Destinations Magazine

Got My Gimpwalk On

By Landfall @landfallvoyages

So, I fell the other night. It’s a thing I do. Chalk it up to nerve damage, tiredness, and the inherent klutziness that spawned my childhood nickname, “Grace”. Blame it on the dark and Mexico’s famously uneven and potholed sidewalks. Whatever. All I know is one minute, we’re all having a fine time, walking through the warm velvet embrace that is a summer night in Bucerias and then in the space of a heartbeat, I’m kissing dirt. Again.

Sprained both damn ankles and pulled a muscle in my left leg, because, hey–If you’re gonna do a thing, may as well do it all the way, right?

I’d love to say I’m ok with falling. That I focus all my energy on gratitude that I don’t have to use a wheelchair on a regular basis anymore. That I don’t have to use a cane, though Eli wonders if maybe I ought to get one. You know, just in case. Wheelchairs and canes are a part of my not-too-distant past and will likely be a part of my future. In my present, though…I’m conflicted.

I should simply be happy with where I am, but truth be told (because I’m a sucky liar), falling pisses me off because mobility is a hard fought battle that I fight every single day. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I embody total epic failure. Like the other night.

When Eli was little, and just learning how to walk, he’d fall all the time, too. He was a topheavy little sucker, with T-Rex arms, so we had to teach him how to fall and not get hurt. Protect his head from getting whacked and adding to his concussion count. Protect his trach, so it wouldn’t get bumped and bleed. Threw some psychology in the mix as well, because we didn’t want him to become paralyzed with fear and stop trying to do regular kid stuff.

Every time he took a fall, it was, “All right! Good fall! Way to protect your head! Good job, kiddo!” You should’ve seen the dirty looks launched our way from the Mommy Brigade at the playground down the street, but it was totally worth it. Watching him jump back up, smiling and ready to take on the world. When I fall now, Eli claps his hands and says, “Good fall, mom!” And then I usually hop back up and off we go.

Not this time.

There is a space between the start of a fall and the impact, where time stretches out like watermelon flavored Hubba Bubba. I thought, “Crap, I’m falling.” And felt…shame? Anger? Flashed on all the things I hate about this kinda broken body I live in. It’s hard to pin down, exactly the mix of emotion–the thing is…it’s fucking terrifying, for the people you love, when your body runs off the rails and generally craps all over everybody’s parade. I hate to see them look at me that way, hate to know I’m the one who put them in a place where they’re helpless and miserable.

And then I hit pavement and my world narrows down to brick red pain and the gray concrete of trying to breathe and dark clouds moving like a squall across my mind as I wonder for the briefest nanosecond if I’ve broken something.

In my mind, when I play back the footage between falling and getting back to the boat, it’s patchy and disconnected, because every time I tried to put weight on my left foot, I blacked out. Eli says the part that freaked him out the most was when I was not blacked out, in the taxi, talking a mile a minute to the driver…completely in Spanish. After blacking out on the sidewalk, in the taxicab, and all over the grassy bits of Marina La Cruz, Steve decided to put me in a dock cart and wheel my ass back to the dinghy.

I maneuvered my way gingerly onto the pontoon, where we normally sit, feeling pretty pleased with myself. Steve and Eli heaved a shared sigh of exasperation and gave me The Look. You know, the one that says, “Really? En serio? Are you freaking kidding me?” Eli said,”Maybe you should sit more…in the bottom of the skiff, Mom.” “So you don’t pass out and fall overboard between here and the boat,” said my husband. I really hate it when they’re right.

We buzzed back to the boat, my feet sticking up in the air, and I managed to heave myself up onto the boat, wounded sea lion-style, and slither down the companionway and into the bed. It was not a pretty sight…even with two unsprained ankles, I’m not exactly what you’d call graceful.

I wrapped my stupid ankles in ace bandages and our good friend Dawn from Destiny lent us a couple of ice packs, a ziploc baggie of real, honest to god ice cubes, and a bag of frozen soy beans. I moved and stretched through the pain. I hobbled around the boat and stretched some more. I did some pretty aggressive lymphatic massage, trying to keep the swelling down. I did Range of Motion exercises. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

By the middle of the following week, it seemed everyone in town knew that the goofy güera with the crazy hair had hurt her ankles. When I started getting up and about, it was like running a gauntlet, albiet a wonderful and loving one. Everybody in the marina wanted a status report and offered help and encouragement. The guards made sure I was doing my stretches and excercises. And the people who live in town…it was surreal.

Everyone, from Nieves–the guy who sells amazing ice cream out of a pushcart and keeps trying to set Eli up with his beautiful daughter, to Becky, who owns the restaurant on the first corner up by the marina…they all had to know what the heck was going on with me.

Was I ok? What happened? Why did I fall down? How come sometimes they see that I walk with a bad limp on the left side and other times I’m pretty good? Do I need a doctor or some medicine, because they could borrow a car and take me there right now, if I needed it. Everybody had their own recommendation for medicated creams or ointments that we should be massaging into my ankles and legs. The woman who owns the carniceria we go to was pretty adamant that Steve was the one who should be doing the rubbing in of cremes and ointments.

One of the marina guards is a basketball coach and when he saw me getting wheeled out to the Thursday night movie in a borrowed wheelchair, he stopped us and said, “I know how to fix this.” Propping my foot against his legs, he deftly unwrapped the Ace bandages, probed the swollen joints with practiced fingers, and applied a gentle traction, loosening everything up. He looked up and said, “This is a fast motion, quick and necessary. Do not be worried.” In one smooth movement, he rolled my ankle into alignment and firmly shoved up on the ball of my foot. He did this a couple of times, helping the elastic muscle fibers remember what the hell their jobs were.

It was magic. Less pain, better range of motion. Then he gave me a quick rundown of the kinds of stretches and exercises I should be doing to get back on my feet as soon as possible. He and all the rest of the guards made sure to harangue me every day, making sure I wasn’t slacking off. It was like having 15 different physical therapists riding my ass.

And so it was that after triumphantly walking up to the Kiosko for water at 11pm on a Sunday, a 20 minute walk that took the better part of an hour, I returned to the boat feeling better than I’d felt in a long time. All the anger and frustration had been leached away, siphoned off by each and every person who stopped me to make sure that everything was ok.


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