Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Coffee and Pockets

Not my usual post loaded with photos. I didn't intend to tell a long just kept going.

July 27, 2005 was the last time I drank coffee from my own kitchen. One or two small cups each morning was all it took to ignite a fire under my butt to move! move! move! early in the morn. After thirty-two years of relying on the powers of caffeine, I gave up the habit abruptly but it was not my choice.

On the evening of July 26, 2005, I tumbled down the back deck steps while letting Bella outside to pee. I held her on lead to protect her from nasty dogs next door. When I tumbled, my sandals flew off, and I thought I heard a muffled crack somewhere near my foot but put it right out of my mind. I remember that fall vividly, like a bad dream, and thinking, “Oh crap. I broke my foot. HA! Can’t be real. I’m moving three states away soon.”

Our house was sold a few weeks prior, I had packed only two bedrooms even though we scheduled movers and packers, and Michael was already working and living out of a suitcase in North Carolina. I was alone in Delaware. Past bedtime and late in the evening, I hobbled back into the house leaving my sandals where they landed on the patio, took two Advil, went to bed, and hoped for the best the next day.

Drank a few ounces of coffee the next morning. It gave me the strength to crawl up the stairs that led into the walk-in attic to find a pair of crutches that were probably bought from Read’s Drug Store back in 1968 when I fractured the same ankle. The hardware that held the wooden sticks together was loose, the rubbery armpit and hand pads were dry-rotted, but I needed them to haul myself to the Envoy for a trip to the emergency room. On the way, I called the office to tell Barbara I’d be in later, after a quick X-ray. I refused to believe my problem was more than a minor sprain but realized my left foot sort of swayed back and forth, hanging on to a few threads of something.

“Mary, my goodness. You broke your ankle in two places!” I heard the doctor say…and some talk about the surgeon coming by to discuss surgery. I sort of listened to his long-winded explanation, describing the pins and screws he would use in surgery seven hours later, but I heard, loud and clear, “…after two weeks in a hard cast, we’ll replace it with a mobile one.” It was selective hearing on my part, and I believed I’d be in a walking cast or boot soon. After all, I had lots to do since we were moving in twenty-eight days! For the next several hours, I sat in the hospital bed alone and feeling frightened as I had not had surgery since my tonsillectomy at age four.

The kind nurses brought me dinner and a pair of brand new crutches after a two-hour surgery. Barbara picked up my prescriptions and my neighbors drove me and my Envoy home that night. I was such a happy soul that evening, giddy and laughing as I crawled up the garage steps leading into the laundry room to kiss and hug my little black and white girlfriends and chatted with friends for a while. I had enough drugs in me that I promised Barbara I’d be back to work in three days. Yeah, right. I'm sure they rolled their eyes at me when I wasn’t looking.

The next morning, Michael flew in to stay for a few days and learned to use a washing machine for the first time in his life and other major appliances, but has since forgotten… A man with limited time to get through the daily nitty-gritty chores of cleaning, cooking, selling furniture, and moving, he was overwhelmed. I asked for a glass of ice water because carrying a glass of water, or anything for that matter, was impossible for me. Yes, I knew he was busy and as stressed as I, but his comment to me was, “You know, Mare, you can use one crutch and carry things – I’ve seen people use one crutch.”

My reply, “In a CIRCUS? I need you to show me how it’s done. I felt like hurling a crutch his way like a spear. Go out and buy me an apron with pockets and bottled water.” And he did. It was hot in late July and he brought home a heavy canvass apron large enough to fit a six foot tall chef with a sixty inch waste. I needed pockets to carry things and not an apron that would trip me up and send me flying. He tried his best to help.

Gina drove north from Wilmington, NC the day after. She stayed with me for two straight weeks, not making coffee, and catered to my whims. We played card games until we lost consciousness and I learned to like MTV as she learned to like Good Morning America. We both tried to make life fun while I sat on the sofa most of the time, elevating my foot, watching TV and the golfers tee off through the window, watching life go on outside of my miserable room, feeling sorry for myself, and hearing news from our pitiful real estate agent that our buyers’ sale of their house fell through… and the words, “…we can list your house again”, and I cried. That lousy real estate agent fumbled the ball too many times and I wanted to reach through the phone and strangle him. I was hopelessly losing control of my life.

(We didn’t list the house again but we were forced to settle on our home in Delaware electronically, two weeks after we settled on our home in North Carolina. How nice.)

The day before Gina left to get back to work in Wilmington, I crutched into the bathroom, slipped my cast into the plastic bag, sat on my new shower seat Michael bought for me, and emerged from the bathroom in full make-up, hair blown dry to perfection, eager to see the surgeon after two weeks of wishing…waiting for my “walking, mobile cast”. I had, by then, mastered crutches but avoided stairs completely.

If you want a tighter stomach, more upper body strength and a six-pack, use crutches for a few weeks.

The surgeon sawed through the hard cast, removed twenty-eight staples, and Gina nearly fainted. The X-ray looked good. Did I get a walking cast? Of course, I didn't. “Four more weeks on crutches with this removable air cast”, he prescribed. “You need a full six weeks of healing to avoid permanent disability.” If he wasn’t so good looking, I would have slapped him. “But doctor, I’m moving in less than two weeks, blah blah blah…” I knew what the prognosis would be, but…I needed to hear some good news for a change, dammit!

Poor Gina watched me weep on the way home and watched me sob on the phone with co-worker Mary Lou and my dear friend Ruth, my cubicle neighbor, as I asked her to pack up my cube and bring it to me…and she did, taking great care with my photo frames and everything else I cherished in my “cubicle, sweet cubicle”.

Within two days, Michael returned to North Carolina, as did Gina. I was home alone for four days before he would fly back to Delaware to get ready for moving day. During those endless four days, I was grateful for friends who visited and my neighbors who came in several times a day to let Chloe and Bella outside, on lead, for safety from the dogs next door. I had not seen my pond fish in over three weeks and no one filled the bird feeder. Incredible.

No one brought me coffee, but by then, I didn’t miss it.

Dry cereal for breakfast and a juice box. You carry everything in your pockets. A small bottle of window cleaner fit nicely and a roll of paper towels was snug against my belly behind elastic waste shorts.

Making a hot dog for dinner while on crutches is a major task:

Allow yourself thirty minutes from start to finish.

Crutch to the frig. Throw a hot dog, a bottle of mustard, and rolls across the kitchen to land on the counter near the microwave.

Crutch to the pantry. Fly a paper plate as you would a Frisbee to the same area.

You throw things to save time because your good foot and leg ache from bearing the weight when you are using it for too long.

By the time your hot dog is piping hot you need to sit down at the kitchen table for about two minutes to rest your good leg and observe the toes on your bad leg swell to the size of boiled eggs.

Wrap the warm hot dog in a paper towel or foil and put it in your pocket. Place a bottle of water in your other pocket.

Crutch to the sofa and fall into it. Channel to world news and reach for the hot dog in your pocket to find that your pants had twisted and you sat on it.

Eat your cold, bent hot dog anyway.

Ignore the begging Boston Terrier faces because you worked too hard to share a small, lousy meal.


What does all of this have to do with coffee?

I brewed a pot of coffee this morning because Michael and I thought about an occasional pot lately. The aroma brought back memories of the last time I used my coffee mug, over two years ago. I overslept a bit, and was running late.

A few ounces of caffeine made a huge difference. Without really trying, I shaved fifteen minutes off my getting-ready-for-work time. My eyes were wide open.

After I was dressed and literally running out the door, something didn’t feel right. My elastic waist pants felt tight around my buttocks, loose and puffy on my stomach, and I fleetingly wondered how my weight shifted from front to back overnight.

Entering my office, I wanted to put keys in my pocket but my hands kept slipping by, to find my pockets reversed and my pants on backwards.
Life is a riot.


RuthieJ said...

OMG, Mare, you are too funny! (just the backwards pants - not the broken ankle part of the story).

I'm sure your broken ankle wasn't the least bit funny at the time, but I'm glad you had Gina and good friends to help you through it and you can still look back and find some humorous parts.

Two years without coffee is a long time, but they were eventful years, weren't they? The smell of coffee in the morning is so heavenly to me and then that first sip.....MMMMMMM!

Unknown said...

I went many years without caffeine too (although without as good a story as yours). Then, I turned 40 and I found I needed a controlled dose of caffeine to function as a human being.

Your ankle story is amazing. Don't get me started on the backward pants. Sometimes I think you post these stories just to help me feel better about all the faux pas I have in my life. :) Love ya!

Q said...

Dear Mary,
My goodness! You are so funny!!!
Sweet broken ankle...oh how miserable... You did get through it, but with moving? Amazing. Thank goodness for husbands that try and daughters that can play cards!
Backward pants? LOL! I have left the house before with mix matched shoes. I have noticed, regardless of how I look, they still take my Visa.
I have two cups of coffee every morning and if I get the afternoon, "must take nap" voice I often will fix a latte!
Have a great day!
I loved this story!
I shall laugh off and on now as I think of you and crutches and hot dogs. I have a visual of you and the apron...

Mary said...

Ruthie, I really don't miss the coffee anymore but it sure smells good. We made it to NC without a hitch! Michael carried me up the steps to the lawyer's office for settlement and we can laugh about it all now :o)

Liza, wearing my pants backwards is the worst I have done...too much caffeine makes me jittery and wild!

Sherry, life is full of disasters that can be viewed as comedy - later... LOL! I enjoyed sharing this and giggled throughout. I loved that smashed hot dog.

Annie in Austin said...

What a wonderful story you gave us today, Mary - and it didn't need any photos because your words put the images in our minds. [I'd like to delete the one when the first cast came off.]There was also the irony of sitting here with the unending cup of java in front of me as I read.

I love your writing!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

possumlady said...

The backwards pants is SO somthing that I would do!! My latest was running out the door last Saturday morning to run errands. As I got into my car I realized I still had my bedroom slippers on!!! I wonder if anyone would have noticed or cared?

Glad you can laugh now about the broken ankle.

dguzman said...

Oh Mary--you sweet wonderful woman! Thanks for sharing this great story. You're like a birding Erma Bombeck, you know?

I have a cup of coffee at work every weekday morning, and then maybe another in the afternoon, probably no more than six or seven cups a week. It's just not a priority for me, but I like the warm creaminess of it (I add lots of that crappy powdered creamer!). Kat, on the other hand, needs at least a pot a day, usually more. Her blood is probably brown and smells like Juan Valdez's best.

The Quacks of Life said...

rolling on the floor here. photo of that please :D

Anonymous said...

Mary, there's something about your story delivery that always puts me at the edge of my seat. What bomb is she going to drop next?!

Susie said...

Thanks for giving me a real laugh today! (of course the surgery and broken ankle are not what I was laughing at!)
You have such a gift for telling a story.

Carol Michel said...

Oh my, what an ending! I laughed out loud to think of you at work with your pants on backwards. The part about the broken ankle isn't funny, mind you, but that ending... I think you should give up coffee, really...

JeanMac said...

Oh, I'm in tears laughing. No more caffeine for you.

Mary said...


entoto said...


I am in tears, I really, really needed this today. I can totally relate to throwing things across the kitchen. I can see this all in my minds eye. You are a riot and so brave. And I am now brewing a pot of coffee.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Mary you are so funny. I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle when I was seven months pregnant so I can relate to the crutches. Being pregnant and on crutches was terrible, I kept zip-lock baggies by the bed rather than make that long trek to the potty.

mon@rch said...

Mary - this isn't your typical post but sounds like it was something very much needed to share. It is amazing how little things like a smell or a sound can bring back memories! Thanks for sharing !

KGMom said...

Mary--I love Delia's description--a birding Erma Bombeck!
What an ordeal.
Glad your ankle has healed, but I bet you take extra care now, having gone through a break twice.
As for coffee--I found that on nights before I get up to teach, I have to skip caffeine, or I can't get to sleep.
But without caffeine, I sure drag myself around.

Unknown said...

Mary I cannot go without a day of reading your posts. You are the sunshine after a long day. How awful for you when you broke your ankle but the backwards pants is a classic.
You rock girlfriend.

Susan Gets Native said...

I have the utmost empathy for you, Mare.
I became the Crutch Queen after having 6 major foot surgeries.
Funny how something can take you back to a time in the past, huh? Coffee = broken ankle.

Let me hip you to some wisdom I have acquired over my 34 years.....
A sense of humor will help you survive. And it sounds like you will be just fine.
Love ya! And your backwards pants.

~Red Tin Heart~ said...

I love it!! The pants on backwards. I'm glad you got through that ordeal. xoxo Nita

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Whew, what a trial Mary. So glad that you are mended and ready for the christmas season.

NatureWoman said...

OMG Mary, what a story. And you are quite the storyteller. I love the crooked hotdog and the backward pants!

Jayne said...

OH Mary... what a story! Bless your heart! I have to have my coffee... yes, I am fully addicted, but it's one of a few vices that I am just not prepared to even try and give up!

Mary said...

All, the coffee pot and the filter basket are in the dishwasher. I am officially off coffee, for good, since one small cup is too much for me to handle, obviously!

Naturegirl said...

My dear Mary YOU are a riot! I know it was a difficult time for you but I am picturing the look on your face when your dear H brought home the ((apron)) your companion as you healed that broken annkle...the hot dog (yuk!) story is hilarious!!
I love your humor my funny friend!
hugs LOL aNNa

Elaine Cougler Author said...

Oh, Mary, the next time I feel sorry for myself in this sea of boxes and empty rooms, I'll think of you. I can only imagine how hard it was to prepare to move in that state.
Eight more sleeps for us before M-Day! I have decided it will be a terrible day so if anything good happens, I will be pleasantly surprised!
BTW how's your ankle now?

kate said...

What a story! I forgot about coffee while I focussed on the broken ankle and your move ... and cooking a hot dog. That's just plain misery. It's amazing how simple things we take for granted become major hurdles with a broken appendage. Sometime I will have to write about my wrist saga ...

It's great that you could stop drinking coffee like that. I'm impressed!

Alyssa said...

Mary, what an awful time that was for you! I've never had anything like that happen to me and I can't imagine how you managed. Looking back, it seems funny, but I'm sure at the time you weren't laughing much. Those two little dogs must have been welcome company during those weeks of recooperation. I'm glad it all turned out for the best and you don't have any problems with your ankle.

Anonymous said...

You leave me laughing out loud as usual. What an interesting life you lead, Mary, and you tell about it so well. This was even better than your dog stories!

Larry said...

I wondered where that story would end up.-Maybe you'll start a new fashion trend.I've always feared breaking a bone.-The thought of having my mobility limited is an awful thought.-Very entertaining and funny the way you tell a story.

Chrissie said...

Oh Mary, I am always sorry to laugh at your adversity but you do write a great tale :-) You should publish!
I am sending you some rain, as Sherry says we have plenty at the moment! HG says parts of our local golf course are waterlogged and the garden is very soggy.

Mary said...

Hows the ankle now? love the story of the pants !!! I have done that with knickers!!!!

Mary said...


I can wear a two-inch heel now but I can't run, well, when I attempt to run it's strange looking :o) Ankle is fine! Might need another surgery to have the hardware removed one day but I'll put it off until I don't have a choice in the matter.

Julie Zickefoose said...

A magnum opus from Mary. Love it. I cannot imagine a busy bee like you being sidelined so cruelly while moving. As if it weren't stressful enough--and it needs to be done RIGHT; i.e., by you and you alone. Agggh!
If you can survive that...
I'm completely off caffeine, have been since a snowstorm left us without power for five days in the winter of '95. Couldn't grind our fancy beans. Once I made it through the headaches, I realized that I had been a jittery mess, running to the bathroom twenty times a day, and then getting crushingly sad at about 10:30 every morning as the caffeine in my system began to ebb...who needs THAT?
Does a shrew need caffeine? Nope.
The half-life of caffeine in the system is 9 hours, so it takes 18 hours to dump a mug's worth (saith the Science Chimp). No thanks; I have enough trouble sleeping without "help" like that. Too bad chocolate is full of caffeine. That's the only bummer about avoiding the drug.
Thanks for sharing this awful, wonderfully told story.

Mary said...

Julie, I had no idea how caffeine affected me until the other day. 18 hours to unload a mug? Incredible. That means I was on a constant, jittery, caffeine high for 32 years.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Mooost people are...and you have to be off the stuff to notice it!
Esp. the ones who gulp coffee after dinner and say it doesn't affect them at all...that they notice!

Ewa said...

Hello Mary,
I just read your story today - on one side it is funny to read, on the other I felt sorry for the situation. And ending is very surprising - I was expecting some kind of calcium absorption vs caffeine :)
Thank you - I just seat and read over my morning first coffee.