Saturday, September 21, 2019

Woman Down at the Beach

"Ah yeah ah...we have a woman down on the ground here at Pensacola Beach. Not sure what happened, but she fell and then she got up and then she went down..."

I could hear a man's voice trying to describe what had happened, but I couldn't speak. I was fighting my way back to consciousness.

All I was trying to do was go shelling at the beach.

I was on my way from my car to the restroom, which is the custom before a long walk. Restroom first. If you're over 60, you don't need a translator. A little toddler on the sidewalk was trying to sweep the sand with her hand, and her effort made me smile but also distracted me. I wasn't looking ahead,  and the moment my sandal connected with the edge of that sidewalk (right where the sand and sidewalk met), I went flying through the air and skidded across the hot, sandy cement.

Breaking a fall usually includes broken bones, so I am grateful to be typing this with no broken anything that I know of at the moment. There is a layer of skin missing from my left knee and elbow, but the right hand that helped break the fall only has gouges from the sand-covered pavement. It could have been so much worse (broken nose and teeth come to mind). 

It was early Saturday morning, because early guarantees fewer people and plenty of parking. This Saturday was different. There was an event called the Pensacola Beach Brawl, which is an annual fitness event. How fortunate for me! I fell and I'm not exactly a light load to lift, so all these strong people were around just in time to help me up!

One muscular chap with a bushy beard was yelling, "Open your eyes, sweetheart. Open your eyes and stay with us here!" I opened my eyes and tried to focus. All I could see was sunglasses and a beard, and then my eyes closed. I was willing myself not to black out again...

Loud Questions:
What's your name, ma'am?
How old are you, Francie?
No way! You look great for 61!

Note to all: Telling anyone that they look great for their age is the same as saying, "Hey old person, not bad for an old person!" Hold that left-handed compliment. And park it right beside this one: "I hope I look as good as you when I get to be YOUR age."

More yelling. Someone on a cell phone calling 911. A woman's voice asking me questions about my medical history...there are easier ways to spend time with people.

My original reason for heading to the beach was to indulge in my favorite therapy: shelling. The two-year anniversary of my Norman's passing happened while I was out of town teaching at a conference, which resulted in a delay of grief. I don't recommend delaying grief. It's like charging too much on a credit card at Christmas. The bill comes later and it hurts.

So I was attempting to make the late payment on grief. I woke up, slammed on a hat and put on my shelling skirt with lots of pockets and an unapologetically wrinkled shirt. The hat covered my uncombed hair, and huge sunglasses allowed me to cry without needing to wipe my eyes.  

I called my sister Janelle on the way to the beach. I never suggest that anyone go it alone when struggling, and I follow my own teaching. Trying to tough it out or shut people out is so overrated, and could actually lead to more serious problems. My sister provides a lifeline whenever needed. She is a gift from God. 

Check on people who appear to have everything fine. Check on people who appear to have lots of issues. And check on everyone in between. Now who just came to your mind? Check on them. Some of us find simple things therapeutic enough to help, but others need more than shelling at the beach. All people have pain. Care about others and just touch base with them. Your timing could be pivotal.

I heard the sirens in the distance. Oh oh. They were surely going to put me on a stretcher and take me to the hospital and that would have made a bad day worse. The temporary blackout was due to the shock of the fall. I hadn't hit my head, but I did trigger an electrical problem with my heart that usually passes if I lie still for several minutes. The paramedics didn't like the story of how I fell ("Ma'am, did you have anything to drink, or are you on any medications? Any drug abuse?") No, no, and none.

But I did eventually go home and have a double. Coffee with TWO teaspoons of maple syrup and TWO running tablespoons of half and half. I'm not making light of problems with substance abuse. I'm just saying that my choice of substance is different. Just as overeating doesn't fix problems or relieve stress, substance abuse won't solve grief or any other pain. But the paramedics had to ask. It was a logical question for them.

"Ma'am, would you like to ride to the hospital to be checked out?"

I'm not writing this from the hospital. The two letter word flew out of my mouth: NO. I wasn't being stubborn or unreasonable. Was the cost in the back of my mind? Not gonna lie: I could estimate the ambulance ride at around $1,500 and the ER visit at a thousand minimum. Since I could answer coherently and was able to sit and then stand, I just wanted to go to Walgreen's for some extra-large bandages and then home.

(Medical people, don't judge, and don't attempt to write and scold me. This is a blog. It doesn't have to make sense.)

I called my daughter Hillary and talked to her through the car phone half the way home. She also is a gift from God. So steady like her Dad. Not easily ruffled. My sister Janelle spoke with me for the second half of my drive. Staying on the phone (hands-free) was my insurance policy while driving home shaken but fully alert. I would not have attempted to drive if I or the paramedics had a shadow of a doubt about my ability.

I'm writing this post to get the therapy I missed at the beach. And I'm writing it to prove that even "special speakers" can have perfectly awful days. I hope that someone out there who may be having a dreadful go of it will remember that these are called "dark threads," and they are part of the tapestry of life. Just as a tapestry would be dull without contrasting colors, life would become flat without alternating joy and sadness. Contrasts. We would never order our own hardness. No need. It's already included.

God will not waste this adventure. My biggest lessons have always come wrapped in the paper of affliction. Sore but not sorry.

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. 
Psalm 119:71

P.S. A follow-up appointment two days later showed a small shoulder fracture. I went to have the wounds checked but God knew there was more... mending. 

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