I will never forget Easter morning, four years ago. It was seven thirty am, and we were starting our day. Dan was making coffee, and I went to the dog door to call Cooper in. I looked up, and Coops was being adorable on the deck above me. I had been waiting for weeks to capture this certain ephemeral pose, so I decided to run get my camera.
I went tearing through the house in fuzzy socks. We had just moved a large armoire the day before, and Dan had used some Pledge to make the heavy piece glide more easily on the floor. As I ran into the living room, I hit one of those spots, slick as glass. I went down instantly, heard a loud crack, and screamed (I’ll admit it, it wasn’t a word used in polite company). I saw that my right foot was flopping from side to side like it was made of rubber.
“Honey! I’ve broken my foot!”
“What?! How can you tell?”
“Trust me- I can tell.”
Dan ran into the room and had a momentary freak-out. I was strangely calm, though the pain was setting in. We debated our options; in our home built into the side of the mountain, there were going to be stairs to deal with no matter which direction we went…a lot of them. All I knew was I had to get to the ER, and fast. I decided on going up the flight and a half of stairs to Dan’s garage, and began the slow and agonizing process of backward crab walking/ butt-scooting my way, while holding my flopping foot in the air. Every movement sent waves of pain through me, but Dan encouraged me every step of the way.
“That’s my brave girl. You can do it, one step at a time.”
I finally made it to the car, and by now the tears had begun to flow. We made the short drive to the bottom of the hill where our neighborhood ER is. When I finally got to see a doctor, it was pretty clear what the prognosis was. They sent me in for x-rays, confirming that I had severely broken the bones on either side of my ankle. I would need surgery as soon as possible.
As all of this sank in, my heart dropped. Surgery. I would be incapacitated for quite a while. Who would take care of Mom? I would miss Spring, working in my gardens, miss walking the dogs, bike riding. How would I teach my students? My classes? My run, run, run life-style had come to a crashing halt in a split second of foolishness. I had hundreds of photos of my dogs- why was it so important to get one more?
The following Friday I had surgery, and a plate and screws were used to hold my ankle together. When Dan brought me home afterwards, I butt-scooted down the stairs and to my chair, where I would live for the next six weeks with my leg propped up on a giant yellow wedge. When the block I had been given in surgery wore off, the pain hit me like a tidal wave. The pain medication didn’t even touch it for the first few days. Just trying to get to the bathroom was an ordeal. I was so angry that I had done this to myself.
Dan was a saint, taking care of Mom’s many needs, taking care of me, the animals, the house- all while working a very busy and stressful job. My colleagues were wonderful, pitching in to help teach my class. My clarinet students didn’t hesitate- they came up the hill to our house so that I could teach their lessons from my chair with my leg up on the wedge. So many friends came to visit, to help. I already knew that I was blessed with great people in my life, but I was touched deeply by the love and support I received.
Life began to take on some sort of normalcy; I played symphony concerts with my cast covered and elevated, learned to use crutches to get around, went to physical therapy, taught a summer class. I wore a big blue boot for the longest time after the cast was gone, and was thrilled when I progressed to a much smaller support wrap and was allowed to drive again after months of depending on others. That first drive was exhilarating- I put the dogs in the Bug with the top down and just drove all over town, feeling giddy that I was independent again.
I walked with a limp for well over a year, but eventually my gate evened out. There is still pain occasionally, especially when the weather changes (I have a better forecasting average than the local weatherman), but my ankle is stronger than ever and I am kickboxing again, calling it my bionic ankle. There are still areas that have very little or strange sensation, and I can feel the plate and screws. I will always bear the zipper-like scars on either side of the ankle.
Those scars are reminders, reminders to slow down, not to race through life as I tend to do. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I have come to see that breaking my ankle was a gift. It forced me to stop, to reevaluate my life, to appreciate the wonderful people in my life even more, to appreciate the simple things like being able to walk outside and sit in the sunshine. To slow down and savor each experience.
The scars are also badges of strength. They remind me that I can be knocked down to ground zero and come back better than ever. That I have a deep well of strength to draw from. I think I am a better person since my fall, a wiser person, a more grateful person. While I hope that I never have an experience like that again, I don’t regret anything. Sometimes life has to knock us down to teach us about ourselves, and I was ready for the Easter lesson.