It was an unusually warm week for April in Wisconsin and I wanted to take advantage of the great weather and sunshine. Last summer I had been walking five miles a day and enjoying almost every moment of it even though exercise is not my strong suit. But I would don my earphones and listen to recorded books as I walked. Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half five days a week.
So I was anxious to get back out there and continue The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. But first, I needed to power wash the deck and furniture at the back of house so I would have a place to sit and put my feet up upon my return from my walks.
Now, our house sits a little catawampus in terms of the compass, but much of the deck is under the influence of the north. Hence, there’s always a filmy buildup of moss on the deck, the furniture, and even the house itself. I give thanks to God for whoever invented the power washer.
I knew it would be slippery so I was watching my footing, and I didn’t want to get tangled up in the hose or the electrical cord. With one artificial knee, I’ve become very protective of it.
I was doing well. It’s a pretty large deck and I had finished half of it and half of the furniture. It was taking longer than I wanted, but it felt so good to be outside that I really didn’t mind. The three cats were watching me with suspicion from inside the patio door.
Then, without a warning at all, I heard myself hit the deck. I don’t remember falling. I do remember the sound of the full weight of my body hitting the boards. I had slipped on a small bit of moss that I had missed on my way through the cleanup.
I landed fully on my right side. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to get scared until I was already down and wondering what fresh hell was this. And I began to take inventory. My left leg was stretched out full-length and that probably saved the artificial knee. But as I brought my right arm up a bit so I could lean on my right elbow, I looked down to see my right knee bent up under the left leg. I didn’t know my knee could bend back that far.
I hurt. And I was in a bit of shock. Then I realized that if anything were seriously wrong, I was going to be in trouble. We don’t live within shouting distance of any neighbors who would run to help. Even if they could hear me, I had visions of the fire department coming with three cranes to lift me onto a stretcher. It was going to be at least five hours before Terry came home from work.
The thought of panic never crossed my mind. I had to take care of myself. So the inventory continued. Yes, I could slowly untangle my legs so both were straightened out. Everything seemed to be flexible and my quick assessment told me I had severely sprained my right ankle. I knew I had to get into the house as quickly as possible.
But if it would take three cranes to lift me onto a gurney, you can imagine my dilemma in terms of getting myself onto my feet. With an artificial left knee, turning over and crawling was not an option. And I needed to get some traction to pull myself up. While I was surrounded by patio furniture, none of it was nailed down and every time I pulled on a piece of it, it moved. Nope. That wasn’t going to work.
So I did what I was never able to do in gym class in grade school or high school. I crab walked. Using two hands, one leg, and my butt, I crab walked to the other side of the deck where I could grab on to a fixed bench and hoist myself up (I should have thought of using my butt when my gym teachers were yelling at me to crab walk across the gym floors). And my artificial knee did come through enough for me to put weight on it to get the job done.
Once up, I again flexed everything and discovered I could put weight on that malfunctioning right foot. “Good. Not broken,” I thought, gathering some comfort from the conclusion. I hobbled back across the deck, carefully stepping over hoses and cords, turning off the pressure washer and making it into the house.
Yes, it had been a warm morning, but I had been lying on a cold wet deck for nearly 30 minutes by the time I got up. I went to the hot shower and then to the freezer for ice. Then I collapsed onto the living room recliner with a quilt on top of me and ice on my ankle. Soon a cat provided assistance by lying on top of me to warm me up. [Oh, let’s be honest, the cat was there for her own comfort, but she still provided a benefit to me].
Well, I was right. That ankle was sprained and the muscles in my calf were stretched in ways a yogi would admire. The black and blue and then purple set in as I sat in the recliner. For days. And then a couple of weeks. And then I thought maybe I ought to at least consult a doctor. X-rays concluded I had an ankle fracture. The ankle had to be further immobilized with what I fondly came to call my Frankenstein boot. Two more weeks of that.
And while I was encouraged to put weight on it as I could, and I did that, my home for the last five-six weeks has been that living room recliner.
Oh, it could have been so much worse. I could have come in contact with one of the many protruding nail heads on the aging deck. I could have hit my head and knocked myself out. I could have lain there with broken bones awaiting the embarrassing rescue by three cranes. But it was just a sprain and just a fracture.
When you grow up in the Reformed faith, you get somewhat familiar with a sense of predestination. Taken to its extreme, it means that God has everything plotted out for you and there’s no deviation from it or choice about it. You’re either doomed to hell or saved for heaven and everything in your life can be seen as either a punishment or reward based on God’s chronology for you. As I related my most recent fate to my Facebook friends, my former Reformed theology professor found humor in it for me, “Whew! Glad that’s over!” an indication of a vastly extreme theory of predestination: that fall was going to happen to me precisely at that time and that place. The fall. Shades of Adam and Eve munching on that apple.
But no, predestination for me means simply that God has a plan for me to love God and love my neighbor. It means that God has given me gifts and I do have a choice whether or not to use those gifts to discover or carry out God’s plan for me. God didn’t plan for me to fall (anymore than God planned the fall of Adam and Eve). But it has been a reminder to me as I have sat here gazing out the windows watching the buds and blooms of the flowering crab and apple trees that God does intend for us to take time to enjoy God’s Creation even when we are not enjoying it on our own terms.
Being stuck in a recliner and dealing with pain has once again reminded me that I’m not the one in charge, that God gave my body the gift of healing, that God is still going to let the buds blossom and the wind blow them away. It has reminded me of the friends near and far who have expressed such loving kindness to me and of a husband who has continued to put a meal on the table for me every evening and has made certain the fridge and freezer were stocked with ample nourishment for the day. Hobbling through the house on my Frankenstein boot, I have given thanks that God has given me choices about love and hate, contentment and frustration. God has given me the choice to feel sorry for myself or to spend more time in prayer and thought of others.
My fall was not predestined. God’s love and protection of me always has been.
For now, I have to be satisfied with a simple walk around the block, the Frankenstein boot a thing of the past, and a walking stick there just to keep me stable. I’ll have to work up to my five miles a day and that may well take a good part or all of the summer. And it will mean a major changes to plans I had made. Who knows what each day will hold? God does, but God still gives us a choice about how we’ll handle all of that.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. – Jeremiah 29:11-14