Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, June 24, 2018

cram_halfFor Mary Regina Martin, who kept me going

It happens often. I’ll be taking a brisk walk around the block in inclement weather when a neighbor stops to chat. "Why are you walking in this awful weather?" the neighbor invariably asks. "This awful weather" can mean heat, cold, snow, rain or any variety of New England storm.

My honest answer is, "Because I can."

But that’s not what I say. I mumble something about enjoying the exercise, getting fresh air, endorphins . . . that sort of thing. If I’m speaking with a friend, I may explain that, a few years ago, I had to start a medication that packed 60 pounds on me, and I am determined to work it off.

But that still doesn’t explain why I walk. I walk because I can.

I grew up with an active lifestyle. I was always reasonably fit, and my family was active as well. It was all I knew.

This good fortune carried me through most of my life, including four pregnancies. Then, eight years ago, rheumatoid arthritis invaded my life.

The arthritis was a real shocker for me. It crept in slowly at first, mimicking a rotator cuff injury – except that I hadn’t injured my rotator cuff. Before long, the other shoulder was in pain. Then, it was thumbs, and a hip, and lower back. Within six months, I was riddled with crippling arthritis. I bought a cane to help me walk. I got a handicapped tag for my car. We started to think about wheelchairs. The pain quickly became unbearable.

At its worst, I could only sleep an hour or two at a time. Pain would force me out of bed in the dark of night, and I’d pace the halls for nearly an hour until the spasms subsided. Then I’d crawl back into bed and the cycle would begin again.

One particular morning, I was curled up on the sofa, exhausted from another fractured night. A priest friend stopped by the house to go running with my husband Peter, and to bring me Communion. As I received that Precious Body, I was moved to tears that Jesus would come to me in the midst of discouragement and pain.

A moment later, the crushing spasms returned. I hauled myself off the couch, hunched over my cane and begin my slow, uneven trudge around the house, quietly sobbing. There might have been a thousand people around me, but I could not have felt more alone. I was so demoralized by the pain.

Eventually the doctors prescribed a new, injectable medication for me. Within a week, I was sleeping through the night. A few months later, I placed the cane into the trunk of the car. It gets very little use these days.

Still, it was years before I could walk any distance in the neighborhood. Gradually, imperceptibly, however, I was able to press a tad farther than the day before. At first it was just a house or two, then a few more. The day finally arrived when I exploded with excitement to Peter. "Guess what? I walked around the whole block, all by myself!" He grinned. By 2009, I’d extended my walks to other neighborhoods. I began parking on the far end of parking lots when shopping. I ran errands on foot if the distance was less than a mile or two. I reveled in every step.

That same year, my niece gave me a pedometer. My husband jokes that I wear the pedometer to bed, and the sad truth is that I actually do. I literally never take it off except to shower. I love it because it provides a seven-day history of my steps. Experts consider a healthy goal to be 10,000 steps per day. My goal these days is 12,000.

I love this renewed ability to walk. It’s not just the endorphins and the fresh air; I love that I am physically able to walk. I love the feel of the pavement under my feet and the smell of pine needles along woodland paths. I love the second chance that God has bestowed upon me, not because I deserve it but simply because he loves to bless his children.

So if you ask me why I walk, I may mutter something about an exercise regimen or staying in shape. But that’s not really it at all.

I walk because I can. And for this, I give all the glory to God.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.