Today, Friday, May 10, 2019, I am currently propped up in a recliner in my den, watching BBC America and writing on my laptop. My left leg is jacked up on multiple pillows on the recliner extension, draped in a blanket. I am surrounded by tray tables, pillows, and the minutiae of a normal life: phone, water bottle, remote, book, knitting bag, Kindle, tissues, etc. One table is tangled up in the charging cords of the devices that surround me, the hardware that is helping me pass the time as I wait. On Monday I go in for surgery on my broken left ankle and to have hardware installed, the kind that doesn’t come with apps.
Last Saturday I got up, dressed and went to First Holy Communion at my parish church and school where I teach. One of the students in the school choir became ill during Communion so I took her over to the school to wait for her mom to come and pick her up. I came home and changed, and my husband and daughter and I went out for lunch and some errands. I bought two new outfits for a trip planned for this summer, my 30th anniversary trip, to Hawaii. We came home and my daughter and I went to a shoe store to return some shoes, where I bought a cute pair of navy, strappy sandal wedges. I came home and modeled them for my husband and then went upstairs for a nap. This is where my whole world came to a crash.
After my nap, I came out to the living room and my dog, my adorable little 16-pound Maltipoo Puccini, was running around playing. He stopped short in front of me in that cute little stance, like he wanted me to chase him. I turned, and took one step to make the same sort of short stop to him, and BOOM–I tripped on the rug and fell flat on my back, banging my head on the floor hard enough to cause it to bleed (a little) and swell up (a lot) into an egg on the back of my head. While that hurt, the real pain scorching through my body was my left leg, from the knee down. So much so that I couldn’t get up.
Now, my left leg and I have had a love/hate relationship for years. In 1980, just at the end of my first and only semester of law school, I was changing the channel on my TV and somehow managed to fall over and dislocate my left knee, tearing cartilage along the way. Six weeks in a cast from my hip to my toes. Weeks and weeks of physical therapy. But, since I had not been invited back for the spring semester of law school, I had no scheduling issues, LOL.
Then in 2008, on a school field trip with my 7th graders, I once again fell over and this time I really did it, torn ACL in that same knee. Again immobilized for eight weeks and then months of physical therapy. Teaching from my rolling desk chair, using crutches in the hall dodging backpacks and teens, being physically exhausted by 10:00 AM with the whole school day stretching ahead of me. Not fun.
So, my first thought was that my knee was dislocated again, or worse, since I have no ACL to hold it in place. But, no, it was my ankle, which almost immediately began to swell. By later that night it was turning the colors of a Van Gogh painting. I only barely managed to keep my husband from calling 9-1-1. A nurse friend of my daughter’s came over to look at it, with that calm, cool demeanor required of this most distinguished of professions, running her finger tips softly up and down my foot. “It might be just sprained, but you should get it checked. Not necessarily tonight, but you should get it x-rayed because there are lots of little bones in the foot.” This assuaged my husband enough to let me go to bed with Advil and ice and pray for the best.
On Monday, off to the orthopedic I went. My doctor’s medical assistant took one look at it, and said, “probably going to need an x-ray on that.” Didn’t take long for the crushing news: left ankle, broken, bones displaced, surgery required.
One minute life is a series of small ups and downs, no big deal, missing part of First Holy Communion because of a sick student, finding some cute shorts and tops for a trip, having a great lunch, buying some new shoes, taking a relaxing nap, falling and hurting yourself over the stupid rug in your own living room. And then, a really big downer comes, surgery. A week to wait for the swelling to go down enough for the surgery to happen, and then TEN weeks of recovery. Not the spring and summer I had planned.
This week has been a revolving door of downs. Complete dependence on my husband: check. Pain, pain, pain: check. Crutches and realization that you are not as strong as you thought you were: check. In and out of the car multiple times for pre-op appointments and tests and the incumbent fear of something else being found wrong with you in those pre-op tests: check. Watching the clock for the next dose of Tylenol because that’s all you can take until the surgery (thank you opioid crisis): check. Mind-numbing boredom because you can’t focus on reading or knitting or much of anything: check. Stress over not being able to finish the school year and leaving it all to subs to cover for you: check. Anxiety and fear over impending surgery and doctors’ bills: check. Hotel reservations in Hawaii being canceled: check.
I’m a Libra, so it is no surprise to me that along with the aforementioned downs, there have been some really brilliant ups. Friends calling and texting. Commiserations on Facebook. A friend dropping off food. A neighbor walking my dog. My daughters checking in daily from afar. Flowers from a teacher colleague. Other teachers helping me out at school with making copies and helping my subs. Getting the hang of the crutches and the knee scooter, my best friend for the next ten weeks.
Of all the decisions I’ve made in my life, however, and this one has been reinforced to me a hundredfold this week, the best one of all is joining a church choir in 1987 to get to know a guy I had a crush on. And flirting with him (albeit not very convincingly) to try to get his interest. And moving across the country to follow him to the DC area. And saying “I do” on June 10, 1989. And having two beautiful, brilliant, talented daughters with him. And surviving loss of family members and friends. And living overseas for two years. And being empty-nesters on and off. I told the pre-op nurse yesterday that he is my rock…and that is a gross understatement.
Over-protective, annoyingly so, and meticulous in his care of me. For better or worse: check. In sickness and in health: check. Who told me, “Let’s say a Hail Mary,” when I was struggling on Wednesday: check. A marriage soon to be 30 years strong, with or without Hawaii: check. For richer or poorer: check. With love and compassion: check. Forever and ever: check.