My mind races, unable to settle on one thought, nor give over to the sleep I crave. My stomach gurgles and churns stimulated by the anticipation of tomorrow’s endeavor. It’s always this way before a hike. Even a familiar one. One I’m sure I can do.
Because sure is not always a sure thing.
You see, I hike using forearm crutches. Have to watch where my feet land to avoid trips and stumbles. Really seeing the scenery means stopping to cast my gaze upward. Progress is slow. I move over to let people pass. And they do. Constantly. Their stares often precede a quick look away; sometimes followed by an “Atta girl,” “ Wow” or “You’re amazing.” One young man, seeing me clambering over rocks on an Oregon shore, looked me up and down before exclaiming “Lady, you’re killin’ it. Way to go!” Sometimes it’s just a silent thumbs up.
I guess, at 71, I ‘m expected to be home watching television. Yet, if I were to believe it, I am now some stranger’s hero. I’m not really; I know that. They are just being kind. I acknowledge with a nod and a quick “Thanks.” I look back at the ground ahead of me.
I’d prefer to be like everyone else. You know…old, young, fat, thin, looking at the trees and mountains as I nimble foot it up the trail. But I’m not. My crutches betray me. On the other hand, I couldn’t do it without them. At least I’m out here doin’ it. I tell myself, “Atta girl.”
I’d like to wear a t-shirt that says “ This is NOT the ME that I know.”
The me that I know rode a bicycle across the United States, east coast to west coast.
The me that I know, in my youth, played softball and basketball and field hockey.
The me that I know bicycled from New Mexico to Jasper, Canada. Then, just for fun, rode up the steep Edith Cavell mountain road to do a hike at the top. Just for fun. Atta girl.
A mosquito bite. A partially paralyzed left leg. Everything changed. Still, I’m out there doin’ it. Atta girl.
Home from vacation, I lean my crutches up against the garage wall. They are a mix of two sets; one pink, one blue. Perhaps I should name this newest combo. How about Ebb and Flo? That sounds about right to me. Sorta like my life.
We three, waiting for the next adventure. No regrets, off we’ll go. Team Atta Girl!
Gail Ouimet copyright © 2019