In the previous post, the reader learned that an uncanny premonition warned me that my left ankle would be broken that day–a message from??? I will never know. But wrapped in the plaster cast I wore post surgery were two gifts:
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Upon returning to work I discovered that it was extraordinarily difficult to open the heavy plate glass doors to the office building while on crutches. I could shove a door a few inches, move forward the same distance, and then shove a little more, hoping I wouldn’t lose my balance. However, I rarely needed to do that. People—mostly men—would rush to my assistance. I was unused to guys holding doors for me, but I smiled and said thank you.
Despite the madness, the part that insisted my injury was no big deal and that I could continue as if nothing much had happened, my body overruled it. I found I could only work half days.
I’d been in therapy for some months with a woman in San Francisco. Her office was up a long flight of stairs in an old Victorian building. Now I had to crutch up those stairs, using the technique the physical therapist had taught me and, at the end of the session, go back down on my butt, letting the crutches slide alongside. One day my therapist insisted on carrying the crutches downstairs for me. The message was pretty clear—it’s all right to need, and all right to accept, help. This was the first gift my broken leg gave me.
Help was forthcoming. A co-worker brought me some TV dinners, and that tided me over for a few days. Since crutches require both hands, I couldn’t carry a plate of food or cup of tea. Another friend, Chana Wilson, showed up with a tea cart on wheels. I could heat something on the stove or in the microwave, put it on the cart, and nudge it with my belly over to the kitchen table. I would call Chana before going shopping at Berkeley Bowl, where the cashier would load my groceries into the car. When I returned, Chana was at my door and would carry the bags into the house.
By the end of the first month my energy was close to normal, and the tech at Kaiser put me in a walking cast.
I gave up the rental car and, after a couple of tentative days, drove the old VW up to Tilden Park and hiked along the Inspiration Trail. I remember doing a mile or a mile and a half in, and the same distance back. On the way I passed a sturdy looking woman, a tourist who shouted in a thick German accent, “Good for you!”
I returned to Alex’s kung fu class. Our dojo had two wooden pillars holding up the ceiling. I could kick almost normally when standing on the right leg, but the cast on the left leg was rounded on the bottom, so I had to hug one of the pillars while standing on that leg so I could kick the right one up into the air.
Around that same week I started riding my bicycle again, swinging the injured leg over the top tube and pedaling along Shattuck Avenue. It was too early for the box trees, but some other plant was in bloom and I was happy to be alive, happily immersed in their fragrance, thinking, How could I have been so foolish, so sad because I didn’t have someone to share it with? God created those flowers and gave me this day. I’ll appreciate it, and be grateful. And that was the second gift.
At the end of October the walking cast came off. The skin underneath it was wrinkled and blotchy, peeling in spots the way it does after sunburn, the calf muscle shrunken, the joint frozen at 90 degrees. That evening I visited a hot tub to help rejuvenate the skin. Next I started physical therapy to restore strength and flexibility.
My 50th birthday came at the end of December. I threw a party, a potluck with friends and food, at the little house on 59th Street. And music! I was determined to dance for that anniversary and did so, for hours, until the last guest left. My ankle ached all the next day, but I hadn’t damaged it.
When summer rolled around again, I was ready to go backpacking. Alone, and into the wilderness. And I did!