(photo of me and my father in July 1966 that delights me no end)
When he was bed-ridden with a herniated disc and sciatic pain, my husband Frank had a sincerely narrow range of motion. He could slowly get up and down off the couch but if he dropped his book on the floor, forget it. That book might as well have been on another planet. All his movements were pulled in toward his center. Even his spine curled in on itself.
After more than a month of inactivity, he started physical therapy. At first, he could only do a few repetitions of the smallest of movements: drawing his chin down and back, pulling his scapulae together, engaging his abdominal muscles. As he’s healed, he’s increased not only how much he can do but how far he can reach and stride — his range of motion — as well.
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Think about the range of motion of someone using this chair.
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Frank and I got smart phones a while back. After years with our standard cell phones, I did not know what to do with this new contraption that didn’t even come with an instruction manual. I set that gul-darned thing on the coffee table and glared at it every time I walked by.
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My beloved mother-in-law, Helen, is in her early 80s. She embraces new technology like a teenager. She has an iPad and voice recognition software and her cell phone is patched into the dashboard of her car. Her mind is youthfully courageous and engaged as she fearlessly embraces the new gadgets that I eye warily for weeks. She can also give you a serious smack-down in Pinochle, Whist, Bridge, and just about any card game you know.
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A friend tells a story of her father who died recently at the age of 89. Just a week before his death he was talking excitedly with a colleague about the book he was going to write. Not the next book, but the one after that. It would have been his 37th.
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A friend’s mother-in-law gets pedicures not because she loves the warm bubbly foot bath, or the pampering of a foot massage, or even how her toes look. She gets pedicures because she can’t reach her toes.
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In my circle of friends, this summer has been a rocky one. Just in my little corner of the world, the past few months have included two abdominal surgeries to remove tumors, a herniated disc with a side of sciatic pain and shoulder bursitis, deaths of four fathers, a cancer diagnosis, the death of an old colleague, relationship collapses, custody disputes, and an accidental death on a mountain bike trail. Some moments, I can actually feel my heart breaking. From my little perch on the world this summer, I stretched my emotional wings to let in plenty of fear, grief, sadness, disappointment, and anger.
At the same time, though, in my same circle there has been a wedding, sweet birthday celebrations, generous meals offered, lots of laughter, kindnesses given and received. As I have leaned into the painful events, my capacity for gratitude, pleasure, generosity, compassion, wonder, and especially love has increased in equal measure.