I am Pattie’s PikStik®. I entered her life about a year ago when she decided she was creating a spectacle in her driveway each morning trying to pick up the newspaper. By placing her feet far apart, her upper body was lowered closer to the ground and thus, nearer to the newspaper. If part of the plastic sleeve around the newspaper happened to point upward she might be able to reach that, but if the plastic was wet and stuck flat to the ground she had to bend her knees into an even more painful squat. This was not a pretty sight and it hurt like the dickens in her knees. Pattie likes her comforts and is not dumb, so after a few painful and embarrassing weeks of this she drove to a nearby medical supply store and indicated with her arthritic fingers that she needed a grabber. She was introduced to me, “the most popular one”, paid the seventeen bucks and brought me home with her. Pattie will do whatever it takes to get at that Gainesville Sun crossword puzzle first thing in the morning!

As grabbers go, I look attractive enough in my bright yellow, light-weight plastic. I lean here in a kitchen corner ‘always at the ready’ waiting for Pattie to need my assistance in grabbing something. As it happens, my help is needed several times a day. The poor old gal is losing her grip and things like blueberries, macadamia nuts, or blood pressure pills sometimes get away from her and roll across the floor. If Miss Pattie can see well enough to locate the escaped item, she will grab me, the grabber, and together we retrieve the wayward pill or blueberry. Most dropped foods go directly from my grip into the kitchen scraps container headed for the compost pile, but Pattie has been known to rinse a retrieved blueberry under the water faucet and pop it into her mouth.

Spilled coffee grounds, whether dry or wet, present more of a problem. Miss Pattie is resourceful and will drop a wet paper towel over the grounds and have me scrunch up as many grounds as possible into the paper towel. A few paper towels full will get the job done well enough, then she will put a damp paper towel under her non-skid-sock clad foot and mop the area with that foot while carefully holding onto the counter top for balance. She, of course, needs my help picking up that final dirty towel and dropping it in the trash. A Turbinado sugar packet, a Lima bean, or a roasted cauliflowerette will go splat on the floor and stay put. Those retrievals create less drama. What creates drama is a belly-up dying roach with wriggling legs. Pattie is considerate enough to drop a wet paper towel over the roach before expecting me to touch it. Even then she will scrub my grabbing surfaces afterward to keep them clean for the next blueberry or cherry tomato that may wind up in her mouth.

Sometimes a printed notice or flyer is rolled up and stuck by the front door knob. It falls to the ground of course when Pattie goes out the door. She comes back inside for me, her PikStik®, knowing full well that without help she can never reach low enough to pick up the flyer. Another job that adds some welcome variety to my life is retrieving her pool shoes from the bathtub after she rinses her swimsuit and shoes following a swim at The Village pool. Also, if a bar of soap gets away from her in the shower, sometime later it is up to me to pick up the soap. Pattie’s painfully stiff knees cause significant impairment but she won’t consider knee surgery, preferring to tough it out. Since she spends most all day in total comfort on the den sofa with her iPad, why mess with something that’s working so well. This gimpy-kneed elderly lady functions quite well considering that she has a weak and leaky bladder, a sore mouth due to ill-fitting dental partials, hearing aids that whistle and require fresh batteries, blurred and failing vision, trifocals that stay cockeyed due to one ear being lower than the other, an unsteady gait, sciatica in the left leg, arthritic knuckles and wrists, and one unexplained sore toe. But enough about her. As her PikStick®, I witness some entertaining stuff in the kitchen. Last week this mostly vegetarian lady had purchased from Fresh Market a ready-to-bake vegetarian pizza. Carefully following instructions, she was about to slide the pizza directly from its round cardboard carrier onto the top rack of her 450 degree preheated oven when the cardboard buckled and the pizza fell in between the two oven door hinges. This otherwise seemingly nice lady uttered “Aw, shit!” with such fervor I was shocked. Somehow, without burning herself, she retrieved and straightened the pizza, got it to lay flat on the top rack and cooked it. My help was not enlisted until later when I helped pick up the blackened drops of melted cheese that had cooked on the inside of the oven door and fallen through to the floor. Also there were mushrooms, black olives, onions and red peppers in the oven bottom to be retrieved.

Pattie likes her music and her sautéed vegetables. She brings her iPad to the kitchen at food preparation time and seems genuinely happy when chunks of zucchini and yellow squash are stir-frying in the skillet and the soulful Percy Sledge is wailing “When a Man Loves a Woman”. Over the years, Miss Pattie has made various changes around the house to accommodate her painful knee problem. The den sofa legs are set up on bricks making it easier to get up from a seated position. She added a tall toilet seat with arms to make it easier to push herself up from the toilet. Step stones were used to make shorter steps from the kitchen down into her garage. A quad-cane placed there by the steps provides steadying support as she steps down. She got rid of her beloved little low slung Acura hatchback and replaced it with a Honda CRV which has a driver’s seat exactly the right height for her butt when getting in and out of the car. Like I said before, Pattie likes her comforts.

As her helpful PikStik®, my life is quite pleasant here in Pattie’s kitchen. I willingly do mundane little duties such as grabbing laundered socks that are too far back in the clothes dryer. Occasionally I am asked to grasp the handle of a pan in a lower kitchen cabinet and pull it closer to the front, or grab a tracked-in laurel oak leaf from the floor after half-blind Pattie makes sure it is not alive. Most difficult to grab is any flat sheet of paper, so I am not very good at that. But, Pattie will tell you that buying me was one of the smartest things she ever did. Though she hasn’t said so I am quite sure she loves me because, as her handy PikStik®, I make her comfortable and easy life even more comfortable.

My vantage point here in the kitchen corner allows me to witness all the activity, day and night. One regular visitor keeps his own supply of beer far back on the lowest refrigerator shelf. Another knows where to find the jug of vodka in a lower cupboard. I suspect the bottle of wine in the refrigerator door belongs to her son. Pattie doesn’t drink alcohol any more as she has a hard enough time keeping her balance even while sober. Some painful falls have taught her to be very cautious, and she can’t trust her knee or hip joints. In her younger days Pattie consumed more than her life’s share of martinis, so she doesn’t feel deprived. Approaching age 87, she is resigned to creaming her de-caf coffee with Ensure and drinking her cup of hot tea without the dollop of gin she likes.

I could tell some captivating stories about what goes on in this kitchen but wouldn’t want to be accused of gossiping. I notice her joints loosen up just fine when it comes to hugging somebody. Suffice it to say this woman aims to enjoy life and as her trusty PikStik®, I am pleased to assist in that noble endeavor by extending the reach of her right arm. Pattie likes to think that nothing is beyond our combined reach.


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