The Star-Herald

We aren’t defined by bumps in the road

The morning was that milky gray, with random droplets of rain falling clumsily to the earth like heavy particles of mislaid and forgotten glitter. I put my wipers on intermittently, automatically lowering or raising my head in conjunction with the landing of the raindrop.

Gripping the wheel as tightly as I could, I swore off raindrops of my own — tears of self-pity and inner anger, lined up at the gate and ready to go.

My left knee was stiff and achy; its usual state these days. My right hip, having so much experience with bearing the weight of both legs, was on the verge of screaming and I could not wait to get out of my car, take my rollator out of the backseat and roll myself into the grocery store. 

I pulled into a parking space and placed my “handicap” sticker on the back of the rearview mirror. I was ready to go but I could not move. I simply sat there listening to that persistent and annoying rain dance mercilessly on the roof of my car. I wanted to go into that store, something I had not done on my own for months. To be able to see the weekly specials, stroll through the deli and bakery section, check the price of meat, and look once again to see if Egg Beaters came in half-pint containers. 

These goals of mine were common and basic and obviously unattainable for me — and I knew why. It was all about pride and dignity and appearance. What would I do if I met someone I knew and their first question was, “So good to see you and Belinda, what happened to you?”

“Oh, just a skiing accident,” I could say. 

Of course, those who know me also know I have never been on skis in my life, save cross-country ski years ago. 

Or, I could say, “Oh, just a tumble on the ice. I should heal in no time.” 

I could also tell them the truth. “I have endured several horrible infections, survived sepsis and experienced a major operation. As far as the left knee is concerned, it has been acting up for years now.” 

I managed to open the car door just about halfway, and with sudden strength and determination, I pushed my culprit knee out of the door and onto the ground. Now, I just needed to swing my hip around and stand. A car pulled up beside me quite suddenly, and the driver’s side door opened and then closed with no hesitation. Someone stepped out and began walking toward the store entrance, not missing a beat. It took me a moment to realize that this person had two prosthetic legs, the sort that seems to be on “springs” and allows the user to walk along with a unique and strong gait. I sighed and lowered my head, remembering a saying my mother used often: “I cried because I had no shoes, and then I met a man with no feet.”

Many challenges await me, my friends. I have a long road ahead of me. Thankfully, I am richly blessed with my husband, my sister, caregivers and friends of the highest caliber. I have dark, sullen days and days brimming over with plans and hope. My situation is not in any way unusual and I was not ready for this journey, but here I am. Northern Yarns is destined to share my life lessons with each of you, and to be an uplifting tumble of words intended to inspire a smile, a tear, or a nod of familiarity. I am ready to write once again and I will be deeply honored if you will be so kind as to join me on this trek. My writing will not always center on my present affliction – I promise. I refuse to allow this bump in the road to define me. 

You may be wondering if I went into the store on that gloomy morning I have described to you. Well, I did not. I cried a bit, repositioned myself back behind the wheel, and drove home. 

Let us be kind to ourselves and to each other. 

Belinda Hersey lives in Caribou with her husband, Kent, and their dog, Morgan. You may email her at belindaouellette9@gmail.com.

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