I WISH I had a better story.
I wish I’d been surfing a killer wave when I was dragged under by some vicious undertow! Or mountain climbing and I tumbled from a ledge for almost fifty feet! Or perhaps tidal boar rafting when the boat suddenly flipped over and I was smashed viciously against some rocks!
Now THAT’S the way to break some bones!
We went to watch some fireworks, or what will now forever be known as raining darts of hellfire. (I mean, I don’t even like fireworks, with all their loud noises and sudden popping and their big build up until they fizzle out to nothing – and that was BEFORE the incident.)
Afterwards, we slowly started back home, enjoying the warm summer night. I was walking down a hill, on a poorly lit roadway, took a misstep off the curb, fell down a small embankment, and BOOM – next thing you know I’m laid up (mostly) for six weeks with a twice fractured ankle.
Not in the cold winter, or the rainy spring, or the windy fall. But the summer. During quite possibly the sunniest, hottest, haziest summer we’ve had in years.
Now let the injustice of all THAT sink in.
Now, when most people hear those magical words escape a doctor’s lips – “looks like you’ll be off work four to six weeks” – you think “PARTY!” and “I’m the luckiest guy in the universe right NOW!” And you start to say stuff like “Work nerds! Have fun while I’m off “working” on my tan!”
But then comes the reality check. In order for that nasty break to heal, your foot needs to be immobilized, and in order to be immobilized, it has to be confined in a plaster cast at a 90 degree angle. And casts, in case you don’t know, are heavy, ugly, stupid, awkward things. And despite being all hard and substantial, I came to learn they can actually break fairly easily, which then leads to multiple trips back to the hospital for multiple re-castings. You know, to that awful place where all the germs and all the sick people live.
As for “making the most of it”, racing on crutches is only fun for maybe the first day or two. Pretty much everyone else is busy working or vacationing or raising babies or dog sitting or just living life large, so you find yourself talking to your cat a lot. And rudely, he rarely ever talks back. You start to read or watch TV a lot, but then you criticize everything you see, and you grumble how you could write or act or sing an opera WAY better, and start to wonder how are you ever going to get those last 30 minutes back. And napping or just generally laying about? Sounds fun in theory, but seriously overrated. Because then you’re awake at night, cursing the napping while everyone else is sleeping.
Anyway, with all this time to kill, I decided I needed to write more. And the first thing that came to me – the first thing I noticed was lacking – was some some handy dandy list of ways to survive a broken ankle (or broken anything for that matter) while maintaining MOST of your sanity. This may not work for everyone, but over the course of the summer I’ve found it to be pretty helpful guidelines to follow, and for the most part I’ve been able to retain most of my sanity. Note I did say mostly.
So here we go…
1) Seek out medical advice. Sure, maybe you’re clumsy and walk into walls and glass doors and such, and maybe you’re used to falling down because you’re not looking where you’re going or you’re quite easily distracted (squirrel!) But let’s face it, when your foot is purple and visibly throbbing and the size of an engorged watermelon, it’s time to call in the big guns.
2) Get a second opinion. In seeking out medical help, sometimes the first doc you see will make Doogie Howser look like a senior citizen. Still, when he wraps your ankle and wisely tells you to “walk around on it,but don’t BABY it” you think “dude or not, this guy is the DOCTOR, so he must know what he’s talking about!” But when little Doogie’s panicked phone call comes the next day with the news of two fractures in your ankle he somehow missed, and he’s screaming “FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T WEIGHT BEAR ON IT! YOU COULD CAUSE PERMANENT INJURY!!!”, you realize TV lied, and Lil’ Doogie does NOT know what he’s talking about, and that all doctors should indeed be old and wise, with thick glasses and weird facial hair and wrinkled lab coats with mysterious stains that smell vaguely of mothballs.
3) Accept the fact you’re new cast is one ridiculous looking appendage that just kind of hangs there and does nothing but gets in your way. Fact is, you can’t dress it up, you can’t make it prettier, you can’t make it lighter. I will refuse to cooperate, so just stop trying, and instead consider unique ways to take a selfie with it…
4) Realize that stairs are now you’re one true enemy. Obsess over how you will hop on one foot while maneuvering crutches in a futile attempt to conquer them. Focus on creative ways to crawl, sidestep, back pull or plain ol’ scooch yourself up and down these blasted obstacles from hell, and hope that no one’s shooting the YouTube video of same.
5) Kiss your dignity goodbye! You will not only seem awkward, but you’ll look plain stupid trying to do the things you are used to doing or those simple tasks you foolishly take for granted everyday. You will hear the words “pee bottle” and shudder and think NEVER, but before you know it you’ll quickly change your mind. Someday, you will come to think of that pee bottle as your best friend. “Pee bottle? I love you! What did I ever do before you?” Seriously, you’ll want to marry that damn pee bottle. I am speaking the TRUTH.
6) Have a good support system! Your loved one(s) will have to do things for you that neither one of you will EVER want to speak of again (see #5 re lack of dignity) Be kind to them, because you’re going to need them someday in ways you never imagined, and probably don’t want to ever consider. Trust me on this one.
7) Get a furry sidekick. He might sleep on the job lots, but he knows your feeling down and will make it his mission to cheer you up! Also, you can reveal to him all the gossip you want, and he will never share it with anyone.
8) People will STARE. STARE BACK. I like to stop, put my hands on my hips, and give them a good ol’ fashioned Oscar the Grouch staredown while pretending to sharpen my crutches like spear tips. You better believe they break eye contact first. And usually start running.
9) Start to realize how poorly many of our city establishments are equipped for handi-capable people as you venture out into the world, and make a mental note to increase awareness of that in the future (actually, give yourself a mental spanking for not noticing it before). Marvel at the gaping chasms in sidewalks and street corners. Ponder the narrow stairs you must climb or clunky entrances you must pole vault over. Laugh at the sheer stupidity of people who stand in the way while two five foot wooden sticks and a boatload of plaster are swinging in their direction by someone who has no idea how to wield either…
10) Celebrate graduating to a fracture boot/walking cast, until you realize just how hot and sweaty plastic, foam, and air cushioning can be. Then, discover you have to learn how to walk again, because “walking cast” or not, that sucker encases your foot at the same ol’ 90 degree angle – there’s no pivoting, no twisting, and just a lot of loud, massive thumping.
11) Mourn the fallen victims of your loud, massive thumping. (Thus far, together we’ve destroyed several glasses, a few books, a lamp, and, most tragically, a pair of Rayban Wayfarers.)
12) Start to consider what a kick ass Darth Vader Costume this will all make someday!
And I suppose, most importantly of all, KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOUR about it all and just keep smiling!!
With just a week or so left, I know I can and WILL survive the experience. And soon enough I’ll get to go dancing (badly) again. And hike over some strange undiscovered hillside. And jump joyfully into the ocean for that first summertime swim.
I’ll just be sure to avoid fireworks this time! And most of all, I will always remember to look before I leap!
(Oh, who am I kidding! I’ll just hang on to the boot!)