Last December, I slipped on fairy wings and pixie dust (in other words, who the heck knows) and fell hard on the ceramic tile of my kitchen, breaking my leg. By January, I had a plate and five screws in my ankle and a complex about my place in my family.
I’m the logistical manager of the household, including the care and maintenance of a 12-year-old girl child, a betta fish, two hermit crabs and a high-maintenance cat. I don’t hold myself responsible for the whereabouts of my husband, but he’s here too. And though we do things for each other, we mostly do for ourselves. I rarely ask him to please open the jar of peanut butter for me. You hear me, right? We’re evolved.
That all fell apart overnight when I needed my husband to do everything, from driving me around to appointments to doing all the school-related heavy lifting. In the surgeon’s office, I met a 74-year-old woman who had broken her wrist four months earlier. She stared at my cast. “That’s going to be hard on your relationship,” she said, patting my hand.
My convalescence was tough in ways I didn’t anticipate. My husband wanted me to think through all the things I would need him to do or fetch and give it to him in one big list, but that wasn’t the way my life normally unfolded. Painkillers made it hard to think. My desire to continue to clean and keep the house running the way I liked it required workarounds and constant rejiggering. I couldn’t take a shower without a large plastic leg condom, a grab bar and a shower stool. Hurrying through anything? Completely out of the question. Things got complicated, fast.
There was a week in there when I just did nothing but sit on the recliner, work and feel sorry for myself. I went to a bad place — if my family was used to me doing things, was I useful just being there?
Was it enough just to be me, even if I couldn’t make lunches or drive the carpool or anticipate the future?
Finally, I realized that there is something I bring to the table that can’t be substituted: I’m a really good mom. Breaking my leg helped me realize what I always have to give is my love. My empathy. My guidance. My support. Even immobile and high on painkillers, I can hug and wipe tears and offer advice.
There are few things more humbling than not being able to move, but my experience showed me I’m more as a human than what I can do.