Chapter Three: Wallow, Follow, Lead

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 Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.”
John Donne (1572–1631), English metaphysical poet

My wife Heather broke her ankle slipping on the ice in our driveway while taking the recycling bins to the curb for pickup. No one heard her cries for help as she lay in excruciating pain. The snow banks prevented any of our neighbors or people driving by from noticing her plight. She resolutely dragged herself back up the frozen driveway to the side door steps. She was yelling for me or our teenage kids, but we couldn’t hear her. We were inside the house with the doors and windows sealed tight against the winter deep freeze. She resorted to throwing snowballs and chunks of ice at the door to get someone’s attention.

When no one responded, Heather dragged her pain-racked and nearly hypothermic body up the porch stairs and managed to open the door. With more yelling (it’s a wonder she could muster the strength), she finally got our attention. Chris and I tried to help her stand up but her pain was too intense. After being rushed to the hospital by ambulance, she had emergency surgery to repair her shattered ankle. She was off work for weeks and took months to fully recuperate.

With her leg in a cast propped up on a chair, she retold her story numerous times to family members and friends during the Christmas holidays. She’d always end by sincerely reflecting on how lucky she was. “I could have easily hit my head on the big rock in the garden beside the driveway and seriously hurt or killed myself,” Heather would say. “Or I could have smashed my wrist or broken my arm, too. I was just lucky it happened before everyone went to school or work or the house would have been empty.” She often spoke compassionately about how other people in the surgical recovery ward at the hospital were in much worse shape. During her stay, she tried to cheer them up.

Rick broke his leg falling off a ladder when he leaned over too far putting Christmas lights on his house. He lay in agonizing pain among the low shrubs near his front porch. He alternately swore and yelled for help. No one heard him. He threw twigs and snow at the front window but could not get a response. When he tried to move, the extreme pain caused him to faint. He awoke and proceeded to yell and curse himself hoarse. He finally lay back in the snow, growing colder and colder. About two hours later his wife came looking for him. Rick had just enough voice left to scream at her for not getting her butt out there sooner.

At the hospital, Rick complained bitterly about the twenty minutes he had to wait for his diagnosis that surgery would be required. During his recovery, Rick was angry about the food, nurses who didn’t respond immediately to his every whim, the other “jerks” in his ward, and the weeks of work he’d miss. He bitterly pronounced that this was “some kind of Christmas present.” He reserved his fiercest fury for his wife and kids for not hearing him calling them after his fall. “It figures! You never listen to me.”

During his convalescence, friends or family visiting during Christmas holidays repeatedly heard Rick decry the unfairness of his situation. “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,” he complained. “And, of course, it’s my right foot. So I can’t even drive the car. But what else would you expect?” He’d provide the litany of activities he was missing out on during the holidays and at work. “And it will take months for me to recover.” The only thing that cheered him up was his plan to sue the ladder manufacturer.

Groaning or Growing



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Introduction

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