Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What She Said

I had this wonderful grandmother, Dorothy, who instilled in me a great affection for having parties and reading old books.  The woman made an excellent martini, but was just as happy reading Caesar's "Gallic Wars," in Latin, for the heck of it. She was judicious in the amount of advice she gave, preferring instead to listen to whatever your problem happened to be.  When she did give advice, however, it was always useful.  When she was 95, she decided to let me in on an important truth.  She was so small, she only fit into child-sized clothes, and her hair clung to her head like a halo of white spun silk. She told me this:

"The women in our family are like sharks.  If we stop moving, we sink to the bottom and die."  

Then, she went for a walk.  

At the time, I just thought it was a funny anecdote, and I promptly forgot all about it for the next decade.  Just like they say, the chickens all eventually come home to roost, and the need for this tidbit of advice arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago.  Now I know why my grandmother never stopped moving, taking walks, doing morning exercises from her bed in the nursing home even.  When the Reeder women stop moving (her maiden name was Reeder), they go numb.  I know, because it happened to me.

A few weeks ago, I took myself and my knitting up to the mountains for a long weekend extravaganza of Olympics-watching, red wine drinking, and general slovenliness with two of my best gal pals.  Wild woman that I am, I was determined to finish up two baby blankets while there, and the complicated lace edging and corded bind-off each took hours to complete.  Add to that a cheerful wood stove and squalls of snow outside, and you get the picture: The perfect environment for lounging, yakking, and knitting.  All this I did with complete abandon.  

On our last night there, however, I noticed my right foot had gone numb and wouldn't wake up.  I didn't think anything about it.  By the next morning, my whole leg had gone tingly, and by the drive home, my right arm felt like it had amnesia.  Eventually, the right side of my face went numb.  A visit to the neurologist ensued, along with MRIs and blood tests.  Everything came up unremarkable, except for the final verdict.  I had made myself numb from knitting too long and sitting in one position.  "Don't do that," the neurologist with the office wallpapered with degrees instructed me.

Rather than heed her advice, of course, I had to test her theory all over again last week.  I spent an afternoon knitting the back to a cardigan and, sure enough, by bedtime my feet had all the sensitivity of two baseball bats.  I spent the night tossing and turning, jogging around in our dark house, and trying to shake the blood back into my fingers. The next morning, my husband was calling me "shark gal" and chuckling as I took the dog out for the 4th walk that day.  Walking and moving around really helped get rid of that "my foot fell asleep" feeling that had crept into all my limbs.  

Now, I am a believer, and I have committed myself to a life of moving and shaking.  I don't sit at a desk all day, so my new schedule of jumping up and walking around is easily done.  I just have remember to limit my knitting like someone in a 12-step program.  It's that or life with the bottom feeders.  

I guess that at a certain point in life, even mundane things like knitting can get a little dangerous, especially for us Reeder women.  At least we can make those good martinis and throw a party, in the event someone needs a quick pair of socks knitted up.

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