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Time grows short until next 'steps'

Just a couple of short weeks before the close of summer, my life changed for good.

Some might argue the term “for good,” though in many ways I’ll stand by my intent. Yes, primarily I mean “permanently.” But there’s room for discussion on the idea that some “good” can come from any challenge – even the amputation of the right foot of a guy as active as myself. Anyone that’s known me since childhood would say constant motion is an apt description of my lifestyle.

So where’s the “good” in that?

I received a junk email yesterday touting some rip-off neuropathy “cure” that told how a customer’s doctor had threatened her with the “horror of the worst possible outcome – the unspeakable threat of amputation.”

I wondered to myself, was that really how I thought of this outcome prior to my experience? You know what? Probably.

But as has been proven over and over throughout my life, our worst fears either never materialize or turn out to be something we’re capable of managing successfully.

What were the worst fears of my childhood, for example? I’d say most likely the idea of losing any member of my immediate family. Living in a world without my parents and/or sisters seemed impossible.

As happens to all of us, you can guess what I’m going to say. Both parents and a sister are no longer with us. I happen to believe in their continued existence in paradise, and like others, I hope and believe my faith is well-placed.

Living in a world without their visible and immediate presence is, of course, not impossible. Their memory and influence continue to bless me daily. I feel their continued presence.

So how can the challenge I have in front of me now be a “good” thing? I don’t blame anyone still on two feet for asking that question. And it’s true, I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.

But at the same time, if it or something like this happens, view it as an opportunity. First, to slow down.

Take deep breaths, appreciate your surroundings, put on some headphones and listen to Tim McGraw sing “Standing Room Only.” Don’t think about what you’re missing, think instead of what you’ve been granted. The chance and the time to “be somebody that’s worth remembering,” as the song goes.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some pretty rough times to wade through, however. We all know the sunny days aren’t as meaningful without some storms.

Of course I hated being assisted to the bathroom in those first weeks. It was humiliating the night we had to call the Belton Fire Department to pick me up off the floor. At least I was dressed. And it helped that the responders made it very clear how common my predicament was, and once they found out I was okay, were quite liberal with the humor.

The inability to drive has been crushing in some respects. But again, what am I missing? I’m spending less money, I’m still getting to every event or place I need to be, and I’m spending more time together with my wife and family.

This brings me to maybe the most difficult part of this entire situation – having to watch Laurie handle so many of the duties that were traditionally mine. I won’t deny that has been emasculating and it’s been something we’ve had to talk through more than once.

But those discussions do nothing but bring us closer and cause me to look harder to find ways to accomplish some chores from the wheelchair.

I can now, for example, do the laundry, vacuum the floors and clean the cat litter boxes – three duties I couldn’t imagine handling in the first month. And there’s a feeling of accomplishment and usefulness that is undeniable with each new task I take on and succeed.

As fall draws to a close and we prepare for the next season, I’m also preparing for the next step in my adjustment to a new life.

I’ve been fully fitted for the prosthetic leg that’s going to get me out of this chair, upright and seeing the world from a place I’m used to seeing it – even behind the wheel of my beloved truck eventually.

The “pegleg” is being built now, and I don’t know exactly when it’ll finally be fitted, but it could be any time.

It’s no magic fix. It’ll come paired with a walker at first, and then eventually a cane.

It’s going to be a difficult journey, I’m sure, dotted with physical therapy appointments, sweat and frustration. That’s okay, it’ll just take me back to my teenage athletic years – times that certainly weren’t all fun and glory, trust me.

Depending on how I do, I might someday be able to walk without assistance other than the prosthetic. But if that doesn’t happen, so what? I’ve learned in this season that life loses none of its value based on my reduced mobility, and it forces me to acknowledge value in places I hadn’t fully appreciated in the past.

All of us get older, and all of us find ourselves growing increasingly limited as that happens. Please don’t waste a minute in fear of that process.

• • •

Saturday night’s Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting, Light Parade and daylong Christmas on Main Street was a cold affair, but a happy one.

No one could have spent the evening with friends and neighbors here without being in awe of the picturesque snowfall, excitement on the kids’ faces, happiness on the adults’ faces and general feeling of joy that radiated up and down the several blocks of our iconic street. And yes, if you were there, you know the Grinch stole the show!


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