"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
December 14, 2015
In Praise of Tortoises Everywhere
by Kathryn H. Kidd

It’s that happy time of year when most of us are thinking about Christmas. I’m doing that quite often too, but as we enter December, I also realize that three years ago I was sleeping like the dead, and indeed the doctors and Fluffy had no idea whether I was ever going to re-enter the land of the living. That was not a particularly enjoyable Christmas for the Kidd family. It was memorable, but not exactly a funfest.

When I finally did awaken, the doctor told Fluffy I would be in the ICU for a couple of days, and then in therapy for a couple of weeks. Then Fluffy could take me home and I would be good as new. Ha! Fluffy laughs and laughs about that, but the laugh is just a little bit bitter. Because here I am three years later, and there’s no “good as new” about it.

The person Fluffy brought home from the hospital was a different Kathy from the one who was taken to the hospital in the meat wagon. In some ways, I’m actually better. For one thing, I dropped about 100 pounds that I was happy to see go. I’m still not a lightweight by any means, mind you. But losing that hundred pounds was a red-letter event for me.

When I went into the coma, I had congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. Both of those are fatal diseases, and I had already lived longer with them than most people do.

I spent years sucking oxygen out of a tube at home, and I only stopped doing it because I was afraid I was going to get caught in the tubing and fall down the stairs. I’m clumsy that way. My heart and my lungs were bad, and they were only going to get worse. But both diseases disappeared when I was in that coma. I came out of the hospital with a healthy heart and lungs.

My lungs are so good these days that when I was in the doctor’s office for a checkup last week, I noticed they were conducting a study that paid people $50 for a vial of their blood if they had any number of weird diseases. One of the diseases was COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a disease I was first diagnosed with back in 1985. I’ve had that disease for two decades.

“There’s an easy way to make fifty bucks for Christmas,” I said.

My doctor listened to my chest. “Nope,” he said, in his flat Wisconsin Cheesehead accent. “You’ll have to find a different disease. “Your heart and your lungs are fine.”

So much for that much-needed cash for the Christmas season.

I came out of the hospital with that new set of lungs and that new, stronger heart. The tradeoff for that is that I lost the ability to walk — at least temporarily. But “temporarily” has taken a long, long time.

I never talked to the doctor who said I’d be good to go in two weeks. I was out like a light when he said it. But I did hear the doctors who said I’d be walking in six months to a year and a half. At the time, I thought a year and a half was going to be a long, long time. Little did I know that the doctors were sugar-coating even that.

In the past whole year, the only progress I have made is that I now do most of my getting around in church with Fluffy on one arm and a cane on the other. I say “most” because I can’t get through the outside double door that way, so Fluffy gets me through the outside doors in my wheelchair and then I start walking. But it is an improvement over the walker, which was what I was using last year at this time.

And the walker was a great improvement over the wheelchair that I used the year before that.

Frankly, I expected to make a whole lot more improvement than just graduating from a walker to a cane over the course of a whole year. But then, I was expecting my nerves were going to grow back a whole lot more than they have during a whole year’s period. They haven’t.

One doctor told me that nerves grow back at the rate of one-half inch to one inch per month. Okay, I figured, to get from my knees down to the bottoms of my feet that will be up to 36 months, even if my nerves are in the slow-learner class. But I have learned that nerves follow their own calendar, and different sensations come back at different speeds.

There have been some new sensations (getting more unpleasant as we approach winter), which are that my feet always feel as though they are being assaulted by an Arctic wind. This is not something that makes me happy. I liked it lots better when they felt as though they were on fire, although that was an unpleasant sensation too.

I am sure my neurologist would call this progress. In fact, he says my recovery is right on track, so I know things are going well. But I am an impatient soul, and to be honest, Fluffy is considerably less patient than I am. It grates on both of us to see my recovery progressing at glacial speed.

Of course, both of us realize that the time may come when recovery may stop altogether. I have read several books about people who have been in comas, and sometimes their feet come back, and other times their feet do not. It all depends on what their feet want to do.

What I’ve read in the books is that people just find ways to work around their feet. Fluffy has hoped I would be climbing mountains by now. Frankly, I’ve had the same hopes. Both of us have been just a tad disappointed.

We hoped the day would never come when I would have to just give up and have to learn to walk on what feel like painful, icy stumps. But that day may come, and if it does, I’ll just have to smile and do it. Lots of people have worse challenges to overcome than that.

Matthew 5:48 gives us what seems like a daunting command, when Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” But even as we worry over the prospect of being perfect, we need to realize that there is no place in that scripture where Jesus tells us we have to be perfect now, or even this year, or even in this decade.

In fact, we can be as slow as turtles as long as we are going in the right direction. And I am moving in the right direction, even if it’s just a half inch per month.

When Aesop wrote about the Tortoise and the Hare, the rabbit was not the hero of the tale. The rabbit was a lazy beast, who was so certain that he was going to win that he plopped down for a nap in the middle of the race. It was the pathetic, plodding tortoise who eventually won, solely because he was too stupid to know he had been beaten.

I want to be a tortoise — too dumb to know I should just pull my arms and my legs into my shell and give up. I have a lifetime (and the lifetime beyond this one) to persevere. If I just make one milestone next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, I may yet beat the rabbit and win the race.

I may yet reach perfection, as may we all. After all, as long as we are going in the right direction, we have eternity to get there.

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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