One thing Mother never was, was still, she was always on the go. Even when she came to see us, it was hard to get her to stay for very long. She had to get back home to do this or do that. When I was young, as soon as supper was over and the dishes were done, she’d ask me if I wanted to go for a walk to the creek a half mile from our house. We would take turns hitting a can down the road as we walked. One day she got the idea to make a Tee-pee of sorts by the same creek, by leaning long sticks against a fallen tree. The neighbor kids and I spent many afternoons adding to it and playing in it. She would help me fly kites with what seemed like miles of string. Once, all by herself, she carved a whale out of a huge snow drift that had settled by our house. She frugally hung her clothes to dry instead of using her dryer. Her flower gardens were beautiful, she grew most of her own vegetables and the huge cherry tree in her back yard was stripped bare of it’s cherries every year. Not one of those red little jewels were allowed to go to waste. She was in a bowling league and bowled several times a week, even traveling to state bowling tournaments when her teams qualified. She definitely was not a “sit in my rocking chair and watch the world go by” gal!
Eventually, like I think will happen to all of us, she started first feeling the years in her knees. She never went very long without taking an aspirin to curb the pain. When she was in her eighty’s and we could see the pain was getting worse for her, we would try to talk her into seeing a doctor about getting her knees replaced. She adamantly in no uncertain terms let us know that was not going to happen! One day I received a call from her telling me her knees were hurting her so bad that maybe she should go see the doctor. I knew if she made this call, her knees were hurting her very bad! As soon as I hung up I called an orthopedic surgeon who had a very good reputation with knee replacements around our neck of the woods. I told them how bad she was hurting and they said to bring her right up and they would get her in. Upon seeing her, he sure enough told her she could either do nothing and keep trying to manage the way she was or she could have them replaced. She looked at him rather sadly and said, “Oh, I guess it is time I slow down.” The doctor laughed and said, “Elizabeth! We aren’t doing this to slow you down, we’re doing this to speed you up!” To this she had to inform him that by golly, she could still bend over at the waist and put her hands flat on the floor without bending her knees, to which he informed her – this he had to see. She slid off the table, bent over at the waist and with perfectly straight knees put her hands flat on the floor! I think he was somewhat shocked, but I had seen it so many times I just sat there and grinned. She loved showing this little feat of hers off. You would be at a family reunion and all of the sudden she’d go from upright to bent way over and you might wonder if she was falling, but then you’d see her hands spread out in front of her and you’d know she was just showing off again!
After her surgery, having both knees replaced at the same time, she was a little skittish about jumping back into life. After three weeks in recovery and therapy in the hospital she had to go home because Medicare said so. Carolyn was coming to take her home from the hospital and I was to have her dressed and ready to go. When I said, “Well, Mother, let’s get you dressed.” she shocked me by saying, “No, I’m not getting dressed. That is ridiculous to get dressed just to ride home!” I wondered “Who is this woman and what did she do with my little spitfire of a Mother!” Right then the phone rang and it was Carolyn saying she was almost there. I told her Mother told me she was not getting dressed. She said, “OH YES SHE IS! Let me talk to her.” I handed Mother the phone and although I couldn’t hear Carolyn, I heard Mother answer, “Well, alright, if you think I should…..OK, I will” When the phone was hung up, Mother argued no more, we got her dressed complete with shoes and ready for her ride home. Once home, Carolyn took her to physical therapy at her own home town and within a few days they told them they no longer needed to come in, she was doing so well. She had Carolyn help her with her exercises several times a day and with a week or two, she was back to being the little energizer bunny again. I think she had in her head this was going to slow her down and make her old and once she realized that instead, it actually did speed her up and now she could do much more than she could, she was ready to take on the world! Just a couple weeks later I was down to see her and sitting on a chair she says, “Norma, listen to this!” She proceeded to lift her feet off the floor and shake her bottom legs from side to side. I could hear the metal clanking in her knees. I said, “Oh, Mother! I don’t think you should do that!” She told me, “Ach! It doesn’t hurt!” I was scared it would hurt the artificial knees themselves but she assured me it wouldn’t. She must have been right, because I don’t believe she ever had anymore trouble with her knees after that. If only we could say the same for her eyes.