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!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Welcome Home

Mile Marker 450:

When I wake up, I think I'm looking at the hazy beach sky.  Then the happiness washes over me.

I AM HOME!

My bedroom ceiling is painted a calm blue-gray color.  Its wooden fan spins against the heat.  I’m lying in my bed under a single cotton sheet.  It’s barely 6 a.m., and the light leaking through the blinds is neutral and white, like it isn’t fully awake yet.

I stretch and inhale the air of my own room.  My own house.  I soak it up like an old friend.  I listen for sounds on the street – neighbors chatting, car doors slamming – but it’s still early and quiet.   

A Saturday.

I rouse slowly; exercise my leg and ab muscles as if living here depends on it.  As if the last 7 weeks have led up to this moment. 

From the edge of the bed I reach for my Genium, plugged in against the wall.  My assortment of pull-bags, lotions, and shrinkers have found their own way home, back to their usual baskets and shelves.

I suction my leg in carefully, determined to get a good fit on the first try.

Today anything seems possible.


Mile 450 marks my second homecoming.  The first one was last July.  Back then, my home-care OT Keith came over to design accommodations:  railings to be added, kitchen shelves to be rearranged, bathroom supplies to be set-up.  We considered how safe I might be on each of the four floors.

To prepare me further, PT Julie helped me load up grocery bags and carry them into the kitchen.  We practiced going up and down each stairway with my prosthesis.   We role-played how to bring small bags of laundry from the bedroom to the basement.  We made an emergency plan:  throw your crutches down the stairs, slide down on your bottom, and get the heck out!


But on this early morning, I descend the stairs slowly.  My knee bends obediently, and my hands trace the TWO smooth railings, crafted last summer by friends Robert and Jim.

In the kitchen I fill the kettle for tea and open the garden door.

Winter '09-10
Born from cinderblock and weeds, this garden has survived through droughts, floods, and blizzards.  

It is the length of my entire house, and allows my parties to double in size.

Now strawberries and chives push up from between the patio bricks.  When friends visit, they'll gather wild bunches of lavender and rosemary.  

“It’s the South Philly soil,” I always say.  But that’s not entirely true.  This garden needs tending and weeding and watering, day after day in the Philly heat.  This summer I know I’ll be begging for help.

Outside, it’s already a humid 82 degrees and feels even hotter.   I keep the door open anyway.

After breakfast, I revisit every inch of the house.  I delve into the basement and climb up the spiral stairs to the 3rd floor.   I look at my photos and study my books.  I pour Draino down the shower drain.  I rerun the dishwasher;  I can’t remember if the dishes inside are clean or dirty.

With every step, I am more at home.  Even lugging laundry down the stairs feels like a privilege.

It’s a peaceful thing, but also bittersweet and temporary.  Like a late afternoon on the beach.

I love this house inside and out.  From the moment I unlocked the door, it held promise.  In the past seven years, I’ve made it mine from the ground up.  

But I know it will soon OVERWHELM me.

It holds obstacles already.   Two floors are off-limits without my prosthesis.   In bad weather, it confines me inside.  And even with my prosthesis, this house is just A LOT of work.

So my summer mission is to search for a new place.  One that will feel like home, but also like FREEDOM.


By the end of Mile 450, my friend Jen stops by with a tiny jar of “South Philly Strawberry” – jam she's cooked up from the berries in my garden.  

Bosco comes over to help me water.

Then in the evening, as I'm ready to trek up to my bedroom, there’s an unexpected knock at the door. 

It’s my friend Jim.  Just stopping to say "hi" on his walk home from work.  We chat through the screen.

I'm tired, but tickled.  These kinds of surprises can only take place here, in this house. 

They are like dipping, twirling kites against the beach sky.

I AM HOME.


Take the rough-cut homemade video tour!

4 comments:

  1. Yes, what an amazing home you have made there...Watching the video I almost get the sense that your house is very grateful for all you've done to make her homey (all the pictures on your walls, the bright colors, the garden.....) She seems so happy that you bought her (yes, I've personified your house and made her female!) It's almost as if she's saying "gosh, I sure wish I could change my layout and make it easier for Ricki...it's so awesome that she lives here and I wish I could change to make life less challenging for her....." Truly, it seems like your home loves that you're there, but unfortunately there is no way to change the fact that the layout is what it is (if only we could go back in time and change the Philly tax rules about taxing based on the width of a property!).
    You've transformed your place it in so many ways, especially the garden, to make it your home..... But I'm reminded also of a woman who once related the story of her church burning down, and while she was sad, she said the church was doing fine because it's the people who make the church a home, not the building; and she knew that the community center where they were temporarily holding services would feel like home until the church was rebuilt. Home really is where you are. That being said, I still know how many connections and memories we have to a place, and moving is not easy. But I also know that where-ever you find yourself next, you will make it an incredible home. Just think about what we were able to do as college kids to that house on Foster Street! And you've got a whole cheering crew behind you to find that perfect structure and make it a home.
    big hug!

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  2. What a beautiful home you have on 2 Street and all the people that have walked through that front door have all felt so welcome in your home. There is nothing certain in life but change. So wherever you new home will be, it will be a beautiful place as well.

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  3. Whenever I had the opportunity to visit your house(BYOP, Mummers, stopping by while on a skate, etc.) it is always so inviting. I'm glad that you are back. Its your home, but its a comforting spot for your guests too. Your back yard is great! We can do a BYOP at your next home.

    PS. I recently bought a bag M & M's with pretzels and I immediately thought of your home. Its where I first enjoyed them.

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  4. I loved the video. It is so you...especially the giggles and the silliness. Your garden looks beautiful.

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