Adventure Contemporary

‘Twas the night before I lost my right arm.

Ok that might be a slight exaggeration but for all intents and purposes the exact truth.

I sit with a stuffed turtle given to me by a feral young woman who pulled it out of her backpack and insisted I needed it.

We had never met before but she told me she’d dreamed about me and that she was told to give me her turtle. 

She told me her name was Morning Star and that it was time for me to listen to her turtle and that his message was, “Slow down!” 

We both cry as I hold her in my arms. We each understand that we’ve been brought together by some force much greater than either of us. I know that I must heed the message this broken creature had brought to me. I know that my strength is to be sorely tested and I believe that I will heed her advice.

Sometimes I go back to a place I remember from a long time ago.

My body is young and strong. 

For several years, my mother had watched my graceful maneuvers and decided to enroll me in ballet. Somehow she found the money to buy a gorgeous pink tutu and the ultimate prize, a pair of genuine ballet shoes with steel points in the toes.

I was beyond ecstatic and lived in anticipation of my weekly lessons.

I was four, maybe five and would put those shoes on every day, dancing and twirling around the house and outside until my mother caught me and forced me back inside.

I loved to balance on one foot, toe to floor, leg stretched taut while I would swirl around in circles, my long wavy hair flowing like a cloud around my head.

I remember hearing people talking about how graceful I was. Once I heard a friend of my mother’s whisper, “It’s like her feet aren’t even touching the ground.”

I was fearful that she noticed something I believed myself to have imagined.

There were many times that as I moved across a solid surface, I would look down and swear I was up in the clouds. 

That place, miles above what often seemed like a battlefield, was a place of safety for me. 

Over the years, each time I descended into the war zone, I sensed danger all around me.

I was a rather slim child, mostly due to chronic tonsillitis that left me unable to swallow food. I had the tonsils removed at seven, filled out a bit more but retained my gracefulness and still loved to dance.

What I did gain was access to physical strength that had been somewhat compromised by my many years of illness.

People began to speak, somewhat in awe, of how strong I was. 

Apparently that strength left other children a little fearful of displeasing me, especially if I felt the need to protect vulnerable creatures.

When I was in grade 1 there was a boy I adored. His name was Ian Tetlock and though by today's research he would most likely have been diagnosed as autistic, he was labeled “retarded”. 

He was teased ruthlessly by most of the other kids.

My father once told the story of my friendship with this boy and how I rose to his protection against playground bullies, even those older and bigger than me.

Someone questioned why they didn’t come after me as well.

My father went to answer, pensively paused for a few moments and then replied, “I think they were afraid of her!”

And so they should have been. For even though I could probably have taken them on in a physical altercation, it was my tongue they were most afraid of. 

I had a gift for discerning a person’s most vulnerable weakness and then stabbing that spot with a sharp comment that seemed to have the effect of a steel blade.

I used this gift carefully and deeply appreciated that it gave Ian and I the freedom to be left alone.

While most of the others played their little games, the girls swinging and dancing about while the boys tried to see up their dresses, Ian and I would wander off into nearby fields.

This boy was amazing in his observations of minutiae. I watched him carefully and listened intently as he explained all the details of the many creatures that inhabited the world of our playground.

We would lie quietly in the grass as ants carried found bounty across great odds to their private domain.

Ian taught me to use my sense of smell to detect where these homes were. To this day, I can still taste that acrid odour produced by ants and am led to the portal entrance of their home.

Several years passed, my family moved a few miles to a newer farm and I went to another school. I lost touch with Ian and yet, almost 70 years later, if I close my eyes I can still see the pair of us lying quietly watching ants work.

My next school was run by nuns and ruled by a priest who did their best to indoctrinate me into one of the largest cults in existence. 

The indoctrination, though fascinating, did not quite reduce me to becoming a faithful follower. I endured the attempts til I was old enough to refuse further brainwashing and wandered out into the heathen world.

To be honest, some of the fear of what I’d been taught stuck to my conscience. It took many years to trust that the deity I’d been told was 1.a man, 2. Somewhat demanding and 3.quite vengeful, didn’t really exist.

It took much strength to resist the scolding and harsh warnings about the place I was going if I didn’t smarten up and tow the party line.

My eternal gratitude is that strength came to me through the loving guidance of a Creator that seemed both gender less and forgiving by nature. I was able to find much peace and serenity as I surrendered more and more to a Higher Power whose strength far surpassed my own.

Sadly I still had many lessons to learn.

As I became an adult my physical strength increased and I found myself able to do what few women could and many men also.

I reveled in the arrogance of this reality, doing my best to use it to my advantage.

Sadly, I injured my body in ways that laid the way to much future pain.

By the time I was 50, arthritis had begun to attack my joints.

By 60 I had to concede to the humiliation of using a cane.

At 70, my pride took another blow and I added a walker to my arsenal.

Did I slow down? 

I hear the snorts of those who know me well.

Slow was not a word in my vocabulary and once again I began to pay a heavy price for not heeding the many warnings that came my way.

I did my best to practice slowing down and to some extent was successful. 

Then came the medical verdict.

I needed two new knees, work on my left hip and the most urgent work to be done required the total replacement of my right shoulder.

I took this diagnosis in stride, arrogantly believing I’d quickly recover from each operation, becoming an older version of the bionic woman.

I received the news that my operation was scheduled. I attended all the pre operation meetings and began to realize that recovery was going to be much more complicated than I’d ever imagined.

At 75 I would need to forgo the use of my dominant hand, relying solely on the other and this process would be weeks, if not months before true healing would be finished.

I’ve done my best to prepare for the operation. My paperwork is all in place, I’ve endeavored to make peace with all my near and dear and I am ready to face whatever comes my way.

And so I sit awaiting the morning. 

I’ll be driven by a friend to the hospital. 

I’ll be operated on two hours later, hopefully with my right arm intact.

I believe I WILL make it off the table and I pray fervently that my mind will finally grasp what my body has been so desperately pleading for.

My deepest wish is that I finally understand, it is OK to slow down. 

My tears fall upon the head of the sweet turtle given to me by MorningStar and in his eyes I see complete belief that I can do it.

I gently wrap my arms around my body and whisper…Namaste🙏 

June 04, 2024 01:10

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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