking is more like a new hobby.
INTERVIEWER:  About your walking, the first question is this:  Why do you carry a cane?  You obviously don’t have a physical need for it.

ME:   I love my cane.  I got it in the interior of Turkey, somewhere close to Catal Hoyuk.  I saw a bunch of these hand-carved canes sitting in a barrel outside a small shop.  They weren’t ornate enough to be for tourists; these were the ones that the old village men were using, and I was drawn to them.  The cane has always sat in my living room in a box behind the door that is full of cat toys.  The cane is not really on display; I just like to see it.
When I decided to walk early each morning, I knew I should have something close at hand to protect myself if needed.  In our very large apartment complex we have some registered sex offenders and some dogs that occasionally get off their leash and run loose.  I decided to carry my cane.  I figured it would be of help if I met bad men and mad dogs, or mad men and bad dogs! 

INTERVIEWER:  Have you ever needed to use it?
ME:  Early on I was bitten lightly on the ankle by a tiny Chihuahua, not breaking the skin but I was so startled that it never crossed my mind to do anything with the cane.  At any rate, I couldn’t have clonked a Chihuahua anyway.  I’m just not that mean.  It probably would have had to be a Rottweiler-sized dog to get a clonk from me.  I’m kind of a “wuss.”

Actually, what I do use it for is to “play it” as if it were some kind of musical instrument.  You know I listen to music on my iPod as I walk.  I have had a few music lessons in my life, and I remember the fingering for the piano, so that’s mostly what I play, right hand only!   I’m sure people sitting on their porches and seeing me silently pass by think I have some kind of tetany in my finger muscles.  Sometimes my fingers just fly along with what I’m hearing in my ears. Occasionally my left hand makes an “air chord.”  And I wouldn’t tell this to everyone but sometimes I have an urge to pick it up and finger it like a flute….but I restrain myself.  Thinking I have a spasm in my hand is one thing; thinking I’m crazy is quite another!
INTERVIEWER:  I have to admit if I saw you doing that, I’d probably ask my friends if they saw that weird lady walking around the complex playing a cane with her mouth!  (Both of us laugh).

But tell me, why at this stage of your life did you take up walking?  I think you’re really dedicated to it.  I see you have some fancy walking shoes…
ME:  Yea, that what started my daughter saying I had OCD.  Florescent Pink, she scoffs at me.  I tell her to cut it out, they are merely black with pink shoelaces!    And sometimes I think maybe I started walking because it would justify my purchase of the fancy pair of Sketchers!  But the truth is that, without going into any details, it was a decision on my part to celebrate the news that I didn’t have Pulmonary Hypertension.  After worrying about it for nearly 4 years, I demanded that my doctors give me tests to either definitively rule in or rule out that diagnosis.  They finally did, and said I definitely did not have it.  So in a nutshell, every breath I take carries with it a footstep without having to stop and catch my breath.

Some people with PH can’t walk 2 feet without stopping to catch their breath.  I now walk 2 miles without needing to stop anywhere, and that is worth celebrating.  Whenever I think I of skipping a walking day I remind myself that the ability to walk is real cause for celebration, and off I go.  I think in the almost seven months I’ve been walking, I have only missed 3 days, and those were because Jerry was so sick with his low sodium problem that I didn’t want to leave him alone.
INTERVIEWER:  Do you like walking? 

ME:  Well, I never did before, but obviously I do now.  What I also enjoy is the time I have to think, to listen, to contemplate, and to observe – all alone. 
INTERVIEWER:  Turning into a loner?

ME:  I’ve always been a bit of a loner.   The other night I was looking through some old report cards – my mother saved them from every school I ever attended – and I read the teacher’s report from first grade that said, “Barbara should try to join in playing games with the other children.”  When I read that I thought that teacher was pretty unfocused: I spent my first grade year in three different elementary schools.  The second school was in Whittier and I was only there for two months before my parents moved us back to Long Beach.  That was the teacher that seemed to see my normal “new kid” bashfulness as a deficiency, or at least that is how I interpreted it after all these years.  But in thinking about it the next morning on my walk, I decided that it wasn’t all that “off.”  I was a new kid, true, but I also brought with me a measure of shyness, and I think a whole lot of insecurity and fear that even the earlier first grade teachers had noticed.
INTERVIEWER:  What happened then?

ME:  I was scared of lots of things.  Especially fire.  When I would be outdoors playing, if I heard a siren begin to wail I would run over to a wall and put my back to it, for protection, I guess.  Earlier in my life our family was taking a Sunday drive and we saw an oil derrick on fire - a huge fire.  You may not know that at that time Long Beach had a great oil field around it and the big derricks that pumped the oil out of the ground were everywhere.  I suspect seeing that fire was the source of my fear.  At least it makes sense, when coupled with this bit of being afraid of sirens. 
Anyway, in first grade we had regular fire drills, where the alarms rang in the hallways and the children lined up and marched out on the playground or in some cases into the adjoining neighborhood.  Apparently I was terrified when those bells went off, and however it was that I reacted at school was enough for the teaching staff to set in place a special event to help me get over this fear.

One afternoon sometime before school was out for the day, I was called into the principal’s office and told it was time for a fire drill.  They were going to let me push the button that would make the alarms ring.  They pulled a chair up to the box where the fire alarm button was, and then pointed at the windows, saying that was where I could watch all the children line up in their class's assigned place.  They said there really was no fire at this time so I didn’t have to be afraid, but now I would know that all the children would be safe if there had been a fire because they had practiced what to do when those alarms went off. 

I was barely 6 years old.  Today I am 78.  I can close my eyes and see my little self getting up on that chair, with the principal’s strong arms around me so I wouldn’t fall.  I see her put a key into the lock and open the box where the fire alarm button was.  She told me she would hold my hand to help me push that button, and she did.  And I did.  The noise was deafening but expected, and I was not afraid.  She swiveled me around and I saw my school mates file out in orderly lines and stand at the proper place.  When the right amount of time had elapsed, she told me to again push the button and hold it down for a minute this time.  The bell would ring again, signifying a return to classes.  I pushed, and it did.  I then was taken back to my classroom with a note pinned to my sweater for my mother to read.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent, but all this is merely to say that yes, I think I probably have a bit of a loner left inside me. 

INTERVIEWER:  I’m kind’a that way too.  I don’t mind spending time thinking, or reading, or even writing. 
ME:  Sounds like we are a lot alike.

INTERVIEWER:  Yep.  And I’ll bet you’re not crazy about big parties, either.
ME:  Hate ‘em!  Hate ‘em!  I never know what to say.  I’m not good at idle chit-chat. 

INTERVIEWER:  You and me, we’re probably too serious for our own good.
ME:  I think at this stage we make our peace with who we are and how we got there; we might have wished something different, but all thinking about that does is let regrets out of the gunny sack, and once they start, watch out.  On my walks I try to focus on all the good stuff.  I know it sounds hokey, but each day on my walk I try to find something beautiful.  When you walk the same path day after day it’s sometimes not all that easy to find something that you haven’t seen before.  The other day I looked at a splotch of bird poop and tried to figure out if I could find something beautiful in that.  The answer was “no” but then I saw a crow sitting on some barbed wire that separates the apartment’s back fence from a flood control channel.  Now I don’t like crows at all, and I didn’t think that this one fell into the “beautiful” category anyway, but it was quite amazing that that big bird could hold on and balance himself on a thin piece of wire in between two mean-looking barbs. 

I had to laugh, because in a sense it was a creative attempt to find beauty, or a substitute for it.
INTERVIEWER: Perhaps that is OCD?  (No offense, Bobby)

ME:  No offense taken.  I’m back home now.  Will I see you again? ….. Hey, where are you?



1 comment:

Olga said...

Well, in all honesty, I am with your daughter. I do remember your reservations about the whole idea of walking in the beginning. Also, I never thought OCD was all that bad of a thing!