As summer yields fitfully to autumn, my life has taken an eentsy-beentsy turn toward the miserable. Just when I thought it couldn’t get much worse than a chronic daily migraine, I fell on the stairs and cracked two foot bones, one of them known for healing slowly, if at all. I also bent my ankle like a hardshell taco, creating a sprain so wrenching I spent weeks gasping in shocked, how-dare-you disbelief any time I dismounted the sofa or bed. Despite (or because of) all this, I have decided to do something that would normally turn my stomach. I’m keeping a gratitude journal.
I haven’t lost my mind. I don’t expect to find something fantastic about every moment of my life, gosh darn it, in order to turn my frown upside down and transform my attitude from sad to annoyingly glad. But peering into the abyss, while occasionally enlightening, gets old. So I will try looking elsewhere, for at least as long as it takes me to compile a list, wrestle it into a column, revise it six times, and send it off to my publisher, Bryce – who, let me be the first to remind you, has used his similar experience to compose quite the Broken Foot Opera elsewhere in this paper. But not me. Not today, anyway.
So I bring you, in perhaps no discernible order, some worthwhile lessons this ordeal has taught me. Here are people and things I have come to appreciate deeply as I limp through this vale of tears:
- My otherwise-healthy parts. Setting aside for the moment the head pain and the foot pain and the heel pain and the knee and shoulder pain, there are things about this body that still work. My stomach is not aching, for instance. My nasal passages are clear. I’m not getting the flu this year, because I got my flu shot. My face is not breaking out. My hair looks okay. I can speak, and breathe, and hear, and see pretty well, when my glasses don’t fall under the couch.
- My husband. This should go first, of course. Were it not for him, I’d be moping in a rehab center where all he’d have to do is visit me every so often to ask how I like the food. Instead, he is the homecare nurse, providing the food, the phone, the water, the clean sheets, the help out the door, the help with the shower, the help with the thing on the bed that I cannot reach but is annoying me no end, and the shoulder to whine on when I’ve had it, I’ve really had it. He may be exhausted, he may have to escape now and then to the pleasures of his job, but he always comes back, even when I have to call him on his cell phone when he’s folding clothes in the basement.
- My daughter, Allison. She is the one who, when I tell her I’d like to wear my rose-pink J. Jill crossover top, and not the Talbot French-pink pucker-fabric top with the velveteen trim around the neck – well, she doesn’t just stand there like a deer in the headlights, she goes and gets it. I can also trust her to find the right facial cleanser from the bewildering shelves of Target, and a hundred other things I suddenly can’t live without because, contrary to rumor, Amazon does not deliver every single thing.
- The many helpful pieces of hardware and other expensive retrofits retail businesses have been forced to add, albeit kicking and screaming, to their parking lots, their curbs, their restrooms, and their drinking fountains so that people dependent on wheelchairs, walkers, knee-rollers, and four-footed canes can get into their stores and spend money. Except that some of the places with the best grab bars in their bathrooms lack any kind of automatic door, thus forcing us differently-abled folks to wait, without losing our tempers, for a stranger to approach and notice our need.
- The kindness of strangers. As for the man who opened a door wide for me but then released it to nearly knock me off my scooter, WTF?
- Memory foam. Allison (see above) has brought me several memory foam rugs which feel like a newly-made bed must feel to a cat. When my knees encounter these rugs, I just want to remain in place, kneading gratefully.
- Only one shoe required. Since the bad foot wears an orthopedic boot, I have a selection of right-handed shoes all lined up for dress-up occasions. All look magnificent when paired with the boot.
- Our paper carrier, who not only brings up the USA Today with the TH, but lobs them inside the screened porch so they’re right by the front door, requiring only a graceless maneuver from me to pick them up and get them to the breakfast table.
- My son Dan, his wife, and the exquisite granddaughters they brought to life in August. Having babies in the house, getting diapered and put into new dresses on the living room floor, or, lacking that, being able to watch emailed videos of one twin screaming her lungs out while her sister snoozes serenely on, can make me forget there is anything imperfect in the world.
- Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, I am grateful to my husband’s first wife, Lynda. She broke a knee badly earlier this year, and when we visited, kept saying, “We need to work on our upper body strength to get ready for crap like this!” or words to that effect. She was right. Was she ever. And she showed me how to manage stairs one-leggedly, a lesson I thought I’d never need.
Buy your gratitude journal now! If I can find something to write in it, anyone can.