By Donna Cordello
A year ago, I asked my husband to promise me that we’d never be too old to go to concerts. I love music and whenever I have the opportunity to see one of my favorite artists, we’d go. But this past year I had to cancel three shows we had tickets for because of an injury.
I thought I was a big shot. Every morning, I’d jump on my treadmill and multitask by walking, watching the news and reading my emails. Each week, I’d up the speed and incline. My doctor explained this is probably how I tore a tendon in my inner ankle, which is painful from my heel to my calf. I put a sticker on my treadmill: “Warning — exercise could be dangerous!”
I’ve been wearing an ankle brace and I have a walking boot which is cumbersome and heavy. I’ve been nursing my injury for months in an attempt to avoid a complicated surgery and long recovery. And although it’s not a terminal disease or life threatening injury, it’s become a real source of frustration.
I’m particularly unsteady on uneven ground, so I’m the one who had to break the promise I asked my husband to keep. Other than canceling events, my routine has changed and sometimes it’s difficult for me to do ordinary things, like carrying a basket of clothes up the stairs or even being able to stand for more than a minute without pain.
And because I’ve been walking lopsided for so long, my knees, hips and back have all started to bother me as well. But the good news is, I don’t need an alarm clock anymore because my body parts all fight over whose turn it is to wake me up.
After a follow-up visit with my doctor, I discovered I wasn’t healing like I had hoped. I was thinking about how my son had asked me a while ago if I could plan a trip to go visit him. He found a beautiful place he wanted to share with me, which involves climbing up a mountain. I assured him we’d do it as soon as I healed. But here I was, barely able to climb a stair.
When I went to check out from my appointment, I was near tears, depressed and starting to feel sorry for myself. I noticed a young man, probably in his late 20s or early 30s laughing with the receptionist. He wore a metal prosthesis where his leg used to be.
My heart sank as I wondered what might have happened to him. Cancer? An injury from a bomb? A horrific accident? It was as if God gave me the slap I needed. My situation is uncomfortable, painful and temporary. And although they don’t work like they used to, I still have both of my legs.
I thought back to a conversation several years ago. A husband and wife, who were my customers, came into my office. We were talking about vacations and I mentioned how someday, my husband and I would like to go to Italy. They told me how they had both been recently diagnosed with cancer and were struggling through treatments. The wife said, ‘Don’t wait. Go now while you can still walk.’ I don’t know why, but for some reason, this stranger’s advice stuck in my head.
I couldn’t imagine that there would ever be a time when I’d be somewhat immobile. Plus, that was a line on our ‘someday wish list’ – down the road. We were raising our young children and running a business. We didn’t have the funds and we couldn’t get away long enough to go on a trip. But, I kept thinking about what she said — “Don’t wait.”
We always think there’s more time, more tomorrows to do things we want to do in the future. But, as they say, life happens and sometimes, our journeys take detours.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy more of our lives when we are younger — instead of working and saving our entire lives to do the things we want to do when we get older or perhaps, when and if we finally get to retire?
‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy more of our lives when we are younger — instead of working and saving our entire lives to do the things we want to do when we get older or perhaps, when and if we finally get to retire?’
Although we still haven’t crossed off that trip to Europe from our bucket list, my husband and I have managed to get away for vacations, but not nearly enough. We usually park the car and forget about it. Sometimes, we never use a vehicle at all. We take an Uber from the airport to the hotel and we walk everywhere, enjoying the sights and sounds of our destination. I never realized how much I took for granted, especially a simple thing like putting one foot in front of the other.
My doctor gave me a temporary handicapped parking pass to make my life easier. It’s been in my purse for a month. I just can’t seem to bring myself to use it because I always think there might be another person who might need it more. So, I circle around parking lots hoping I’ll find a closer parking space. I often look at the distance between me and the entrance and convince myself that I can walk the amount of steps required to get to the door. Sometimes, I get angry as I pass the handicap spot and see someone jumping out and running by me. But then I think that maybe their real handicap is not physical. And I laugh to myself and shake my head, thinking about how some people just don’t get it. Although he’s been very helpful, I’ve even have had to remind my husband from time to time why I’m not up to socializing.
Unfortunately, he really understands my predicament now, although, I wish he didn’t. A few weeks ago, he stepped off of a curb and felt a painful whack and a pop on the back of his leg. He tore a muscle in his calf. Now, he has a walking boot on his left leg and I have one on my right, and neither one of us has a good leg to stand on. But we would make a great team for a three legged race!
It’s almost comical. Whenever we go anywhere, limping in, people always ask what happened to the two of us. Instead of the boring circumstances, I usually make up stories, which might be anything from a skydiving mishap to falling off a tight rope.
This time and situation in my life has humbled me and made me thankful for all the things I have and for all the things I’ve taken for granted. My husband and I laugh when I thank him for being so compassionate and empathetic, that he decided to join me on this journey — with crutches in tow!
I find joy in knowing that we kept the vows we made to each other so long ago, particularly the promises to stick together “through good times and bad” and “through sickness and health.”
Our lives haven’t always been easy and we’ve had our share of heartaches. But we’ve always managed to overcome them together, right up until now –— in our matching walking boots. And we still lean on each other — literally.
I’ve come to realize I’m at the ‘itis’ stage of my life, which includes bursitis, tendinitis and arthritis. And I’m not alone because many of my friends are also dealing with their own health issues. A few of them aren’t well enough to enjoy their retirement, while others never got to make it to the finish line. So I have a new plan.
As soon as we both heal, my husband and I are going to take that woman’s advice and go on that road trip or jump on that plane. We are going to do all the things we were planning to do sometime in the distant future….
We aren’t going to wait.
Donna Cordello, 60, is a freelance writer with local, national and international publications. She lives in Penfield and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.