Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Usual

Mile Marker 28:

Friday is Trash Day in my neighborhood.  This morning when I came outside, my car was parked in by a trash truck.  When I finally got around it, I was caught behind another truck on the next block.  In total, THREE garbage trucks made me late for my PT session!  Don’t think I miss the irony here.

Taking out the trash was never my favorite chore.  Invariably, I’d arrive home late from work on a rainy Thursday night, and I’d miserably drag the sopping trashbags from my backyard down the alley to the sidewalk. 

But Trash Day has taken on a new meaning, now.  What was once usual has become UNUSUAL.

Miles 26 and 27 slipped by unnoticed this week.  They were swallowed up by the minutiae of daily life.  The Usual.


Believe it or not, being an amputee can be downright mundane sometimes.  It doesn’t exempt you from washing dishes or paying bills.  Carpets get dust-bunnies and clothes get dirty.  There may be a few less socks to wash, but still....

And I notice that time has marched on even though I’ve been out of commission.  Amazingly, my car inspection is still due by the end of July.   But wait!   My little green car collected dust in my parents’ driveway for 6 months!   Doesn’t that give me a credit till at least December?  The answer is Nope.

Returning home slapped me with some tough realizations:  Untended gardens still grow  -- mostly weeds!   Sewer pipes still crack.  Basements still get wet.  And food still expires.  If not for some terrific fridge cleaning fairies back in November, my kitchen would have made Philadelphia the Moldiest City in the U.S.  (Better than Fattest City?  Maybe not.)

Returning to The Usual has been both comforting and frustrating.  Last month, my PT Julie came to my house to help me figure out some new systems.  And I learned that being an amputee is not a Get-Out-Of-Chores-Free Card.

I’ve done away with my laundry basket;  it’s unsafe on the stairs.  Instead, I now use a canvas bag over my shoulder, even if the loads are smaller and more frequent.  I practiced carrying groceries, one bag at a time, from the car into the house.  Not too bad, as long as I have a good parking spot. 

I’ve heard that slow and steady wins the race, but with tasks that used to be quick and easy, I'm now methodical, but clumsy.  Well-intentioned, yet inefficient.

I’m not into sitting around and watching others do for me, either.  But it turns out that I kinda like having a HELPER.  I can’t take credit for this idea.  Friends and family have been gently pushing for it.  Sesame Street has promoted it for ages.  

My good friend Sandi even went so far as to set up a schedule, and then proved to me that it works.  In 15 minutes, she helped me take out the trash, vacuum the living room rug, AND fold a set of bedsheets – all tasks that, in my mind, were insurmountable.  It was eye-opening, really!

It turns out there's some truth to all that cooperation hype we learn as kids.  My parents, my brothers, and my friends -- Bosco, Mary, and Sue this week -- have all chipped in to make things a little bit easier.  And many more friends have volunteered to do the same.    

People are coming together to give me perhaps the greatest gift of all:  their time.

Trash Day still haunts me on Fridays, but with a little help here and there, it’s not quite so daunting.  It keeps The Usual in its place – USUAL.

To prove it, Miles 26 and 27 are now memories, with nothing to show for them except clean laundry, healthy flowers, and an empty trash can.  Take that, Trash Day!  

9 comments:

  1. Rick, I've been reading your blog updates on my phone lately (love the email notification, by the way!), so I haven't been able to comment. But I still love you're writing and what you're doing with this wonderful blog. Keep it up!

    I'm at about 22 miles ... but we're dogsitting three dogs this week and I think I'll be getting in LOTS of walking time. :-)

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  2. Okay, of course I meant to say "lover YOUR writing" ... man, should never post in a hurry! Excuse the mush brain.

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  3. Lover your writing? Oh forget it. My fingers are fat today. :-D Hope YOU'RE having a good day!

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  4. No worries! I didn't even notice the FIRST typo! Always love hearing from you! Keep letting me know what you think -- you know me and my writing life better than anyone!

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  5. P.S. Enjoy your dog walks this week! Maybe I'll take a walk with (my nephew-dog) Jack, too!

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  6. Talking about house stuff reminded me of the proposed WC addition in "Bad Ronald's Room". Obviously, an inside joke to those not present, but an explanation might make it sound even more bizarre. All in good fun.

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  7. I think if I ever do build a WC on the first floor (a good idea, in fact!), we will dedicate it to "Bad Ronald" -- and you will have to dig up that movie for a late night screening!

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  8. In the past months, the USUAL has taken on new meaning for us. Before November 9, I mostly avoided our home computer and ignored my personal email for days at a time. Now, I find myself eagerly checking, in the morning and late at night, for the next blog post, or some new encouraging comments, or a supportive email message from a caring friend. Technology, my former nemesis, has become my lifeline. Before, we kept in touch by phone frequently but randomly, catching up on news whenever the time and opportunity presented itself. Now, we talk on the phone regularly, in the morning and again in the evening, finding comfort and reassurance in the passing of each "uneventful" day and night. We've reached a level of equilibrium, a new kind of ordinary. The un-usual has become the USUAL, and it feels, right now, like a pretty good place to be.

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  9. Yes indeed! Remind me of this when you catch me complaining about the drudgery of daily life! Hooray for the USUAL. Five months ago, I would have given anything to be where I am right now. I'm very thankful!

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