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To Have or Have Not

By Karen Bagnard
Posted: 06/13/2021
Tags: karen bagnard, poetry

Contributed by Karen Bagnard

Our Village is a place where we find  friendship, fun and support.  Recently a life-long friend outside the Village, in the city of Seattle, offered me a wonderful story to help me stay motivated to do my daily walks as I was feeling awkward with my dark glasses and white cane.  I’m extending this lovely story to my Village friends in hopes it may help one of you, as well.

                                                                    To Have or Have Not
                                                                             by Linda Cutler

To have or have not?
The question played repeatedly
Like a broken record for a year and a half.
Have I tried everything possible?
Alternative treatments...
Usual and unusual methods?
Time passing...
Ability to walk diminishing.
How much can I lose?
Apparently everything.
Little daily struggles like
Getting out of my Honda Accord at work
Hoping no one saw this awkward challenge.
Getting up from a chair
Pretend it doesn't hurt.
No longer climbing the stairs at work.
Thank God my school has an elevator.
I walk the halls with work friends carrying on conversations
That end as we approach the stairs.
They climb
I press a button
I used to love walking the 1.3 miles around Haller Lake.
Doing Zumba, yoga and pilates
I had an active life, but
Now it slowly slips away from me
Like low tide exposing barnacle-encrusted, rocky shore.
Boredom, pain, exhaustion
Clothing no longer fitting.

To have or have not?
 Decided to meet with a surgeon
The x-ray says it all,
“Bone on bone.”
He knows before seeing the x-ray, as I catch him watching me walk.
Ummm...a new hip for my birthday.
This isn't a present on my wish list.
No one looks forward to a surgery with loud sounding, electric metal saws and hammer!
Replacing bone with metal used in rocket ships.
After the surgery room drama and my first week's recovery
It's time to see what I can do outside my 1300 square-foot world
Nestled on the rim of Haller Lake.
Luckily it's summer!
Perfect timing.
I tentatively take myself and my fancy red walker out for a spin.
I force good posture as I push my walker ahead of me then step forward
To meet this new dance partner again and again.
A rhythm develops between metal, wheels, handles and I.
Then a surprising wave of self-consciousness.
I don't want to be seen this way.
After a few more minutes of embarrassment
I give myself a firm pep talk.
"Stop worrying about what others are thinking.
Oh, and by the way, you don't even know what they are thinking."

My first goal is to accept myself as I am
Right in the middle of all this.
 Then distance goals are set.
Pushing through pain and exhaustion
A few more feet each day.
Eventually, I find myself seven houses away.
A woman comes out of her home and calls out to me.
"Would you like a ride home?"
I laugh as I point to my home,
Just down the road.
She shares her story: a surgery that left her and her walker
Too far from home-base,
And not enough strength
To make it the rest of the way back.
Fortunately, I'm still okay
I turn my red walker around and head back to the barn.

Next day I make it to the stop sign!
I want more.
It's Wednesday and I really want to make it to North Alliance Church.
Through this experience,
I got to know many neighbors around Haller Lake.
I began a self-conscious woman
That didn't want to appear weak using a walker and then cane.
I became a woman that learned to accept herself
Struggles and all,
And experienced immense gratitude as a result of that.
I made a decision to believe that people were supportive
And came to see THAT was the truth.
People watched me struggle and saw my progress.
They smiled, waved and even cheered
As the distance from my starting place increased.
One of the finest days of my life came
When I realized my dearest goal: making it around the 1.3 perimeter of the lake.
I was as happy and thrilled as if I had completed a marathon.
We take our abilities for granted.
We forget what a joy it is to be able to move freely.
To walk
Having arms and hands to embrace, feed and dress ourselves.
We seem only to realize this ignoring-of-gifts, when one is taken away.
And, oh the deep appreciation,
When one of these gifts is returned!

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