Right or Wrong

This morning, everything went wrong.

David had two morning appointments at the Denver VA. The drive takes a little over an hour, so we got up early and tried to expedite. Even so, we were cutting it close by the time we left the house, so David hurried going out the back door – and fell.

I caught him but couldn’t get him upright, so I lowered him to the ground. Then I went in search of a neighbor. None of my usual sources were home, but little Vanessa from next door ran over to help. The two of us got him up and back on track without even a bruise, but we’d lost time.

Then, of course, traffic in Denver was horrendous. Trying to park at the VA was worse. We wound up in a metered pile of plowed snow, hoping we wouldn’t be ticketed for sticking out so far into the street. By the time we got ourselves into the building, we were 30 minutes late for David’s first appointment.

I hate being late!

They’d given his time slot to an early bird, which makes sense, so we waited. And waited. By the time the tech rolled him back to a little room for the first appointment, he was already late for the second one. After half an hour of being heaved about, prodded, turned, and invaded by cold instruments, David settled into his wheelchair and looked up at the tech.

“Do you like your work?” he asked.

“I love it,” she said. As she took us down the maze of corridors to his next appointment—for which he was now extremely late—she talked animatedly about how she likes to help people and how her job lets her do that. The next tech, also a woman, met us with a smile. David looked up at her.

“Are you missing lunch because of me?” he asked.

This is a big part of why I love this man. Instead of taking away his ability to lean toward people and draw them out, the accident has made David even more sensitive and thoughtful.

Sometimes when everything goes wrong, I get to see how right it really is.

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The Cold, Hard Truth

The December after David and I went back to work, we led a marriage seminar in the conference room of a local hotel. We had to be there early in the morning, so I packed our car the night before with everything we should need, including the wheelchair.

My organizational skills paid off. We got there in plenty of time, found a parking spot, and wheeled inside. Throughout the morning, David taught his sessions with composure, clear thinking, and good humor. An amazing feat, considering our newest lesson learned.

Here it is:

If the seat of your wheelchair has a gel pack, don’t leave it in a below-freezing car overnight. Not unless you want to spend the next morning sitting on a block of solid ice that won’t thaw for hours and hours and hours….

One of Many Heroes

My favorite part of what David’s accident has brought into our lives is the heroes we’ve met.

During our months at Craig Hospital, we met several. One man, Jack, had been a paraplegic for 20 years. He worked as a salesman, and I’ll bet he was a good one. Jack was at Craig because he’d recently fallen down a flight of stairs in his manual wheelchair. He was adapting to being a quadriplegic and using a sip-and-puff electric wheelchair.

I don’t know when I’ve ever met a more cheerful, encouraging person. No “All those years of suffering and now this!” for him. When David got his wheelchair stuck in the elevator door and was growling with humiliated frustration, Jack came over to commiserate and tell funny stories on himself.

Hero with a capital H.

The Best and the Worst

After he broke his neck, David and I learned a lot about each other. The strong areas in our marriage showed up powerfully. So did the weak areas. It’s not surprising so many couples divorce in the first few years after this kind of injury.

By God’s grace, we’ve been gradually strengthening the weak areas. We’re also learning more and more to value each other’s strengths. David perseveres – that’s why he ran marathons and I didn’t. I’m creative – that’s why I’m the artist and writer. He plugs away at the disciplines of therapy, of just keeping at standing, walking, trying, when he’s tired and it hurts. I can come up with new ideas for how to make these disciplines more effective.

Hard times bring out the best and the worst. We’re finding a lot of best.

Point of View

This morning I sat in church feeling tired, frazzled, and grouchy. “It’s not worth the effort to get here,” I thought.

Getting myself ready, helping David get ready, taking the heavy e-motion wheels off the chair and putting on what we call the “travel” wheels, taking cushion and legs off the chair so I can fold and stuff it into the back of the car, folding the walker once David’s in the car and cramming it into the back seat, pulling up at the church and hauling out everything I’ve just put in, rolling David into the foyer and rushing back out to find a parking spot, hurrying back, wedging ourselves into the tiny elevator, up and out, weaving our way through the crowd outside the sanctuary, squeezing through the doorway, unhooking a couple of chairs so we can fit the wheelchair in….

After the service started, two women went up front to talk about an upcoming mission trip to India and Nepal. One explained the trip itself. The other, who’s 82 years old and has been severely disabled since birth, took the mike, smiled broadly, and asked, “So, why am I going?”

Because of her speech difficulties, it was hard to understand everything she said, but I clearly heard this part. “There are plenty of people with disabilities where we’re going. Who can better tell them that God loves someone like me?”

Worth the effort.

Rebroken

This is a season when the changes seem hard.

I’m not sure why. No big anniversaries. In June, not quite 4 years ago, we moved to Colorado Springs. Two months later, David broke his neck while bicycling home from work. The halo came off in December, and we came home from 4 months at Craig Hospital in Denver.

For a while, when people talked about “the new normal,” I wanted to kick them. But that’s what it’s become over this last year. Maybe that’s why it seems hard. I don’t want to just slide into this normal and let it roll us along.

Instead, I want to look at what it means to live now.

That’s what I want to dig into.