And suddenly it all became more difficult...
I was walking down the basement stairs at a friend's house with Ellis in my arms. A mop at the bottom of the stairs fell in front of me. I missed a step and stepped into mid air. Instead of putting my hands down to catch myself, I threw them forward to cradle Ellis' head as we both hit the concrete floor. And so my foot took the blow. And so Ellis was safe.
The ER on a Saturday night, xrays, catscans. 2 bones broken. No cast (good news). 6 weeks on crutches, no weight on it (bad news)
I engaged in blubbering crying the whole way home e.g.Not fair, Not fair, Not fair, Its the first day of summer...I can't go swimming anymore... I can't PICK UP ELLIS!!! I CAN'T TAKE CARE OF MY CHILD ALONE!
Dave in all his wisdom just said "I know... I know..." over and over...
Its psychological pain more than physical. Checking off the things I cannot do... Trying to come up with solutions for doing the things I have to do...
It is now week one, day five that I have been in this boot cast, and that I have been engaged in rigorous self pity. I thought the universe owed me one...and I feel a little bitch slapped by her. I thought I deserved a summer of canoeing and camping...
The pain is in things turning out differently than you planned...
I can hear my mother, who broke her hip once the cancer reached her bones, standing in front of her walker in her yard, muttering to herself... "What is the purpose of this? What do I need to learn from this?"
She believed that we learn something we need to know from everything that happens, good or bad.
Not that she didn't engage in self pity... I took care of her twice when she was learning how to walk again... She raged, she sulked, she shouted, she moaned, she shook her fist at the sky. But then she always got down to business. She learned how to go up and down the 67 steps to her Amsterdam apartment...no matter how long it took her. She worked with the physical therapist. She shuffled along with a cane through the city.
Twice. She learned to walk again twice. Once right after her hip was replaced, and once after she hurt it again. And in the last years of her life she was fit, rode her bike everyday all around Amsterdam, enjoyed her physical self.
So, mom, here I am again. Learning about you and your experience after you are gone.
It is so hard to feel helpless. It is so hard to be helped. It is so hard to realize how fragile we are, how these physical selves that carry us through this life, are so vulnerable.
Motherhood is, at least in these first years, such a physical act. Much of my parenting Ellis is about carrying him, being able to put him into his bed...into the high chair, dressing him, changing him, taking him for a walk.
This is the hardest thing... Feeling like a half-mother. Like I am not mothering...as Dave moves double time to get us both fed and out the door in the mornings...He has to bring Ellis to me to nurse in the middle of the night. Ellis doesn't understand why I am not picking him up, why I am not engaged.
Silver lining inventory: Dave is a professor, off for the summer, and currently Ellis' primary caregiver. He does the cooking in the family. And is capable of taking care of both Ellis and I...
Ellis is safe.
My foot will heal.
There will be other summers.
I can still get into a canoe.
Eventually I will find the lesson in this.
I will learn and examine the parts of mothering that have nothing to do with my physical self, that have to do with my mind and my connection to my child.
When we lived in San Francisco I worked for a disability organization and there was a woman who would come into the office who used a wheelchair. She had a child, then two years old, that rode in a special seat attached to the front of her wheelchair. Parenting happens in all sorts of ways...
There is not one way to do this.
I have lots to learn. I have to learn how to sit and how to ask for help and how to get into the lake on crutches, and how to help Dave in the ways I can. I have to learn how my mother felt those days and weeks and months she couldn't walk, the helplessness of it, the humbling realization that we are not our physical selves, but have to rely on our physical selves to propel us through this life. I have to learn to be patient. I have to learn the time and place for self pity and the time for getting down to business.
Ellis pushes his walking toy around the apartment now, and regularly stands on his own. He is days away from his first steps. And as he learns to walk, I have to learn how to not walk. How to find the lesson in this and enjoy this summer on one foot.
"Once again my adventure, brave and new...."-Robert Browning