My left foot greets me from the end of a cast that stretches from my thigh to my heel. I can see it, feel it, and even wiggle my toes, but it might as well be on the moon should I try to reach it.
A skiing accident might give my condition some style; but no such luck. I went down on ice as I exited my back door to feed the birds. While I was able to get up and hobble on my right leg, I knew I had injured something.
My wife insisted upon calling 911, asking only for some help putting me in the car so she could take me to the emergency room. Much to my chagrin, a few minutes later a fire truck and ambulance responded to the call.
We thanked the responders but I managed to get into the car hoping it was only a minor injury. Not so, sad to relate; an x-ray revealed a torn tendon and a few days later I underwent surgery and was introduced to my new friends: a cast that feels like it weighs 35 pounds, and two crutches.
Thus began the series of indignities that only the aged, infirm, and disabled can fully appreciate. Try putting on your pants when your leg is outstretched in a fiber-glass enclosure. Without help, I have to try to lasso my left leg with my pant leg and then, using the crutch handle, hook it and pull it up to the point where I can reach it.
Having failed in this feeble effort to retain my dignity, I now rely on my wife to help me put on my pants and socks. But, that is only a minor inconvenience when compared with the dreaded shower.
Before entering the shower, one must first cover the cast. Garbage bags have been replaced by a stylish, leg-shaped, transparent, plastic covering that is held in place by a couple of thin Velcro straps. Getting it on requires a degree of intimacy preferably forgotten.
Entering and exiting the shower has to be fully choreographed in advance to avoid a catastrophe. For most of us at this age, “naked” sounds better than it looks.
Four days after my fall I was due to go skiing in Telluride, Colorado, with my son and son-in-law. Fortunately they found a substitute and all managed to have a great time. Later I missed a week in Florida.
Thankfully, I’m able to go to work each day, an important distraction that helps to pass the time and avoid feeling sorry for myself. Being engaged in useful activity may not be the fountain of youth but it certainly slows the aging process.
I will go from a cast to a brace and then to physical therapy. I look forward to resuming taking the rubbish out, carrying laundry up and downstairs, vacuuming and doing all those routine chores that define my role as a husband and give meaning to the notion of shared responsibility within a marriage.
In the meantime, I remain dependent. Love is tested when times are tough, not when everything is fine. I am fortunate to have a wife who patiently adapts to the situation. I regret the demands I am forced to make on her and appreciate more than ever her willingness to put up with me.
God blesses those who care for a loved one or a stranger in distress. In a troubled world, there are fortunately enough of them to save us from our own destructive impulses.
With every week, the toes on my left foot appear to be getting closer. Touching them is my next goal – my mini Everest.
James W. Dolan is a retired District Court judge who now practices law. jdolan @dolan connly.com.