Happy Belated Independence Day!
Remember that first walk to the mailbox? It was only 2 blocks, but at the time, I'd been wearing my new prosthetic leg for only 2 months.
It happened exactly 5 years ago today!
Mile 7 was HUGE.
For most of us, independence grows naturally. At age 12, I started babysitting. At 13, I went to the mall with my friends. At 16, I learned to drive. I'm sure you've got your own mile markers. We cruise forward, more and more independently, as the years fly by.
Until we don't.
You know how it happened for me. At 41 years old, on an unexpected Tuesday morning, I became DEPENDENT all over again. On everyone. For everything. I literally could not stand alone.
And I'm still rebuilding.
It's July 4th weekend, and I am barreling toward my sister's house in Vermont. Mile 7 was big. Mile 4145 is bigger. It's the first time I've done this drive solo since my accident.
It's a trip I used to take at the drop of a hat. My sister Sam would call -- "What are you doing this weekend?" she'd say -- and I'd throw clothes into a duffel bag. Stick in some CDs. Hop on the NJ Turnpike. Head for Vermont. Smooth as maple syrup.
Now, disaster lurks around every corner. I worry about my car breaking down and being alone. I worry about suffering a medical emergency. (Of course, it would happen while my car breaks down and I'm alone!) I've lost my independence before, and I know it could happen again, and again, and again. Sometimes doubt gets the best of me.
Not this time.
As I'm driving north on the NJ Turnpike, an enormous wave of anxiety hits. It feels like I'm hurling myself into outer space.
I knew this would happen, so I planned ahead. One of my first lessons as a new amputee was how to break down large goals into smaller ones. (Thank you, PTs!)
|If you're in Danbury,|
check out Rumors Café.
(1) To Danbury, Connecticut -- about 2 1/2 hours
(2) To Brattleboro, Vermont -- about 3 more hours
(3) And finally to Barre, Vermont -- just 2 more hours!
I searched online to find comfortable places to take a break in each town.
That's it, I tell myself. Just 3 short drives. You can do that.
I put on an audiobook. It absorbs my thoughts. I hit all 3 destinations on schedule.
The plan works. I'm in Vermont!
It's great to see my faraway family: brother Steve, sister Sam, and brother-in-law Gregg. Niece Riley and nephew Brennan are ecstatic. They chatter over each other. They want to tell me everything! They pretend to tickle my "robot leg." (I laugh once in a while just to throw them off.) And they love selfies!
|This one pretty much says it all!|
The fireworks have come and gone, but that's ok. Sam and I run out for last-minute groceries, and Gregg grills up a feast.
When we get ready to go in the pool, four-year-old Brennan offers up my swim leg, as if I might forget it.
|Cutest assistant ever!|
The next day Sam has several doctor's appointments so it's my turn to take care of the kids. Yes, babysitting. This is BIG.
Never mind that I've been watching kids since I was 12, and have been teaching more than 20 years. What if I can't keep up with these two? What if I sweat out of my socket? What if someone gets hurt? What if I have to carry somebody?
If independence had a membership fee, it would be paid for in What-Ifs.
Gregg leaves 4 bottles of bubbles for us.
The pool and "swim leg" are ready too.
There's something you should know about Riley and Brennan. They don't slow down!
|We do it all!|
The day is a success. So successful, in fact, that I don't think twice about the drive home.
Independence breeds more independence, I guess.
Eight hours stretches into 9 1/2. Finally I reach the NJ Turnpike. Southbound this time.
For some reason, I start thinking about our country's first Independence Day. I imagine those colonists and Founding Fathers, and how they must have felt back in the 1770's when they made that decision. Not the decision to form a democracy, but that crucial choice to go out on their own. To cut ties with everything they knew. The courage it took to put distance between their old lives and their new ones. And the idea that it would somehow set them FREE.
It's a leap to compare that to my little trip, I know.
Still, when I finally pull into the parking lot of my building and drag all my luggage inside, it feels like an accomplishment.
Independence comes in many forms.
It's never too late to celebrate!