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Looking out my Backdoor - Sometimes the hard stuff …


December 5, 2019

I’ll dither around before I talk about that which I need to talk. Because that is the way I am. Look the other way. Put my head in a bucket of sand. Pretend I don’t need you.

In truth, it’s been a rough couple of weeks, what with losing phone/internet service for one of those weeks. That was an eye-opener. Try it. I’d have sworn I didn’t use my computer, except for writing, more than an hour a day. Well. Well. Well. Fooled myself. Sure did accomplish a lot of small put-aside tasks, little things, like moving the stove and cleaning under, behind and around, during those “found” hours.

Then Thanksgiving. We went traditional this year: turkey, stuffing, mashed spuds, giblet gravy, sweet potatoes, veggies of variety, cranberries, fresh bread rolls, pumpkin pie — the whole roller coaster. Nine of us, five Mexicans and four gringos, each stuffed to a personal level of discomfort.

Lani took it upon herself to tell our Mexican friends the traditional Thanksgiving story, the one we were fed from first grade onward, the pretty story. I sat on my lips. The room got real quiet. Nancie said, “Then we killed them all.” That was a show stopper.

Then we ate pie.

Montana life is harsh, hard on bodies. There is hardly a one of us not physically damaged in one way or another. Especially those of our own era. We are happy to tell you all about it.

Personally, I think we are all nuts. It’s the way we were raised. Buck up, kiddo. You can rest by and by, in the fall when the work’s all done. Those final three words make that line a joke.

Me, I was T-boned on the highway near Harlem, on my way home from Northern, February 1968. I’ve had near 52 years to contemplate ever-present pain.

Out of that, I devised my own on-a-scale-of-1-to-10 physical pain chart. I’ll keep my thoughts on emotional pain to myself. You are welcome.

Nos. 1-6 are negligible, everything from hangnails and papercuts to frostbite, bad backs, strained muscles. By No. I might seek out medical aid, depending on the tolerance level of the particular day and efficiency of over-the-counter pain medications.

Level 7 pain cannot be ignored and aspirin doesn’t work. Doctor, please help. At 8, it is a good day to die. By 9 I’m afraid I won’t die. And No. 10 is Call Dr. K.

I’d had too many 7 bordering 8 days when I said, “I give up.” Went to see Dr. Francisco Jose Cruz Armenta of Universidad de Guadalajara, my clutch of hip X-Rays in hand, pre-surgery (five years ago), post-surgery, and one year ago.

A new X-Ray and two hour exam-consultation later, with my pictures all lined up on the light panel, even I could follow the progression and understand my problem.

A prosthetic hip, in much-simplified non-medical terms, consists basically of a roof, a ball joint and a post. Roof and ball joint are fine. The post that fits down into the leg bone (I know, makes me queasy, too) has slipped, hence the pain, for which there is no simple solution, neither herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy nor large infusions of tequila.

Dr. Francisco must have noticed my crestfallen look, because he said, “I can fix it. It’s not easy. It will be a difficult procedure for you. But I can fix it.”

I left my macho in Montana and burst into tears.

This man assured me he can replace the post part of the prosthesis and fix the damage. He said I’d walk the day after surgery and go home the next day, pain free, once the incision healed. I half fell in love with him on the spot.

I have to jump through hoops first, a raft of tests, blood, heart, lungs and such. I’m an emotional wreck. I’m elated. I’m scared. I’m apprehensive. I have more questions. I waffle over my decision. Do I? Don’t I?

I’m not alone. For that I thank you. A yellow canary is flittering through the crinkly leaves of my avocado tree. Air Force jets from the Base in Guadalajara loop the sky in practice doodles. The sun hangs beamish. I’m scared. That might be the most normal thing I am right now.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com/. Email [email protected]


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