Sunday, February 8, 2015

Marked on the Bones

I have a faint bruise on my left shin. It's been there a year now, ever since that nasty tumble I took outside my back door last February, a fall I wrote briefly about last winter, and one I still remember each time I open that door. The bruise, in its long-present reminder of missteps of the past, is much like any indelible mark of time, quietly awaiting in the peripheral for a moment to raise its hand and say, "Hey, remember me? I'm still here."

Each time I step out the back door, I remember that night. I had just finished watching the movie Nebraska and put the leashes on the dogs to go for a walk in the backyard. The dogs were first out the door and toward the one brick step that leads to the  concrete slab of a patio. Stella went first, followed by George, and then me. Something must have caught George's eye and he hesitated as he approached the step. I didn't see this hesitation and proceeded in our normal fashion. My left foot caught George's back end and I stumbled forward, losing my balance, bumbling down the step and onto the patio. I tried to regain my footing but I was pitched too far forward and landed just off the side of the concrete.

I could see the last moments in slow motion. My hands were outstretched and the green grass was coming up close as I fell forward. Worst of all, I could see that George was right below me, in direct line of my fall. I remember this being in slow
motion, but there was no time to change any of the circumstances. As my right hand came down on the grass, my left hand landed squarely on George's back, with the full force of my body behind it.

I thought the worst had happened. My little George took the brunt of the fall. His little 16 pound frame took the full weight of my falling self. I feared I had just caused him tragic injuries.

Once the fall stopped, I immediately flipped myself over on my back and off of George. As I reached toward him to check him for injuries, he jumped on my chest. I lay on my back, in the cold February grass while George stood on top of my chest, barking like he had never barked before. He was mad. At me. Who could blame him? He thought, I'm sure, that I had intentionally hit him (which I would never do) and he was fighting back. I ran my hands down his furry body, checking for broken ribs or winces of pain, but he did not react except for angry barks. He was pissed!

Painfully, I sat up and continued to check George for injuries while calmly talking to him. After a few moments, he stopped barking, realized it was a misunderstanding, and nuzzled my shoulder in the way he does when he wants a hug. Thankfully, he was unharmed, though I still do not know how he emerged unscathed. George and I sat in the grass, hugging and happy, when I finally noticed Stella. She was sitting five feet away, quietly waiting for all the fuss to stop so I would finish walking her. She was ahead of us when we fell and did not see the fall. She only heard the commotion afterwards.

When I tried to get to my feet, I realized what I had damaged. While my upper body landed on the grass (and little George), my lower body landed on the concrete, The edge of the concrete, a sharp unforgiving corner, hit me at mid-shin. I looked down at my legs in the dim light to see two large knots rising beneath the scraped skin. I tried to push myself up with my arms and immediately realized the blow they received because of the pain that shot through my shoulders when I tried to rise from the grassy landing spot. I moaned my way to my hands and knees before finally standing. And I hurt.

Somehow, my loose clogs stayed on my feet.

Ever since that night, the memory flashes through my brain each time I open that door and head outside. I am much more cautious and keenly aware of where the dogs are before I place one foot forward toward that brick step. I was lucky once -- or rather, George was lucky once. I don't want to tempt fate. Besides, I still was not fully healed. A deep bone bruise still added a slight discoloration to my left shin. Now, that's attractive.

When asked, the doctor said bone bruises such as this take a long time to heal, sometimes a year, and can take longer as we age. That, of course, is the physical healing. That may take longer than a younger person, but I have to say, the mental healing is opposite of that. In youth, the physical effects of such a blow heals quickly but the mental or emotional healing takes longer. As we mature, the physical body may no longer respond quickly, but the emotional body bounces back. I guess over time, we learn how to quick-step the healing on that, despite the lagging repair of our body.

As I sit here with my furry children laying nearby, I am thankful that a bruise is the only lingering effect from that trip out the back door. George, my sweet little trooper, was completely unscathed in the melee, and Stella thankfully did not see what happened (because she is my emotionally sensitive one). If I have to carry this bruise like a tattoo for the rest of my days, it will be worth it. It is welcome to be a long-term reminder of what happened and what thankfully didn't happen. Wearing the scars and bruises of life prove to us an everlasting fact: we survived.

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