My phd study promotor is a kind and soft-spoken professor with razor-sharp wit and a passion for medical law. The less interesting thing about him is that he is quadriplegic.
At school he was a competitive sportsman and popular among friends. Just before he was to start his university studies, he and some friends visited a local dam to fish, swim and relax. The boys dove into the water, ignoring the warning signs that square concrete blocks were randomly scattered all around that part of the dam, and hidden by the dark surface of the water. My promotor dove head first into the water and collided with just such a concrete block. He broke his neck. In a moment so small it almost did not echo in time, his entire life had changed.
I always admired my promotor’s incontrovertible sense of precision, his discipline and his resilience. He has managed more success in his lifetime than most people and he has not the slightest bit of bitterness about his inabilities.
During the last 8 weeks of lying with my broken ankle in the air, self-pity has nested in my thoughts and drawn parallels between my promotor’s great courage and patience, and my stupid yet temporary inability to move to the bathroom in under 30 seconds. I never doubted that I would walk again and this certainty carried my mood from day to day. I don’t know how my promotor – a celebrated athlete in his day – picked himself up and maintained his wonderfulness on a daily basis knowing that his inabilities are permanent.
His courage and strength obviously far outweigh my own.
I started walking again yesterday! The ankle is stiffer than a pig at a barbeque and I still have to use crutches, but I can walk. I’m in awe of my body and its ability to heal and respond and heal and forgive. Slowly and unsurely my ankle carries me from the bedroom to the kitchen. It doesn’t want to play hard and it doesn’t want to get crazy, but it carries my weight and it complies with the exercises.
I hope I don’t forget this. I hope I remain deeply grateful for the ability to walk. I hope I remain in awe of the ability to turn and stop and bend and tippy toe. It’s an ability that can leave us in a moment so small it almost does not echo in time…
Walking has never felt so wonderful.