There’s a famous scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” that almost everybody knows. It’s plague season, and Eric Idle wanders through the village streets yelling, “Bring out your dead!” People toss bodies on the wagon like it’s recycling day.
And then there’s that one guy who just can’t get with the program. He’s on the wagon of death, and he lifts up his head like a baby bird and croaks, “I’m not dead yet!”
This is me.
I sit in the exam room of my general practitioner, whom I haven’t seen since before my twins were born. They are almost four. But now, here I am, watching her strap a boot to my foot. It looks like an animal trap or the medical version of a Birkenstock, and it makes me walk like a zombie.
She helps me off the table and hands me orders for an x-ray across town.
She wants to know why it took me a month to come see her after the injury. But “the injury” is one of those fluke things that happen when all you have time to think is “I’m an idiot” in that deep, slow-motion voice before it’s all over and done.
I dropped my son’s wheelchair on my foot, across all the tiny bones that look as thin as wishbones when you point your toes. I was unloading the wheelchair from the van – something I’ve done successfully a thousand times. Until this one time.
So, I hobbled around for a month, not telling my husband and not telling my son’s physical therapist, who gave me the side-eye when I limped in.
Time heals all wounds. That’s what they say when you get your feelings hurt or have a throw down over the dinner table during the holidays. But time, in this instance, is not going to cut it. There is no magicking my way out of this one, no Harry Potter knitting of bones that can make me whole.
“Who’s got time for this?” I think, as I look down at my Frankenfoot in the parking lot.
I’ve never been really and truly incapacitated as a parent. The closest I come to incapacitation are when the migraines come on slow and hard and make my eyeballs feel like they’re rattling around in their sockets like gravel in a tailpipe. On those days, I blink and grind away at the hours. I move very slowly, like the house is set with tripwire. But still, I “carry on carry on” as Queen would say.
You vow “in sickness and in health” and “until death do us part” when you wed, but really, no truer words could be spoken about parenthood. You’re a mom when you’re vomiting and a mom when you’re not. You’re a mom with and without the flu, with and without the broken foot or the migraine or the stomach bug. You can’t unpeel that label.
It’s different, though, when your kid can’t fend for himself as easily as his peers. My son’s not great in the wheelchair. If I’m not there, he’ll get himself stuck in a corner like a wind-up toy bumping against walls with nowhere to go. If I’m not there, he can’t get himself into a chair or the van or onto the toilet or out the door. If I’m not there….
That’s the thing I can’t explain to the doctor when she asks why it took me a month to get my foot checked out. How do you explain that your immobility could bring the family to a crashing halt? How do you explain that perambulation is a great freedom and a great responsibility that no one in my house takes lightly?
Eventually, bodies break down, and so I am wearing the Frankenboot, and it looks so much worse than if I’d just let it go. But I am shambling along, and my son is rolling along, and we are on the move. For now, that’s enough for us to haul ourselves off the wagon and carry on.