As I jogged from the parking lot to the young survivors’ meeting tonight, I felt amazingly good, breathing fresh air, moving at a pace that my mind and body set together, one not defying the wishes of the other, sure to arrive at my meeting with minutes to spare. I took each loping step with purpose, thrilling in the ability to hurry, which I had not been able to do for many months. As I kept moving, passing the lounge where I used to wait, passing the closer entrance, passing the valet parking sign, I breathed in and out evenly, relishing my pace.
And then, I stopped short. There was the parking space where WhyDaddy used to leave the car so he could help me to the door, just feet away. There was the sign that I leaned on, more than once, while he handed the keys to the attendant and then rushed to take my arm. There was the second sign, the one where I collapsed just a few months ago.
Just a few months ago, I was right here, in front of this hospital, when I was forced to admit that I could no longer walk. I needed a wheelchair.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. Without even checking that day’s post, I remember every. single. detail. The effort that it took to walk the steps from the car to curb, even with my husband’s help. The eternity that passed while he was away from me, getting our laptop bags out of the car. The sensation that I was falling, falling, falling, when my legs buckled and refused to support me.
The way that WhyDaddy became WonderDaddy, dropping his bag and mine and running inside to get help. The seconds that felt like hours while I held on to the post, willing help to come, watching the world pass me by in an instant. The speed at which he ran back to me, pushing a wheelchair as if it were weightless, catching me in it before I fell. The calmness of his manner, the ease with which he thanked the valet for the loan, and the grace with which he found our laptop bags again and slung them over his shoulders.
The way that he made me feel that it was no big deal to be 34 and so sick that I needed a wheelchair.
I learned a lot that day about how we treat people who are different from us. I felt abandoned when my partner accidentally turned away, and a swell of gratitude when he returned and parked himself across from me so we could talk. I panicked when parked facing a cold wall, primitive terror striking me with the thought that I couldn’t see anyone or anything else in the room. I watched as hospital personnel ignored me, talking to my partner about my affairs, as if my brain were as dysfunctional as my legs. I remember the looks of pity that just about broke my heart.
Do not pity me, I thought. This is only temporary….