Cambrian: Opinion

Broken foot an even bigger challenge in the hills

The columnist’s view from the “command chair.”
The columnist’s view from the “command chair.”

Recently, after a hair-raising two-day mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, which I surprisingly survived, I managed to slip in our Grand Canyon hotel room and break my foot. After a two-day car ride home at the beginning of Thanksgiving week, I expected my chances of getting an appointment with a surgeon would be slim to none. Luckily, I was able to get surgery scheduled fairly quickly, all things considered.

Granted, a broken bone is not the end of the world, but it sure has been life-altering since it happened. The icing, elevating, and no-weight-bearing orders from the surgeon have limited me to short trips to the bathroom only, as much as humanly possible, hopping around on one foot with my walker. Life has become the limited view from my recliner, which my husband John refers to as my command chair.

No matter where we lived, this situation would be a royal pain, but here in Cambria’s backcountry in the Santa Lucia Mountains, many miles from town and the type of civilization most people consider normal, it has been daunting at times. When John at is home with me, my life is inestimably easier, but his life is reduced to, “Would you mind getting me, helping me with, doing, fixing XYZ?” over and over, all day long. He has had to be both of us, which is a big job here in the hinterlands. Just being him was a big job before I became a non-walking partner. It’s no wonder he considers going to work a gift.

When John is vacationing at work, I am left to my own devices to try to get around without moving more than necessary. Since we rely on our woodstove for heat, it has occasionally gotten pretty cold here during the day if John hasn’t had time to get a good fire going before he leaves in the morning. And, since we are off the grid with solar power for our electricity, John has had to be extra diligent to be sure the batteries are full by running the generator before work during these overcast and rainy days. I can’t tell you what an unpleasant surprise it would be to have the power go out while he’s at work, so many miles away. I have found that I cannot get out of the house and down the steps by myself, one-footed, to get outside to the energy shed or anywhere else. Imagine how thrilled our bosses would be if I had to call John home during his workday to start the generator. And, as picky as this sounds, I do look forward to eating at least once a day while he’s at work. Preparing anything more than sliced cheese and crackers is almost impossible. I cannot get anything liquid from the kitchen to my command chair without making a mess that I am then hard pressed to clean up.

Catering to the “needs” of our three dogs and one house cat has also presented some interesting challenges when John isn’t home to let them in, let them out, let them in, let them out, feed them, etc. Pets are not respecters of mobility issues. One sunny day when John was at work, he left the big dogs outside with the gate open so they could run around but still get to the back door when they wanted to come into the house late in the afternoon when it was starting to get dark. However, an unexpected wind came up, blowing the gate shut, leaving the dogs stranded outside the gate where I couldn’t get to them. Luckily, my sister-in-law, Debby Mix, just happened to stop by and was able to prop the gate open with a trash can so it couldn’t blow shut again. Whew! She saved the day on that one.

Throughout my “confinement,” we have been blessed with friends who have brought or sent us food that John can warm in the evenings so we at least have yummy, nourishing dinners. Since I don’t cook well on one foot, and John doesn’t cook at all, except to make Jell-O, this has been an incredible gift of kindness.

Fortunately, my broken foot is healing reasonably well and not causing me any pain, so I’m encouraged that being a command-chair prisoner is about to end. I hope to get a walking boot soon and then shortly after to be able to return to work, which will probably seem like a get-out-of-jail-free card. The best part, from John’s point of view, is that I will be able to take on my regular chores again, relieving him of caregiver status and the double duty of trying to be two people.

Mountain Musings appears the second Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian. Email Marcia Rhoades at