Bad things shouldn't happen to little girls, but when they do, it's easier to bear when the little girls are warriors, willing to fight for every gain possible or promised or tantalizingly just out of reach. Thanks to Little Cuter and SIR getting hitched, TBG and I have such a warrior in our midst these days.
She's wearing the bracelet that Brigitte gave me after I was shot, a flat leather contraption that came with a love note extolling my strength and my courage. I wasn't feeling particularly strong or courageous when I opened the box last year; but reading that someone I admired thought I was gave me that little extra boost I needed.
Because that's the funky little secret hiding behind all the progress I seem to be making. I need to be shoved in order to move on. The gains are slow and awkward and often seem two steps forward and three steps back. I feel great and I overdo it and I suffer and I sit and I regress and I have only myself to blame. I'm not much of a self-motivator when I'm feeling blue.
Of course I want to have a fluid gait. Of course I want to walk through Costco without needing a cart to hold me up. Of course I want to hike the Linda Vista Trail, with its uncertain footing and steep inclines and declines. Of course I do. It's just that getting there is taking so long... and aches so much... and is so damn boring.
Now, none of my instructors should take this amiss. I love you all. Each and every one of you puts my interests above your own, goes out of her way to be sure that I am safe and not doing damage, and none of you seems to care the slightest bit that I am exhausted and achy while you put me through my paces. I know you love me. I just wish there were a less painful way for you to show it.
The fact is that the hours I spend under tutelage are only as good as the hours I spend reinforcing the teachings. First among that which I am supposed to do is walk.... for a long time... with proper form... using my poles if I need them.... but moving with power and alacrity and symmetry. Easy for you to say.
I tried walking on Christina's path by myself. I did it. I didn't enjoy it. I walked with Amster and I walked with Elizibeth and I am proud to say that I kept up with them the entire way. I only made them stop when further movement was impossible; it didn't happen that often. That's three walks in a month; I'm not getting very much better any faster at that rate.
That's what brought me to Prince Elementary School's playground at recess. I put on my coat of many colors, fill the pockets with stickers, and my hiking poles and I begin walking around the track surrounding the playing field.
There was an advantage to starting my career as the school's Official Adopted Grandmother in a kindergarten classroom. Those students are now in second grade and consider me an old friend. Of course I remember their names, their smiles, their stories, their hugs. It's a shy reverence I see in their eyes. Those getting-bigger-every-day boys saw me in my walker, barely able to sit straight in a chair. Now, I'm galumphing around their schoolyard, twenty classmates following in my wake.
Yes, I am still shot. Yes, I am using those sticks to help me walk. Yes, I am walking. It's a wonder to their eyes, as it is to mine. Their presence reminds me of where I was and where I am. My issues are now with form, style, grace. The numbness and atrophy are less of an issue every day; there is now tone where before there was none. My companions think I'm a miracle.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - it is impossible to be sad when surrounded by little ones with hugs to share. We walk a lap, singing our A-B-C's and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Row Row Row Your Boat and Feliz Navidad until it became obvious that we only knew those two words, and those two words alone, to the song. We stop under the shade of the tree and I hand out a sticker to everyone who walked all the way around with me.
And then, we start again. It's five laps to a mile, over the requisite uneven surface my PT demands. There's lots of pushing and jostling as the walkers jockey for position by my side. I'd pay more attention to the goings on if I weren't concentrating on moving forward and singing at the same time. Good form will have to wait til I get stronger, I think. For now, that shade tree can't come soon enough.
I tell them the story of Christina-Taylor looking forward to talking to her Congresswoman. We talk about her forgotten sweatshirt and I laugh at the faces they make when I ask them to show me how she looked when her mom sent her back inside to get it. They listen to us driving across Ina to the grocery store parking lot, CTG formulating her question for Gabby, leaving that sweatshirt on the front seat of my car, and signing up to receive information so that she could be an informed citizen.
We spend more time on the civics lesson than we do on the bullets and the loss. They're little kids. That's the way it should be. We do talk about my three bullet wounds, especially the one in my butt. Want to get a laugh? Say butt out loud to a 7 year old. Through the laughter, I talk about my shattered hip, the scar through my quadriceps, the damage to the tissue, my limp. I like it when they're giggling as I talk about why I'm lurching.
I tell them that I have to walk as part of my therapy. I tell them that I can't make myself do it on my own. I tell them that they are helping me to heal by keeping me walking. I tell them the truth - without them I would not be getting much better. The third and fourth graders seem to be catching on; they pushed me to do two laps in a row last Friday.
I suppose I ought to be careful what I wish for. I seem to have created a grade full of therapy monsters.
I couldn't be happier about it.