Last Thursday, I flew into the air quite unexpectedly. I’m not referring to a dream, but something that actually happened while awake.
Moments before the incident, I lounged in a gazebo with my sister Jodee. She and I had enjoyed a relaxing sister getaway. Jodee had reserved a two-bedroom guest house on the website Airbnb. Located in Scottsdale, the charming guest house sat in the backyard of a 10,000 square-foot, or maybe 20,000 square foot, mansion that had the look of a massive mausoleum with cement columns and circular driveway. The owners pulled their BMWs into the driveway minutes after we drove in. They escorted us to our guest house and encouraged us to use the swimming pool, hot tub, and gazebo; privileges that came with our overnight stay.
After dinner, Jodee and I climbed the steps to the gazebo and lounged in the soft sling back chairs. We luxuriated in the surrounding tropical flowers and watched desert birds bouncing from branch to branch in the eucalyptus trees. We felt a soft breeze as the sun dipped below the horizon and the clouds lit up the sky in a blaze of fiery pink.
As it grew darker, Jodee said, “I’m going in now. Watch your step as you go down these stairs.” Shadows of darkness flooded around us and I decided to follow. I watched my step as I descended the stairs leading to our guest house. My night vision, having grown worse over the years, failed me. I missed two steps and launched myself into the air like one of those humans shot out of a cannon. I landed “splaaaat” on the pool’s deck, a slate rock surface. I heard everything in my body go “ka-runnnnnch” as I smacked hard against the pavement. I couldn’t breathe. Am I dead?
“Bronwyn, are you okay?” I heard a voice say. Is this an angel in heaven? I couldn’t move due to the pain soaring through my body. I looked up and noticed my angel looked just like Jodee.
As a matter of fact, my angel was Jodee. She helped me up and let me lean on her as I took painful one-inch steps back to our guest house. Jodee took ice out of our refrigerator and told me to put it on my black and blue ankle, swollen the size of a watermelon.
I called Jerry at home. “Do you have aspirin or an Ace bandage?” he asked. I told him we didn’t have either. He said, “I’ll drive it out to you right now.”
Our guest house was an hour’s drive away from our home. I told Jerry I’d be alright. His offer, though, made me realize what a special person he is.
I couldn’t move my right leg and my hip blasted me with more pain than my watermelon-sized ankle. That night I couldn’t sleep. About 3 a.m., my body felt hot and my teeth chattered. The thought of calling 911 came to mind, but I decided against it as the chattering subsided.
Prior to my fall from grace~or in this case~graceless fall from stairs, Jodee and I had enjoyed a splendid day, feasting on avocado and prosciutto with sunny side up egg on toast at the Phoenician’s outdoor patio. The Phoenician is an elegant resort with cactus gardens and trees sporting perfectly-clipped bowl haircuts. Our day continued with massages and facials at a nearby spa. Little did I realize that all my relaxation would end in sheer pain.
Jodee drove me home the next morning and I took Advil and went to bed. I had bruises and cuts on my body and pain shot through my right leg. As I write this, I still can’t walk very easily without pain.
This experience reminds me how life is so uncertain. You can be enjoying a mind-blowing sunset one minute and the next minute be writhing in pain on a slate rock deck in Scottsdale.
In the book The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, the first chapter begins, “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”
She recounts her own experience of preparing dinner while chatting with her husband, who sat at the dining room table. Then, without warning, her husband slumps over the table. “Oh. Don’t do that,” she admonished him, thinking he had decided to play a sick joke. The norm would be to think it’s a prank rather than believe her husband had just died while she mixed a salad. But he had died right in the middle of their conversation.
Life changes fast. I’m thinking back to the day I’m riding with my husband (not Jerry but my former husband). He’s driving. It’s a gorgeous morning in Palmdale, California. The sky is a cloudless blue and the Joshua trees stand poised on the roadside looking like ballerinas with spiky green tutus on their numerous raised arms. I’m 25-years old and my life is filled with promise. My husband and I are planning to get a Cocker Spaniel puppy. But our conversation on this morning isn’t about puppies. My husband tells me he doesn’t want to be married. I stare at the Joshua trees, which no longer look like ballerinas but more like the guy with the raised knife in the Psycho shower scene.
Life changes fast. I’m thinking back to the sunny afternoon in Garden Grove, California. I’m in the fifth grade and my friend and classmate Peggy invites me to her house. I call my dad from Peggy’s house and tell him Peggy has invited me to stay for dinner. He tells me to come home and when I arrive he has all the drapes in the windows closed. In the dark, he speaks in a ghost-like voice informing my sister and me that our mother has died. But how can this be? It was such a wonderful day.
How many times have we read or heard how perfect a day it was on 9/11 before the plane hit the first tower?
It’s hard for us to comprehend how life changes fast when life seems so promising and normal. Shouldn’t we have warning when our husband is about to dump us? Maybe black thunderstorms would prepare us more for the shock. Or when we lose our job or our wallet or our loved one?
What I do know is this: When life smacks you hard with an unexpected event, you have the comfort of knowing who has your back. My fall reminded me how important Jerry and Jodee are to me.
When life changes fast through the loss of a loved one, a spouse who wants a divorce, a doctor’s diagnosis, the loss of a job, or a fall that feels like a giant brick smashing your insides, I’m reminded to be grateful because I know I have people in my life who have my back. And even more, I know without a doubt whatsoever that God has my back too.