Herald and Journal, Dec. 3, 2001

Window washing ­ a homeowner's hazard


After Sept. 11, I had a hard time thinking of something to write about for this column. I try to write from a humorous point of view, but there was nothing to laugh about after the events of that day.

I did sit down and write my feelings about what I had seen and felt, but I couldn't turn it into a column. It seemed presumptuous to try. How could my thoughts and feelings about Sept. 11 be more interesting or more profound than anyone else?

For several weeks, it was hard to even find anything to smile about. Then one night, when we were getting into bed, Tom said something that came out all wrong. I don't even remember what it was. But he exclaimed it with such force, and it sounded so ridiculous that it made me laugh. And laugh!

I just couldn't stop. It was like a dam had burst. I lay there on the bed and just laughed and laughed.

Anyone who heard me would have thought I had lost my mind. That laughing fit was just what I needed to shake me out of my doldrums.

I still feel the sadness and anger, but I can laugh sometimes now. I hope you can, too.

Today, I'm home while our first real snow flies outside. Normally I would be at work at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning, but I stayed home today with a sprained ankle.

Last Friday was an extra day off after the Thanksgiving holiday. I started the day with great plans.

I had so much I wanted to get done ­ cleaning, washing clothes, getting the house ready for Christmas.

The sun was shining in and the kitchen windows were extremely spotty. They had been calling out to me for some time, "Wash me! Wash me!" I couldn't ignore them any longer.

I decided that one of my first chores of the day should be washing the windows. I got the insides done, and proceeded outside to finish the job.

Tom brought the metal step-ladder out from the shed, because I complained that the wooden one was too rickety. It didn't even have a shelf for the scrub bucket. I got one window done, and moved the ladder over to the next one.

My second window did not go as well as the first. I had moved the ladder over, and found that our dog had dug a hole right where I needed to set the ladder.

I should have filled in the hole, or found something to set the ladder on. Instead, I leaned the ladder against the house and started to climb up.

I had done this before, holding on to one side of the house and climbing up with the other hand holding the scrub rag. I was just about ready to take the first swipe at the window when I felt myself falling backward.

I was only up three or four steps, but I knew it would be a hard fall. Trying to protect my back and my head, I pulled my feet under me as best I could.

I managed to land on my feet, but mostly on the left one. I could tell right away that I wasn't going to be jumping up and climbing back up the ladder.

I have never broken a bone, but I was afraid I had just done it. My left ankle and heel hurt unbelievably badly. I took my shoe off and just rocked back and forth, as I sat there waiting for the pain to stop.

Now, you know in these situations you usually look around to see if anyone has witnessed the dumb thing you just did. I didn't have to. My son-in-law, Henry, was standing there talking to me and saw the whole thing.

He thought it was quite funny until I told him I had really hurt myself. I started to crawl into the house, but then Henry called Tom to help me.

Of course, Tom had a helpful comment, too. "What did you expect when you had the ladder set straight up and down against the house?" he asked. Tell me, what woman wouldn't be charmed by such sympathy?

After sitting in the recliner for a while with ice on my ankle, I felt good enough to get up and hobble around with crutches. We have a couple pair around from past injuries ­ surprisingly, not mine. (Hmmm . . . there was that time that Tom hit a plowed field on his snowmobile after the first snowfall and broke his leg. I must remember to point that out to him.)

My heel hurt too much to put any weight on it. I decided to take a wait-and-see attitude. That night, when I was laying in bed with an aching ankle, I decided that I should find out if I had actually broken anything.

Tom drove me over to Lakeview Clinic in Watertown Saturday morning. I was surprised to see only one other person in the waiting room at 11 a.m.

An x-ray showed no break, so I got an air cast to wear home. The support it gives my ankle makes it feel a lot better. I still can't walk on my heel, but I can touch my toe down as I walk with the crutches.

Today my entire foot is the most beautiful purple color, except for the heel. Even the arch of my foot is bruised. The foot and ankle are swollen tight, including the toes. I haven't even tried to get a shoe on yet.

No, the windows won't be finished this fall. Maybe next spring they will be washed. This time I will send Tom up the ladder.

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