I am like a shopkeeper these days.

Every day when I wake up, I do an inventory. It’s not about how many sacks of flour or bars of soap occupy the shelves: It is about what abilities are left to me.

My inventory-taking begins when I lift both of my arms straight up. I can still do this while I lie in bed. I wave them to and fro, back and forth, to keep the muscles – the ones that remain – as limber as possible. I do not want them to freeze in place.

I lift up my legs and move them up and down, side to side. I stretch them. After I get out of the bed and haul myself to the bathroom, I will grab the edge of the counter and do some squats. I will stretch my hamstrings. I really don’t want my legs to lock up.

And now we take out the checklist, thereupon to tick off the Items of the Day.

Am I standing up? Yes. So far, so good. Can I still stand up to pee? Yes. So far, so good.

There are a lot of tasks involved in getting ready for life amongst civilized humans. I take a shower. I shave. The first is a monumental challenge, made slightly less so thanks to the seating area in the shower stall. The second takes longer than it used to, owing to the fact that I must now do most of it left-handed. I am happy when I finish the job without having slashed any major arteries.

Wrapping myself in a towel is no longer a job that requires no thought – It’s surprisingly hard work. Nevertheless, I manage it.

The other little jobs proceed according to their pace. Taking the morning assortment of medicaments. Brushing and flossing the teeth - thank Gawd for the electric toothbrush and the water flosser. Applying deodorant and inserting hearing aids. I can accomplish all these unaided, although with a remarkable degree of clumsiness. My left hand was never my dominant hand, but it has become surprisingly useful out of sheer necessity: Mister Right has become that unemployed friend camped out on the couch. He doesn’t do much.

Getting dressed gets more difficult by the day. The little things we take for granted – donning our trousers and shirts, socks and shoes – now are exacting and difficult work. Depending on how fast I need to accomplish the act of clothing myself, I sometimes will need help. Thank Gawd, Dee is there to provide it.

My daily inventory continues. How hard is it to stand? How hard to walk? How long before I slouch over?

No inventory is complete without checking the valuables in the safe. In my safe are the big three items: my ability to speak, to swallow, to breathe. So far, these are still pretty good... but when they start to go, things will get serious in a big hurry.

I am a diligent shopkeeper, one for whom the process of taking inventory has pretty much become continuous. I do it every morning, and I keep doing it all throughout the day.

Yet despite my diligence, the items on my shelves are disappearing, one by one.


  1. This post, while powerful and important to read, left me with a single 'take-away': "The little things we take for granted...".

    As hard as your daily tasks are becoming for you, that's how hard I have to work to ensure that I don't take anything - large or small - for granted. Every last thing I have is a gift... that can vanish like a fart in a hurricane.


    Not sure how to comment. Here is an essay from the NYTimes that you probably already read. -Catherine (not sure why my name is showing as "Mom"?


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