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, March 11, 2017

Growing Up Flyers

Mile Marker 4735:

Let's Go Flyers! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)

When I was 6, I practiced that cheer while my mom dressed me in clothes warm enough for the nosebleed seats.  I'd smile a toothless smile, black and orange ribbons in my hair, as Dad and I drove downtown toward the Philadelphia Spectrum.

We talked hockey the whole way to the game.  He taught me the numbers, names, and nicknames of the entire team:  Number 8, Dave Schultz, The Hammer; Number 9, Bob Kelly, Hound; Number 11, Don Saleski, Big Bird... (I liked that one. I was a loyal Sesame Street fan!)

We grew up Flyers!

Not anymore!
The Philadelphia Flyers (a.k.a "Broad Street Bullies") ruled the 1970's, and we were loyal fans.  Back then, if you could carry your kids in, they could sit on your lap for free.  For a long time that rule worked in our favor!

See Andy??
In 1976, when the Flyers were skating toward their third Stanley Cup, my little brother Andy was born.   My parents designed his birth announcement to look like a Flyers roster.  I was probably wearing these Flyers pajamas when they brought him home from the hospital!

The following year, Flyers' #4, Barry Ashbee, died of leukemia.  As a child, it was the first deep loss I can remember.  A few years later, I did a book report on my favorite, Bobby Clarke, #16, who fought juvenile diabetes to play in the NHL against all odds.  It was one of my earliest lessons on determination and overcoming obstacles.

And it'll always stick with me!

At age 13, I got my sweatshirt signed by #26 Brian Propp.  Who would have guessed that we'd someday skate together at Magee? (See Mile 3974 for that story!)

Growing up happens, for better or worse.  It's like a face-off.  You never know which direction the puck will go.

Guess who I'm rooting for!
This year, the Flyers celebrate their 50th Anniversary!  At Mile 4735, Dad takes us to watch our long-retired heroes return to the ice in the "Alumni Game."

They aren't as fast as they used to be.  (Except maybe Propp.  He's been practicing!)

It's magical and nostalgic all at once.  The players check each other into the boards, and then help each other back to their skates again. They take rest breaks halfway though each period.  And brighter than the ice itself are their smiles -- many toothless, of course!

The crowd is a sea of orange and black jerseys from the last 5 decades.  It feels like a family reunion.

Just like old times.  Maybe even better.

Mile Marker 4873:   

More than 100 miles later, Dad and I are at another game together, our third one this season!

Let's Go Flyers! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!) 

The Spectrum is long gone, but the Wells Fargo Center echoes with the old chant.  Of course, times have changed.  We need 2 tickets to get in now.  Dad no longer carries me. Also, I'm not sporting missing teeth or pigtails. Thank goodness.

Then there's our seats.  We've been upgraded from the nosebleed seats to a Club Box where -- SURPRISE -- Brian Propp stops by!

Now we're old friends!!!

After all these years, it's hard to believe there could be anymore "firsts."  Yet between periods, that's exactly what happens.  We're escorted down a flight of stairs past piles of zamboni-swept snow.  We walk by the Flyers locker room, a row of extra goal nets, and a rack of hockey sticks taller than I am.  Finally we end up in a tunnel we've only seen on TV.  Above us, tower 19,000 roaring fans. 

"Watch your step," Dad says. 

Of course, I take a selfie.


The second period hasn't started yet, so the bench is still empty.  We squeeze past water bottles and Gatorade, towels and medic kits, stepping over a live TV screen installed in the wooden floor.  It's a balancing act, but hey, that's what PT was for!

When the second period buzzer sounds, the two of us are encased in a glass booth, just inches away from the players.  I catch them chewing on their mouthguards and re-tying their skates.  I see the flash of metal as they leap over the boards.  I hear the coaches yell, "Stay on it!" and "Good job!"

As benchwarmers we witness rookie Jordan Weal's first NHL goal!

We even get rained on with sweat.  (At least I think it's sweat!)

I've been a Flyers fan my whole life, but you only get this perspective if you're part of the team.

So I guess I am :)

There's a lesson here: about never giving up, or about following your passion, or maybe even about aging well.  Growing up is tricky.  Just when you've got the hang of it, something happens to make you feel small again.  At least that's the way it worked for me.

I've known the Flyers since way back when.  And growing up alongside them?  It's been reassuring somehow.

Driving home from the game, I spy a dad and daughter crossing Pattison Avenue.  The dad is tall, and the little girl, maybe 6 years old, stands barely to his waist.   He's leading her by the hand, and she's skipping along beside him.  Under her pink fleece jacket, there's probably a Flyers jersey.  And under her hood, pigtails with black and orange ribbons.

"Look Dad!"  I say. "They're just like us!"

Dad glances over at them.  Then raises his eyebrows at me.

"But a lot younger," I add quickly.

We talk hockey the whole way home.  Just like old times.  Maybe even better.

Thanks to Magee for my latest Flyers "first," and to Dad, philly.com, and (yep!) Brian Propp for the photos!


  1. too bad you couldn't change the background to orange and black! Aunt Patti!

  2. Ha ha... Why didn't I think of that? (Fantastic suggestion coming from a Bruins fan!)

  3. That's an awesome post. Keep going after those firsts.