Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Life On Crutches, Part Three

My life on crutches lasted ten months, starting in December 1982, eight of those with a baby in tow. My body is not good at healing and never has been. One time, pre-baby, I stepped on some glass shards, a relatively common occurrence of everyday life. But I couldn't get the shards out of my foot by myself. Being clear glass, they were virtually invisible to the naked eye. The young and inexperienced doctor on-call made a "stabbing" attempt (literally) to remove the shards without the assistance of a magnifying device of any significance. Thinking he had removed all of them, I went on my merry way, only to have two small pieces work themselves out several months later as Jim and I were hiking in Hawaii. Although painful to be sure, and not the ideal place I would chose for do-it-youself surgery, the imbedded glass was clean and inert, until I put extra pressure on the balls of my foot by hiking every day. So when the two ends of my broken femur refused to weave themselves back into a more useful whole, it didn't surprise me all that much. What was hard to take was that we would have to move back into town instead of into our almost completed cabin, and for a three month stay at that. Three months in the "Cinderella Motel"on El Camino, with a eight month old baby, was not exactly the experience I had envisioned. So we let word be known, via good old fashioned face-to-face conversations with friends and colleagues, that we were again looking for a housesitting gig or two and hoped something decent would soon materialize. The stars must have been aligned in our favor, because a short time later, an opportunity dropped into our laps.

I had gone back to work, part-time, in June of that year, leaving baby Sean with a Korean babysitter (the wife of a graduate student) on Stanford campus. During the month I "camped out" with my husband and baby by the creek, it turns out (when memory cells re-awaken and fill in the holes in my swiss cheese brain with the unconflicted truth) I was also working, part-time, which makes sense because Jim had a part-time job during this period as well. So I was isolated out in the woods only half of the time. Less Pioneer Woman than I had long remembered. No matter. It was still a pretty challenging time in my life.

One of the women that I worked with, at a not-for-profit health center that no longer exists, was an altruistic young woman named Eleanor, whose father had worked for President Kennedy, if my sometimes faulty memory serves me correctly. Eleanor was in her early twenties and just out of college. Being young and idealistic, (why else would you work for a not-for-profit health center after just graduating from a rigorous program at a presigious university?) Eleanor decided that she wanted to help me and my family. And, it just so happened that Eleanor's parents were going to Europe for a month and leaving a lot of vacant space in their large Atherton home. They had six kids; they were taking the youngest three with them and leaving the older three at home. Eleanor convinced them to take on this temporarily crippled young woman, her chubby, crawling baby boy and her lanky, bearded, intellectual-type husband with a whacky sense of humor who worked part-time in the library at Stanford University. Amazingly, they agreed.

We spent the tail end of August and most of September in this large Atherton house with Eleanor and her two younger brothers. Atherton, for those not familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area, is one of the most expensive towns in the whole country in which to live. In my dad's part of the country, those towns have names such as Darien, Greenwich, and New Canaan. Atherton is the Bay Area's Greenwich, home to the very rich and the sometimes famous. After an interview with Eleanor's mother, which I recall took place in the kitchen while the hired help cooked dinner, Eleanor's parents let us stay in their master bedroom, which was bigger than our whole cabin, so that I could hook myself up to a reliable source of electricity for the required twelve hours a day. "Twelve hours a day" meant that I was connected to an electrical source for eight hours while I was sleeping and another four during the day. This wasn't too bad, as Sean was still taking a two hour nap, so only the last two hours on the machine each day needed to occur while Sean was awake. Given the large space we were occupying, it was pretty easy to play with Sean on the bedroom carpet during these final two hour sessions, especially if husband Jim was close by.

The house in Atherton was a large rectangular two story stucco block, painted the color of baby aspirin, with a built-in pool in the backyard and a semi-circular gravel driveway and a large stately California Live Oak tree in the front. Tall hedges blocked the view of the house from the street. The house had hardwood floors, tall ceilings, large rooms, lots of windows, and I don't know how many bathrooms. The front door, which opened into an entryway, was of the French door style, panes of glass from top to bottom.

We considered ourselves very fortunate to be able to stay with Eleanor at her parents' Atherton house for a month. Our jobs were close by, we had plenty of space, and most importantly, we had a consistent source of electricity with which to knit my bone ends back together. Considering all that had happened to us over the last year, life was going pretty well.

( be continued....)


  1. To my readers: It is not as easy as one might think to reconstruct events of 25 years ago. Please bear with me as I try to reconstruct Part Three of My Life on Crutches.