It’s said, from old times, that “pride comes before a fall”: in my case, carelessness and haste precede a fall, and I mean that quite literally.
Hanging on a doorknob at home was a soft backpack handy for shopping, its straps trailing down in the shape of a noose. On Christmas Eve, as I was rushing out to Mass, I caught my foot neatly in its entanglement and was sent flying into a hard fall to the ground. There’s a split second when you know you are about to fall and you also know, within that second, that there’s nothing to save you. It must be like that tumbling out of an airplane or toppling over from a ledge.
I cried out as I hit the ground, feeling my prosthetic hip dislodge from its mooring. Then I just lay there for a while, stunned (and swearing like a trouper, alas). Eventually, I managed to get to my feet with the help of two nearby walking sticks, and for the 12 days of the festive season I hobbled around dolorously. No, I didn’t think it worth troubling A & E (and probably to lie on a hospital trolley for 24 hours), though I did get booked in for an X-ray to check out the damage to the prosthetics.
You learn something from everything in life. Being a hobbler on crutches or sticks slows you down and makes you take your time: no bad thing, to stop and stare. It resigns you to accepting the things you cannot accomplish: I had to cancel meetings with friends and other pleasant events, but what you cannot do, you cannot do. Fortunately, I was spending Christmas with cousins who were immensely kind to me, and accepting their hospitality and care was a blessing.
I had to ask strangers for help, too. That can be strangely rewarding – young people (who are evidently the strongest and most able) are often pleased to help out with any carrying or onerous physical task, and after they have done so, they walk away feeling a little better about themselves. To request assistance, in a way, is to confer a benefit.
And “you don’t miss the water until the well runs dry”. I came to reflect on the gift of mobility. How marvellous it is to be able to walk, run and move about without let or hindrance. How restricted our lives become when mobility becomes a problem, and the simplest activity – just taking a country walk or a promenade by the sea – is a big challenge. I also thought a lot more about the afflictions my late husband faced as the effect of a stroke gradually removed all his mobility.
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