I broke my leg. Actually, it was more than a break.
On my left leg, the outside ankle broke completely off. After the bicycle crashed on the fresh asphalt of my alley, I lay in pain, deciding if I should call for help. I could see the door of my alley house rental was wide open. Maybe the tenant could hear me?
There was no sound of running steps; no one called out. The door stood cheerily in place open to the sunshine and soft breezes that make a beautiful Spring day memorable. Instead, however, a woman and man — strangers — stood over me, peered down at my body sprawled on the hard surface and one of them asked, “Did you hit my car?”
I struggled to raise myself to rest on one elbow, the gritty asphalt cutting into my skin, creating a fresh smear of blood when before only the dirty cuts and scrapes had been confined to my legs.
“I think the bike tire hit it…but I was…pretty much stopped by then…” I gasped out the words because everything hurt and I couldn’t leverage my right leg to put me in a sitting position. I lay back down.
“Could you please go to that open door right there…and get my tenant? Just go knock on the gate and call out for Terri. Tell her Francine needs help.”
Before anyone could move, I heard a pop, two gasps and a soft cry. Perched at last on the bleeding elbow I was able to look down at my foot. It flopped to the side — to the side — like a bird with a broken neck. It’s not supposed to look like that, I was thinking. Feet don’t go sideways like that. It’s hanging by the skin, disconnected to tendons or bones.
The woman jumped into action, pounded the wooden gate, calling, “Terrie! Terrie!”
Her partner stared at my odd-angled foot, mesmerized by a sight that is not supposed to be. A sideways foot in a sandal with baby-blue polished toes pointing 90 degrees to the left, flopping on the ground. It was not pretty.
“Terrie, you have to take me to the hospital, please pull your car up behind me and let’s try to get me on the seat. My purse is still in my passenger seat in the driveway, can one of you get it please?”
By the time we drove the ten blocks to the hospital emergency room, the foot was turning black and swollen. Terrie and I managed to set me in a wheelchair and roll through the glass sliding doors. Soon afterwards I found myself lying on a clean steel table underneath an x-ray machine. The technicians both broke into nervous laughter as the images were recorded.
“Have you seen any of these x-rays?” one asked.
“No, this just happened.”
“Well, this is about the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Wait until you see this.” They proceeded to take about 40 images, moving my dying foot back and forth in tiny increments. “Just a few more…”
Finally, a doctor came into the room, looked at my foot and picked up an x-ray.
“Have you see these?” he asked.
It’s a year later.
I have an 8-inch titanium plate securing the left side of my ankle to my leg. The right side is a mash-up of bone, scar tissue and a tendons that could not risk the infection of an operation because of the compromised skin. The 21 pieces of the shattered fibula are growing into a painful lump that will fill with arthritis, I’m told. The only other alternative was amputation.
The story is long, the suffering was acute and there are many lessons that I still have to share along the way. But last night I had dinner in the flower fields, drinking wine and eating utterly delicious gourmet courses among strangers that became friends. I was surrounded by color, an ocean view, delightful fragrances, sunbeams and my wonderful daughter who had died her hair purple that afternoon. Beauty — take your breath away beauty — surrounded me, my flowery dress, my limping foot, and my grateful heart.
I’m no saint. I lashed out at people and lost friendships during the past year. Felt sorry for myself, cried and spewed anger all over the place, just like many of us do. Like most of us do at one time or another.
But beauty is a healer. A friend took me to the beach. I spent some time in the mountains. I listen to fun, funky and beautiful blues and do it regular, even though my brain and my foot are at odds and I’ll never dance again like I did.
Beauty comes to one who pursues it and smacks into the eye of the beholder.
And last night I ate dinner in the flower fields.