Home Columns & Editorials The Old Road Seventy-Something and Rolling: Thoughts While Recuperating From Surgery

Seventy-Something and Rolling: Thoughts While Recuperating From Surgery

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I wonder if many of you have had the experience of suffering through a major block of down time while recuperating from a significant illness, substantial operation or physical setback. I’m sure I am not alone. I, who have always been very active, whether it be in my woodshop, garage, car clubs, social life, and as a writer, have been sidelined for over a month now confined mostly to my home, relearning to confidently walk again and slowly increase my stamina—energy and ability to do things—all without twisting or jarring my spine. I had major spine surgery in early November. Oh, I have ventured out to the carport on several of the beautiful fall days we’ve been granted to sit and play with my Scottish Terrier/ Wolverine dog. Yes, little sweet Maisey—bulldozer/household terror/hell on four legs–we will talk about that some time! This dog is not at all like my previous two Scotties. Shoulda, woulda, coulda rethought that acquisition! She is loyal though, and has kept a close watch on me throughout this ordeal. But her expression of cuddling is more like a catfight in your lap. Slowly, we are getting a bit calmer.
I can’t lift anything. Don’t even think about getting on the tractor, they said. I have a cumbersome brace on my leg, and some sort of a brace-support/girdle type affair around my middle. I get up and walk for about for an hour or two, then need to sit back in my medical type recliner for a couple hours to recuperate/recharge. Gradually now the up time gets longer and longer. I cannot lay on a bed. It looks like I’ll have to buy one of those expensive, new-fangled sleep number beds that adjust infinitely so that I can get comfortable and take the pressure off the incision. But I guess I didn’t realize how much muscle mass and energy I have lost over the past several years as my body declined from my back disintegrating. Oh, the six months before the surgery certainly condensed the deterioration so that I could no longer ignore it. Yes, I believe that I’m on the road to…better functioning, but it is still not clear to me what that end product will be. They are saying that it will be into January some time before I’m convincingly back from the abyss. I’ll believe it when I can swim again and get myself in and out of the pool
Since my ability to physically do things is currently very limited, I have a great deal of time to sit and ponder, think! What if this, or what if that. It’s been sort of a void time. Traditionally, voids are seen as negative time, non-productive, but some theorists put forth that it is a time of regrouping, sorting, redirecting. I grant you that nothing much is happening outside of me, but inside, my head is firing on all eight cylinders and is in overdrive. I made certain decisions before the surgery that are irrevocable now. For example, I gave up the presidency of the Model “A” Club because I knew that this operation and recuperation would span several months with an unclear outcome. But frankly, much too much of my energy has been expended in that car club direction with ever increasing aggravation and entirely too little payoff. Let’s face it, the young Turks of the club want to go in different directions than the old man……. And why not? I get it.
The old car hobby as I have known it has changed drastically over the past 30 years. I will focus on this in coming articles. Certainly, the interest and participation in the local car cruise-ins and shows is alive and well, but the cars and restorations have changed and the people who own them have different objectives than we did 30 years ago. There apparently is not now the desire or need to socialize in car clubs or affiliate with similarly afflicted people. Rather, what we see is singular efforts by individuals and they don’t want advice (or commiseration) on their cars. I’m scheduled to show my Model “A” at the up and coming Piston and Power Show in March. My car is a composite of 30 years of club participation, interaction, and advice. How different that show is from car shows of yore.
I decided that I would pursue musical endeavors with the banjo, which is very enjoyable to me and has brought me into a new realm of people and contacts. My limited ability to walk has, so far, hindered things because often the old-time jam sessions are held in venues that require a good deal of walking and stair climbing, often outdoors.
I have been increasingly spending time in my wood shop making things. This is not new, but taxidermy, making a living, no longer gets in the way. Since Mantua is purportedly now becoming an Artsy-Craftsy center, there is already a demand for my work. But I just want to work at my own pace and on things that I find interesting, like band saw boxes and wood lathe turnings.
It is evident even now, that I will be able to fish a good deal more in the spring since my back has improved, and I’m so looking forward to that. I love to fly fish and bass fish. I’ve combed through every fishing catalog imaginable sitting in this chair. The last thing that I was able to accomplish this past summer was rebuild a small, older aluminum boat to fish the smaller lakes around us. My back may no longer be able to handle the pounding of Lake Erie but certainly the quieter lakes will be quite acceptable. Then again, we’ll see what my back can handle in in five months.
My old car forays look as if I will focus on driving them, with maybe just a little minor working on them. I can see that I won’t ever be able to get down under them anymore—do any major restorations myself. So that outlook has changed. For that matter, so have my cars. I have a 1955 Ford that I acquired last spring and am now bringing to showable, good touring condition, –this with me directing, not performing, the serious work. This car means a lot to me because it is a carbon copy of one of my first cars. And I have a 2002 Thunderbird which is showable and drivable anywhere. I still have the Model “A”, because it is a favorite of places that I show it (Century Village and others), but make no mistake, it is not a comfortable ride. I could not fathom touring in it.
Travel, I’m scared to think too much about that. I can’t from this vantage point make a good guess about what I’ll be able to do in six months. I have ideas though. Alaska was thrilling. Fossiling out west always excites me. My daughter has talked about fossiling and exploring Oregon and Washington State. The oceans always draw me to them. Will I have to use this damned cane for the rest of my life?
What to do, what direction to set off in? What should I write about? A good friend says, Maybe all of it.

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Skip Schweitzer, of Mantua, can be described from early on in life as an avid outdoorsman and old car restorer and aficionado. He comes from a long line of great lakes fishermen and hunters. He is a taxidermist and a retired psychologist. His grandfather Charles, a machinist and fisherman who fed his family with fish during the Great Depression, was one of the original auto restorers at the Thompson Auto Museum, now the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum. Skip learned to hunt, fish and restore cars from his father Roy and learned the value and appreciation of antique automobiles from his grandfather. Skip has, over the years, restored upwards of 25 automobiles including many Fords, Studebakers, Buicks, Jeeps and VWs. Skip has written extensively on automobiles and outdoors for several newspapers, magazines and auto publications this past 20 years. His current antique automobiles include a 1930 Ford Model “A”, and a 1970 Volkswagen Cabriolet. Skip’s most frequent bylines are, Outdoors With Skip, and The Old Road.