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!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Fear

Mile Marker 885:

Do one thing every day that scares you.
--Eleanor Roosevelt

My grandmother was a firecracker. 

She had hot red hair and a rebellious spirit to match.  "Dot-Dot," as we called her, walked fearlessly in 3-inch Candie's or yellow Reebok hi-tops.  Unphased by traditional grandmother images, she held her head high – especially when riding us on the back of her motorcycle!

When I was 13, she introduced me to city life – and WALKING.  She clipped her pedometer onto my waist band and pointed me toward South Street.  (Of course!)  Together we explored punk shops like Zipperheads and rainbow-filled 80’s stores like Heaven.

As she got older, it was harder for her to get out of the house.  So instead we'd order in Chinese food.  We'd talk about books and peruse gardening catalogues.  I'd show her photos from my adventures -- trips to France, Chicago, and Vermont.   We never mentioned it, but I wondered if she felt confined by what she could no longer do.

For me, 2012 concluded with a parade of rock climbing, rollerblading, and running -- or at least trying to!
Yes, that's Mark next to me!

On the last day of December comes the grandest experiment of them all.  ICE SKATING.  

(This addiction to fun is a slippery slope -- literally.)  

“I just want to try putting the skates on,” I say to my cousin Tracy as we make our way across the parking lot.  She knows there are lots of shoes that won't fit because my left foot can’t point its toe.

We rent our skates and give it a whirl.  On a bench, I unlace the left skate.  My Genium's foot goes in with surprising ease.  Test number one – PASS.

But then I stand up.  The pitch of the skate isn’t right.  It tilts the Genium forward causing my knee to buckle.   Because the heel of the skate is higher than the toe, the Genium thinks we’re going down a hill.   I switch settings on the remote control.  Which of the Genium’s four modes will carry me safely from bench to ice? 

Yoga mode!  (Yes, really.)  

In yoga setting, the knee becomes super-resistant and hard to bend, like dragging your leg through mud.  It's strong enough to hold the knee stable as I wobble across the rubber floor mats.  Hand on Tracy’s shoulder, I make my way to the rink.

But when I set foot on the ice, yoga gives out to jazzercise.  Without a grip on the soft floor, my Genium shoots out from under me.   I go into a disco move, John Travolta style!

Take 2.  I decide inline skating mode might improve things.  It'll allow the knee to bend with no resistance at all.  On the rubber floor, it made my leg too flimsy to control.  But on the ice, it works like magic.  (Thanks to Prosthetist Tim – a.k.a. Super Genium Programmer!)  With a built-in lock, I can even push off.  A bit.

Technology aside, for the first few laps the WALL is a bigger help than any Genium setting.  Tray and I stick close and hug it tight. 

Good friend Jodie was
even there to take a photo!
Then she lets go.

And I do too!

So what if my gait is tilted to one side?  So what if my right ankle aches from doing the work of two?  So what if I’m nowhere near as proficient as I used to be?  I am SKATING!

And when I finally stop and glance around the rink, I see that most skaters are slipping and sliding just like me!

Later that evening -- New Year’s Eve -- I’m surrounded by friends.  Just before midnight, we’re huddled in our winter coats on the corner of Front and South, amidst a crowd of horns, blowers, and glow-in-the-dark glasses.  Waiting for the fireworks.

It’s our tradition every year.  But this night is different. 

Just minutes before, my phone rang.  It was Mark calling.  He told me Dot-Dot had died.

As the first explosion lights up the sky, I feel tears coming on.   But the fireworks continue anyway.  The colors rise, slowly at first and then with more intensity.  The darkness pops with rings, and flashes, and brilliant chandeliers.

All at once, I realize this is her grand departure.  Dot-Dot is going out in true "Dot-Dot" style.  She’s found her freedom.

I did not inherit Dot-Dot’s rebellious gene.  In fact, some days there are so many things that SCARE me that I fall into bed exhausted.

But at Mile Marker 885, I know that a piece of her courage is with me.  It inches me forward each time I try something new.  As I strap on rollerblades or ice skates.  As I grab that first rock on the rock wall.  Heck, even as I shop for shoes!

My Genium and I will never be strutting around in 3-inch heels.  But yellow Reebok hi-tops?  Maybe.

And in Dot-Dot's memory, we'll boldly keep WALKING.

Wishing you a HAPPY, HEALTHY, and BRAVE 2013!


  1. Rick, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandma. Hugs to you and your family. But, I think you inherited more of her adventurous spirit than you give yourself credit for! Traveling alone to France? Skating, biking, running, rock climbing, yoga? Come on! You may not be a rebel, per se, but you certainly are braver than you think! Lots of love to you this new year. Miss you!

  2. So sorry about your grandmother!! She sounds like a fantastic woman. We miss you and want to walk soon!!!

  3. I'm sorry for the loss of your grandmother - what a lot of fun you must have had with her!

    And you probably skate better than I do. :)

  4. Many of our skating friends don't have parents around anymore, let alone grandparents! It's great to hear that you got to hang out with Dot-Dot well into your adult life. I know that you have some of Dot-Dot's spirit and energy. There are 2 South Street chapters in your Dot-Dot memories with South Street in them. "True Dot-Dot style." The photo that you attached with the 3 generations is great! And, 3 cheers to Mark for doing great on his 1st rock climbing experience! Great shot of you and Mark on the wall. I see that you and Tracy have hockey skates for the ice. As the belayers at Go Vertical would often say, "Nice." And,I like your choice of radio stations. There should be a station frequency for 100.0 for that soon to be accomplished milestone. 2013 will be a big year for you. Reach 1000 miles in "True Dot-Dot Style."

  5. Rick, as Dorothy departed this earth with a display of fireworks, she infused (and extra dose) you with the Dot Dot gene. Don't be surprised if you wake up with the desire to do something outrageous. And, by gosh, DO IT! She'll be right beside you, guiding you and holding your hand. Who knows where those adventures will lead you?