One Man’s Treasure

I had just parked my car this morning after a masterfully executed parallel parking job in traffic, when as I exited the vehicle, I found a quarter staring up at me from the pavement. Now there are several ways to react to this found treasure. Most would likely dismiss it and possible have never risked traffic to even pick it up. After all, what does a quarter buy today…a gumball or maybe an after dinner mint? Some would pick it up just simply because it was something. Still others, like myself, would see it as an omen and maybe even a message. I viewed it as a message. A message from my Uncle Len.

Leonard Wundrow was my father’s younger brother and the source of most of the Wundrow joke reservoir. Any time that Uncle Len would stop by the farm, and that was often, we would be regaled with a litany of his jokes and stories, many I am sure, the kind my mother would have censored had she had the chance. There was never a dull moment when Len was involved.

But the story I want to share concerns Uncle Len’s past time. He would go for walks, head down, searching for the lost treasures of those who had passed before. Those little pieces of change that fell out of the pocket each time you reached in for your keys or a pocket knife or some other small tool. A penny here, a nickel there and if you were lucky the occasional quarter or even half dollar could be found if you knew where to look and you kept your eyes to the ground. Uncle Len was a pro and by the time he retired and found hours of additional time to search, a veritable force to be reckoned with. His house held jars full of coins waiting for their trip to the bank. Each day we would get the report, the tally for the day of treasures found.

Uncle Len’s secret, knowing where and when to look. Near the parking meter, outside the bar any early morning or in the park the morning after the fair. Locate the beer tent remains and the treasure could be impressive. He would sometimes take us with him and we would be shown the tricks of the trade but sworn to secrecy on his high production sites. One morning, the day after the VFW Fair had pulled up stakes and rolled out of town, Uncle Len hit the mother load. After a productive area pass of pocket dropped coins, Len found, tightly rolled up, a C note. Yes, My Uncle Len had found a one hundred dollar bill! His glee was contagious, his question possibly a bit naive. He was musing as to why any one would roll up a hundred dollar bill into such a small tube. They could of used it for a straw! He even considered using it as such to which we immediately said “DON’T!” I will leave it with you there, just as we did way back then.

We loved our Uncle Len. He was a character that kept his family and ours always on your toes. When he passed, he left the missing person syndrome in every family gathering that followed but he also left his legacy. To this day, and to a person in the Wundrow families, we can not pass a dropped coin without hearing his voice saying “you gonna pick that up?” So you see, this morning, with traffic whizzing by, I never thought twice, I bent down, stopped traffic, and retrieved the coin. Stepping back onto the sidewalk, my wife asked what I was doing. When I showed her the coin, we looked at each other and said, “Uncle Len’s watching us today.”

Legacies are the essence of who we were that we leave behind when we go. I can only hope that long after I am gone, I will have left some legacy, even if it just a quirky habit like viewing the little things as a treasure.

It would not be fair to end this story without reporting on what we did with the quarter. We left it in the tip jar at the cafe where we enjoyed breakfast and shared a memory or two of Uncle Len. Anything else would have seemed sacrilegious. Who knows how many hands that quarter will touch or what it might help accomplish. Thanks Uncle Len. One man’s treasure.

Body and Soul

Body, Mind, Heart and Soul, these were the words that piqued my interest today. I am currently going through a healing process and it has become clear to me how intertwined and dependent these four terms can be.

Let’s start with body. When we are not feeling well, when we have gone through a trauma, when our body needs to be healed, we go to a doctor. They diagnose the problem, assign a regimen of medication, maybe therapy or in some cases, a surgery. The medication assists our body in healing itself. Therapy or surgery, actually repair the damage and begin the process of healing. This is a physical process and in most cases the first place our system looks for the fix. But what if this is not the only issue or possible only a symptom of the real problem.

We might need to consider the mind. The body often can’t heal completely without the healing of the mind. The mind may be causing us to deal with anxiety. “What if I can’t get better?” is the question we begin to want answered. If I want a complete recover, I need to be ready in my mind to deal with the process. Sometimes, there is no true physical issue. The phrase “all in your head” comes to mind. It is true that the perception of pain is in fact all in my head. The pain is real, but it is the mind that interprets the inputs coming from the source of that pain. At other times, the issue is not physical pain, but emotional stress, possibly to the point of depression. If the mind is to be healed, we may need the help of a professional or at least the ear of someone willing to listen and help us confront the source of that anxiety. Just as we can heal the body, so can we heal the mind.

Enter the heart. In this setting I am not talking about the heart as an organ. That would include it in the discussion of the body. I am referring to the heart as the repository of our emotions. If we have suffered a loss, we could be suffering from a broken heart. Not a heart that isn’t functioning but rather a heart that has suffered a loss too big to ignore. At times we may be walking around feeling like there is a figurative hole in our heart. The heart may be the hardest to heal. It unfortunately, at the very least, takes time. Sometimes it requires that we must find a reason to move on. We cannot replace what we lost but we can use the memories to help us find the strength to move on.

And then there is the soul. To talk about healing the soul, we must first understand what it is. The soul is the essence of who we are and who we are meant to be. It is not a physical organ. We don’t know where in the body it resides. We feel it rather than see it. We use the term, “nourish the soul”, but what do we feed the soul. I believe we feed it a dose of purpose, faith and positive thoughts. Stress, lack of faith in people or processes, hopelessness and negative thoughts or behaviors, diminish the soul.

I began this piece with the statement that these four concepts were intertwined. That to truly heal, the prescription must treat all four. To focus on one and ignore the rest, leaves us only partially healed and vulnerable to a relapse. If we are to heal the body, we must heal the mind, heart and soul as well. The prescription must include the medication or repair that the body needs, the help necessary to calm the mind and then restore it to full function, the time needed and a reason for the heart to carry on, and finally, attention to the soul to restore our purpose and provide the nourishment to strengthen us for the process. Just as the doctor will recommend a regiment of medication for the body, knowledge and understanding of the healing process, including the time needed and the ups and downs that will inevitably occur, will help to mend the mind. For the heart, the prescription must include a positive attitude, the opportunity to both face and deal with the healing and strong belief that the people around us truly care and hope for our complete healing. As to the soul, we need to want to heal. We must restore our soul to the strength it will need to regain who we were meant to be and the reason to heal.

I have, over the past several weeks, experienced healing of body, mind, heart and soul. The surgeon fixed the worn out knee while the nurses and physical therapists helped me regain my mobility. Through the early stages of the recover, I fought with the anxiety of sleepless nights, recovery that seemed too slow and the stress of fighting through the pain. The physical therapists were there to encourage me and to calm my anxiety when it would block my ability to heal. My heart was dealing with the loss of my independence and mobility, but my friends and family, and especially my wife were there to listen and remind me that they cared. Their concern reminded me I was never alone and that I could feed on that concern to find the strength to keep working toward my recovery. As to my soul, it never left me. I knew the road ahead when I had made the decision to have the surgery. Each and every person who became a part of the healing strengthened my soul to regain what I had been losing; the positive attitude that had existed before the pain had begun to diminish it.

At sometime, we all face the need to heal. When it is the body only, the process is faith in the diagnosis. But never lose sight of the other three; mind, heart and soul. Each can be dealt with alone or addressed as a group. But in any case, we don’t really need to nor do we accomplish the healing alone. Remember that the people around us are the prescription we need to complete the healing.

On the Road Again

I’ve been lax in updating my progress since getting my latest bionic knee. It’s been six weeks and I thought I better say something.

I adopted a mantra along the way to answer the reoccurring question, “How are you feeling?” My response has been, “Better than yesterday but hopefully not as good as tomorrow.” Two thoughts on this. First, it hasn’t always been true. There have been days where progress clearly took one step forward and two steps back but that is to be expected with this kind of recovery. Sometimes you work the exercises a little too hard only to wake the next morning too sore to do your best rehab. Fortunately, there have only been a few of these and they seem to be fading in the rear view mirror.

The second and more random thought about this statement, is that it really could apply in general. As good as today was, there is no reason to not hope that tomorrow just may be even better. If we can approach life with this positive attitude, we won’t be likely to miss the opportunities that can in fact make tomorrow even better than today. As I said, it was a random thought, but in this shut in, cooped up, measure every little bit of progress day to day grind, two hours of sleep a night routine, one has a lot of time to think pretty randomly.

I have with my past updates tried to recognize my heroes, the surgery staff, the hospital nurses and eventually the host of physical therapists. I added to that those friends and neighbors that have, without even being asked, stepped in to clear my sidewalk and driveway, drive me to appointments and just plain showed up when I needed a little conversation break.

Today marks the six week anniversary of the surgery. I am walking without a cane for the most part. My wife/ nurse / coach / still makes me take it with me outside of the house for some added support in this weather, but in reality, I just end up carrying it. I have started to leave the house now with much more regularity and have returned to my old bad habit of going out for breakfast and consuming too much coffee. I even returned to the gym a couple of times to start building back up what I clearly lost. I will accept the new aches and pains as something refreshingly different and just my upper body muscles saying thank you.

The big progress marker, I got cleared to drive again. Deb, bless her heart, has been driving me everywhere, and I have been….well a s**t about it. It is a difficult task to be the rider when you have always been the driver and especially hard to take when my style is, to put it mildly, a bit aggressive. I have a new and far better understanding of why our elder parents fight so hard when they are being asked, mostly told, to surrender their driving privileges. Of all our independent activities, most of them have no bearing if we can’t drive. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for hundred year old’s out cruising the boulevards, but we all need to be a tad more empathetic when approaching that treacherous crossroad on life’s highway.

I am close to dancing, but just have a few more “stretches” to go. Their target, the PT people, is 120 degrees of bend and 0 degrees on extension. Currently my numbers sit at 110 and 4 degrees respective, close, but not enough just yet. As I near this end of my recovery journey, I want to thank everyone who has been kind enough to check on my progress and at times, to just be there for me when I needed an ear to bend instead of my knee.

With that said, I’m going to close. It seems I still have miles to log before I am caught up on my driving and right now, I feel the need for speed. Beware you drivers out there going too slow. This whole recovery thing has been slow enough.