That fall, the one immediately following our accident in August 2011, the back-to-school routine ran a little differently.
Things fell into a rhythm, as they always do with the reappearance of backpacks and homework folders and big, yellow busses, but our rhythm was syncopated. Things get a little bit “off” when mom can’t walk, when mom can’t cook or even serve her own self a cup of coffee, when mom’s life revolves around her pain meds and doctor appointments. Just a little whacky.
That fall, my oldest daughter, at age 16, figured out how to register for fall classes at the community college. She lugged a laptop to the hospital while I was still there and I sat in a morphine stupor while she bounced class descriptions off me and vented frustrations over the glitches in the system.
My son, age 14, walked over a mile to take the city bus to school and back. I missed all but one of his fall baseball games. My younger daughter, feeling more than thinking through the new challenges of this hard and temporary season, struggled with scary thoughts during the daytime and bad dreams in the dark hours of night.
When mom and dad both have broken legs, elevated and wrapped in icepacks, it’s impossible to rise and respond to a crying child in the other room.
And my youngest, simply asked one day: will you ever run again?
Since I had arrived home, I was no longer on morphine and no longer hallucinating, but I did have lucid dreams. In my dreams I ran, I hiked, I walked, on two good legs. In a sense, the real me was there, in the dreamworld and the day-to-day version of me was some weird mistake.
In dreamworld I was capable, competent, able to save the day with my speed and agility. In real life, the effort made to heave myself with the aid of a walker to the living room became monumental. For weeks I couldn’t sit at the dinner table with everyone else. I was in the other room, leg propped, my food on a tray. I had to be served and not serve; my children had to run to meet my needs, not the other way around.
The doctors gave me a positive prognosis saying that I indeed, would walk, run, jump again—maybe not quite the same, but close to my previous abilities. For this, I was and will be grateful beyond description. I clung to the hope of that prognosis as if it were prophecy. That hope always beckoned me to wipe my tears when the pain was too great, to smile through the blur of pain at physical therapy, to pray for complete healing when I wanted to be angry.
And when Nikko asked if I’d run again? I really didn’t know the answer. How could this swelling, angry, ugly leg—covered in stitches and wrapped and protected by a cumbersome, protective boot—ever move with quickness or ease?
And would the pain ever cease?
I didn’t know.
But I said, Yes.
But you can’t go to places without your walker? When will it happen that you can run?
I gave him the answer the doctors gave me: In two years.
When I’m eight?
No, you’re almost seven. Your birthday is just around the corner.
So when I’m nine? When I turn nine you can run?
I had two years.
I had hope in the word of the doctors. I had grace in the moment to trust. I guess you could say that I had faith – it was as yet unseen and unrealized.
When Nikko skipped out of my bedroom, I leaned back on my pillows and looked at my toes peeking out of the wrap and wondered.
I felt the pulse of pain. The swelling of my tissues had caused my skin to tear and I felt my heartbeat in the healing scab, I felt the constant dull and excruciating pain in my fractured bone, I felt the ache in my back and ran fingertips along the seam in my belly where two dozen staples hid the handiwork of a skilled surgeon who repaired my organs.
And I longed to run a little bit and keep on running, never keeping up with Nikko, but being right where I wanted to be: running behind and seeing him live.
And I believed.
And I run.