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The Blog Farm

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Last week I had every excuse not to start work on this year's income tax forms.

Last week it snowed. And it snowed. Our thirty-plus meter driveway is well cleared by a contracted snow-plough operator but the last ten meters or so, between house and shed, are too narrow for the fellow to pass with his truck. That and the equally long or longer wheelchair ramp attached to a large deck, several sets of stairs leading from various doors, and a path linking them fall to me to clear. Arguably I could reduce my work and simply clear one doorway and the ramp but I have a mortal fear that fire or some other calamity might trap us in a part of the house where I cannot get out with a severely disabled man. I am extra careful.

I used to clear the entire driveway myself - by hand - but as the years progressed and I aged, my dear old dad bought me a snow blower a year or two before he died.  He hoped that the remaining offspring might take up the task and that I, at least, could be relieved of what he considered too much for one person.  I actually loved the work and took delight in the fact that I was the only person - and the only female - clearing my driveway by hand and doing so quietly. I hate the roar of the engines and the smell they spew into the atmosphere from my neighbours' driveways.  But the year we had over three meters, nearly four, of snow, I was damned glad to have that smelly, noisy machine. The offspring, by the way, are all but gone.

Unfortunately, arthritis has crept into my hands, leaving them swollen at the knuckles and, recently, quite painful.  I found out the hard way that the vibrations from a snowblower exacerbate the pain to the extreme.  I had to return to the old fashioned method.

Then one winter about three years ago, the children bought us that snow clearing contract. I had stubbornly resisted hiring one myself, my ridiculous sense of independence thwarting me. But when it was handed to me on a platter, during another winter of very deep snow, I was grateful. I have hired the same fellow ever since, contenting myself with the areas he cannot reach.

I sold the snowblower to a friend, hoping Dad wouldn't mind, resolving that once I can no longer do the small amount left to me, perhaps it would be time to sell this place. Last week I came perilously close to making that decision.

It's not that it was a huge amount of snow. Mercifully it came in several batches over many days, not all at once as it has done previous winters.  The problem with snow in March is that it is usually very wet and very heavy so that even a small amount on your scoop or shovel becomes a challenge. I had thought that, so far, we had had a relatively snow-free year, but as I pushed heavy loads up what had become nearly two meter high snow banks, I quickly revised that assessment.

By the end of it all, my body was tired. But what I find more difficult is managing to complete the task while caring for Michael.  If my caregiver is here, then it's easy to not worry, but if Michael is in the house alone, I am constantly popping my head inside to make sure he is okay, napping or watching television.

I survived the snow, of course, and probably became stronger for it, but I looked at my sedentary husband again and again over the week and resolved to get him moving too.  Over the past few months, his mobility has nearly ground to a complete halt. Recent swelling in his feet and ankles highlighted the potential danger of inactivity.  We try to get out for a short walk a few times a week but if the timing is off a bit, then we often get no farther than halfway down the nicely cleared driveway. A few times I have been able to lure him onto my elliptical machine, set at the easiest level, but after two minutes he is huffing and puffing, then he quits.  It's just not very much fun.

Last week I had a brainwave and set to work to find and order a small, inexpensive gizmo designed for disabled folks in wheelchairs.  It is a pedal machine with a very simple knob to adjust the resistance.  Michael can be parked in front of the television as always and pedal away from the comfort of the couch.

It arrived at our door last Thursday.  I had it assembled in five minutes and he set to work immediately.  I am a realist; I know Michael's interest will wane, but the first three days, he actually pulled the machine out himself and sat for thirty minutes each time pedalling steadily.  The machine can even be used on top of a table to give the arms a workout but that is slightly less appealing to him than using his legs.

The past few days he has not touched it much but, with the glorious sunshine and warmth, I've been able to drag him outside for short walks with only a few falls each time.  Perhaps the hint of spring in the air is motivating him and giving him strength.

The swelling in his feet has receded and there has been no further snow since last week. Revenue Canada and Revenue Quebec are not very seductively calling my name.


  1. Good note. I recommend you do exercises to improve your disease because they help to stimulate our motor system so we forget about prescription drugs. I hope that the only pain is as a souvenir.

    Jym Leonhard

  2. I am an occupational therapy student and really enjoyed reading some of your blog posts. It is really helpful to be able to read about your perspective in caring for a loved one.I hope the exercise machine helps, it's a great idea,
    Chelsea Beehm