The Frankenstein effect

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.

My Frankenstein boot

My Frankenstein boot

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.


I began to consider what goes on in the mind of an indoor cat as spring approaches.

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


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10 comments for “The Frankenstein effect

  1. Candy Pierce
    May 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Gretchen you have such a gift for writing along with a wonderful sense of humor!!! I enjoy your weekly blog and can always come away with inspiration!! Thank u!!!

  2. Ted Faszer
    May 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Gretchen, do you remember this old hymn by Fanny Crosby? Your story reminded me of the lyric, “For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”

    All the way my Savior leads me,
    What have I to ask beside?
    Can I doubt His tender mercy,
    Who through life has been my Guide?
    Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
    Here by faith in Him to dwell!
    For I know, whate’er befall me,
    Jesus doeth all things well;
    For I know, whate’er befall me,
    Jesus doeth all things well.

    All the way my Savior leads me,
    Cheers each winding path I tread,
    Gives me grace for every trial,
    Feeds me with the living Bread.
    Though my weary steps may falter
    And my soul athirst may be,
    Gushing from the Rock before me,
    Lo! A spring of joy I see;
    Gushing from the Rock before me,
    Lo! A spring of joy I see.

    All the way my Savior leads me,
    Oh, the fullness of His love!
    Perfect rest to me is promised
    In my Father’s house above.
    When my spirit, clothed immortal,
    Wings its flight to realms of day
    This my song through endless ages:
    Jesus led me all the way;
    This my song through endless ages:
    Jesus led me all the way.

    • May 13, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Had to dig out the hymnal to recall which Fanny Crosby tune that is, Ted. She’s one of my favorites. And, of course, you’re right. The words are perfect for occasions such as this one. Thank you!

  3. Julie Overman
    May 13, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Well told and happy to hear that you’re free of the boot! There is nothing like the slow-mo of the memory of a fall, but your description is one to which we can all relate! Blessed be the fallen, for they shall get up!

  4. Susan Hurst
    May 13, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    I love Jer. 29:11!! You are so right that God did not plan your fall. He’s created a wonderful you, who will know to love Him and your neighbor unconditionally. He’s got this, and so do you, my friend!

    • May 13, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      It’s one of the great scriptural passages, isn’t it, Susan? I’m glad I’ve got you!

  5. Barb
    May 13, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Gretchen, another wonderful weekly posting. I’ll add my experience. When I received my colon cancer diagnosis 16 years ago, my sister offered an explanation that God was signaling me to slow down. I bristled at her response as I never once believed God “gave” me the colon cancer to teach me something. I guess I choose to believe that “stuff” happens — not because God wills it, but because we do sin. The only way to counter the “stuff” that happens in our lives is to come to trust in The Lord, as he the only way to eternal life, free of the things that foul us up here on earth. I started to see the silver linings with the colon ca putting me on my butt (so to speak) — appreciating your daughter when she says later “mom, I didn’t know what I was going to do if you had died”, or your son unable to talk about the cancer, but giving you a hug that lasted a few more seconds and a quiet “I love you” that meant so much more now. I was able to see that I could talk to newly diagnosed patients and help them understand their cancer so that they knew what to ask their doctors. It made me a better oncology rep, selling my chemo or targeted therapy, as my docs knew I had walked in the shoes of a cancer patient.

    Sometimes, I guess we literally end up knocked on our behinds, in order to hear ourselves say to God, “Ouch, God, I’m hurting and I need help to see the bigger picture here.” Invariably if we are willing to sit on our behinds and reflect, we see something amazing!!!

    • May 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      I think you’re right, Barb. While we all have behaviors that can conjure up dangerous or bad results, for the most part we can’t easily explain why we fall or why we have cancer or why a family member has schizophrenia or why an airplane has to crash. Yes, there are human and scientific reasons for those things, but there is no explanation most of the time for why good people have to suffer. So I have come to believe that whether we are personally hurt or whether someone we love is suffering or has died, the best question I can ask myself is, “OK. God, I know that you can make something good out of every something bad. Show me how you will use me to make something good come out of this.” It works for me and keeps me from wallowing in self-pity.

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