Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress no matter how slow. ~ Plato
At nine o’clock one year ago tonight, my Dad inched his way through our door, upper body resting heavily on a walker, toes laboring to do the work that his missing hip should have done. Straight from the hospital, wearied by painful months culminating in the removal of the prosthesis from an infected hip, they wanted rest. After a brief chat, my husband helped Dad into bed, where he settled on his back, legs at an odd angle, claiming he was comfortable.
Even though we were convinced that our home would be more navigable for him and that the treatment time would pass more quickly with a good view and easy access to the outdoors, along with the lively companionship of children, we were surprised at his yes. His plan was to stay for two weeks, but that soon changed. They would be with us during the entirety of his IV treatment. Maybe it was because our home layout was better suited to getting around. It might have been the view, or possibly because of the companionship of family and the two capable little girls eager to assist him with twice daily infusions. Probably it was all of these, but the most compelling reason may well have been the abundance of companions for the short but time-consuming walks he took regularly to keep his body strong for the surgery that would come at summer’s end.
He hadn’t been with us long before he took his first walk. Our lane is long, two tenths of a mile. Our sloping driveway stood between the house and the lane. He would have to take that on. Every time. According to my oldest girl, he walked about two hundred feet that first time, turning around at the apple tree. She would be the one to know, because of all of us, it was she who walked most often and best, keeping pace with him on his journey, just as he had kept pace with her when she was small.
He measured his progress as he walked down our lane, first with his walker and then on crutches, often trying to take five more steps than he had taken previously and coming in to report that he had made it to the hydrant, the bush, the neighbor’s maple, and eventually leaving the lane and taking to the road.
August brought a new prosthetic hip and the road to real recovery. Its pace was quick. The crutches gave way to a cane, and soon he walked with no aid at all.
An active man of the outdoors, by March he was in Yellowstone with Mom taking a class which required them to snowshoe for the first time. He is ready for this year’s biking season. By the end of the month he and Mom will head west with my brother and his family. In August, he will make that drive again, this time to attend a writer’s workshop with me. We are already planning our hikes.
I suppose a girl never stops learning from her father. Last summer’s lessons: Even when progress is painfully slow, try to take a few more steps. Note the landmarks that you pass and remember to never discourage anyone who is making progress, even if the going is slow.