​Time to Reboot

Posted by Tim Gilmer in Life After Paralysis on December 30, 2021 # Lifestyle

scrabble letters It’s that time of year. Time to leave behind the past and embark on a bright new future, and it can’t come too soon. But it’s worth noting that our traditional way of rebooting the new year may need considerable tweaking. As I write this, New York City is planning its latest pandemic version of bringing in the new year, call it Times Square Lite: everyone wearing masks and corralled in viewing areas for “safe distancing.” But how will the revelers carry out the climactic moment when the ball drops and everyone goes crazy in a kissing frenzy? Strip off the masks and go at it? Cut a lip-size hole in your mask and place an adhesive patch over it before you leave home to limit tongue action? Fill your pockets with small bottles of antiseptic? Skip kissing altogether and go crazy with elbow greetings?

Here on the farm, I confess, it will be just like any other New Year’s, meaning just like any other day of the year. I suspect I won’t be alone in staying home and watching the spectacle on TV. Ever since I started using a wheelchair at the age of 20, I have found it awkward to go to large gatherings or even modest parties. It’s all about sidling up to a small group and getting noticed, something that is almost impossible in a chair on wheels. It never works. People either see me as I approach and keep moving away from me, as if I’ve come to bulldoze them or herd them into a corner. Or they don’t even notice me until I run over a toe or gouge someone in the shins with my footplate. My favorite trick, which I don’t recommend during a pandemic year, is sneaking up behind someone and submarining them, so they fall backwards into my lap. That worked especially well during my single years as a carefree soul when everyone was usually drunk, stoned, or both.

What is fascinating is that we celebrate the new year at all. You might think it might be a time of mourning, as it means we are one year closer to death. Sorry, didn’t mean to ruin the festive mood. But rather than think of it as mere mortals, why not choose to think of it as an event of cosmic wonder? What we are really celebrating is yet another safe trip around the sun, a journey that retraces a predicable orbit that is more reliable than the most expensive watch that money can buy and that has gone on for an unfathomable amount of time. Just consider the awesomeness of cosmic clockwork as we know it. Scientists have discovered over 3,000 stars with systems similar to our sun in our galaxy alone, but estimates for the entire Milky Way run in the billions of stars, and that is just in one galaxy out of billions. Hey, who’s counting? I’m satisfied with living on a small farm in a peaceful valley on Planet Earth.

Still, it is mysterious and humbling to consider the universal perfection in the cosmic clock, each heavenly body a jewel, our own jewel being especially precious. It’s enough to make a soul believe in an intelligent Creator and all the more reason to celebrate New Year’s as a time to be thankful for yet another successful cosmic trip.

This past year, as February began, I was at a low point, fearful for the future, uncertain of what may lie ahead. Vaccines were just rolling out, and I was immune-compromised but couldn’t get an appointment anywhere. I had been wracked with recurring urinary and scrotal infections for a couple of years, and no medication would keep them at bay. Finances were in doubt, and it looked like no one would lease the farm to give us much-needed income. My wife was worn out and wanted to retire from work at the age of 71 after an entire year of wearing a mask and taking every precaution possible in her full-time job servicing a half-dozen busy Walmarts across the Portland metro area, but we couldn’t afford it. Fortunately, one week into February, I signed an agreement to lease the farm ground to someone for the rest of the year.

Then all hell broke loss.

On February 12, a fierce ice storm swept our region, toppling trees everywhere, large limbs blocking our way in and out of our driveway and cutting off power. We had no water (our well runs on electricity), no cell phone service or internet, no way to buy food or water, no heat, and no help. The one thing we had was an old wood stove, but very little wood. We gathered around the wood stove, our daughter and son-in-law, three grandsons, a new baby boy, me and my wife. We cooked pancakes made with milk on the stovetop, until the milk ran out. With no electricity, our refrigerator and freezer shut down and food spoiled.

Friends showed up after a few days and cleared enough limbs so someone could drive in and out. We found water at a distant friend’s, but it was another few days before the nearest town was up and running so we could shop. My pressurized hospital bed, which stays inflated with electricity, deflated completely, leaving me sleeping in a deep hole. One evening, anxious to jump-start a generator with my minivan, I was rolling in the dark around my car, lost balance on a slope and flipped over backwards, landing hard on my back, my head hitting a hard gravel road. The air got knocked out of me. I struggled to get a breath. I actually saw stars, I mean just beyond my nose. It took 30 minutes for three people to get me safely back in my chair.

I was sore and bruised and had a hard time breathing for the next week or so. I spent a lot of time praying, what we do when it seems we have nowhere to turn. Gradually, one by one, things started to happen. Amazingly, there was no cognitive harm done, and I never even had a headache, even though I had been having headaches for a couple of weeks before that. Was a hard bonk on the head all I needed to reboot?

I managed to get an appointment to be vaccinated and was able to do it at a drive-thru location. After 12 days, our power was restored. I published my first blog for the Reeve Foundation. My wife decided to retire, a much-deserved milestone after working from the age of 18. I found a doctor who prescribed just the right medication to take care of my infections. And my wife got her first Covid shot.

Rebooting is truly mysterious. Computers, modems and wi-fi routers spring back to life after being disconnected for a few minutes. People with atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) have their proper cardio rhythm restored after undergoing electric shock to the heart. And getting bonked on the head sometimes works wonders.

This new year let’s reboot, but not like I did. Take time to relax, do nothing and feel grateful for all that went right. Ignore last year’s fears and troubles. Leave it all behind. Go forward with thankfulness and faith in the future. Good luck!

Tim Gilmer graduated from UCLA in the late-1960’s, added an M.A. from the Southern Oregon University in 1977, taught writing classes in Portland for 12 years, then embarked on a writing career. After becoming an Oregon Literary Fellow, he went on to join New Mobility magazine in 2000 and edited the magazine for 18 years. He has published upwards of 100 articles, 200 columns, occasional movie reviews and essays. He and Sam, his wife and companion of 47 years, also own and operate an organic farm south of Portland, where they live with their daughter and son-in-law, four grandsons, and a resident barn owl. An excerpt from a memoir about his early post-SCI years, as part of a compendium of his writing over the past 30 years, can be read at his website — All You Need

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.