There is so much to be grateful for this year. Thanksgiving brings out those feelings each year. It makes us sit and reflect on all those things in life that really are important. For us, this year the list is huge. Almost too huge to imagine.
Retirement on Mardi Gras day was everything I’d hoped. So much life out there to live, and finally, the chance to do it at full speed. Something I’d always dreamed of, but there is a price to be paid for playing too hard, even for a seasoned adventurer like me. After a couple of fast paced months of Keith’s ultra-light soaring, motorcycle riding and my canyon hiking and ultra running the injuries set in. Fortunately for Keith, it was my turn in the barrel. I spent the entire summer on crutches, and then, just as I was able to finally stand on two feet again, I broke my wrist in a rough hot air balloon landing. Guess I should have kept my feet on the ground. Still, there was much to be thankful for from those hobbled times.
Retirement took a little getting used to. Those who had gone before me told me it would be this way. But I was certain that I was better than that; that I would need no adjustment period because I was just so happy to no longer be working. But even my super-sized ego couldn’t escape the rocky transition phase into this new life. And so, I suppose the Universe decided I needed to be hobbled, to humble me once again, and get this lesson firmly in place. Apparently, I don’t learn quickly.
The horizontal time when I was on the couch or on crutches was one of the most difficult of my life. Funny, you’d think that being the spouse of a cancer patient would be harder, and maybe it was, but horizontal left me too much time for self-pity. Horizontal kept me from running and my endorphin drugs that keep me sane. What I had was plenty of time for writing, or reading, or contemplating, but all that I could muster was complaining. And Saint Keith took the brunt of it. God help us that we never both end up hobbled at the same time.
Getting off crutches made me appreciate everything. Just being able to limp in the boot was an improvement. I was able to enjoy everything even if it wasn’t at full speed. Like participating in the Running with the Bulls race in New Orleans with my sister, Judy, and Molly. They pulled me in a red Radio Flyer wagon with my boot waving in the wind, while roller derby “bulls” chased us, goring us with foam bats.
By Labor Day I’d taken up swimming at a nearby lake. I still couldn’t run, but the 45 minute swim across the lake got my heart pumping and started that endorphin drip that had been missing. Keith would take me to the lake once or twice a week. Sometimes he’d kayak alongside me while I swam. Other times he’d just wait on shore in his beach chair reading. We’d always pack a lunch, and as I lingered over it after my long swim I’d realize that this was the retirement I’d dreamed of. Sitting on the beach of a clear mountain lake on a Wednesday with no one else around.
With the sprained ankle I couldn’t ride my motorcycle so I rode on the back of Keith’s bike to Street Vibrations in Reno. With the broken wrist I couldn’t raise the sails or the anchor in our sailing lessons, so I became an expert one-handed helmsman.
I joined Red Cross. We painted the kitchen cabinets. We camped in our trailer at Pismo; we were finger printed to become FEMA inspectors; spent two weeks in New Orleans rebuilding our brick and mortar home; tilled and toiled for our newly planned vineyard. We got the all clear on Keith’s most recent test results. And I stared running again.
Even after the infamous birthday balloon crash I was happy to just be able to run. I’m certain I looked crazy running with my bright orange cast, especially with that stupid grin I couldn’t contain, but I did it anyway.
It’s the little things you become grateful for. It’s not the huge life adventures that make the most impact, it’s the little things. It’s hair on what used to be a bald head. It’s being able to get off the couch and have a lakeside lunch with your healthy husband. It’s enjoying Sunday evenings because you’ve got nowhere to be Monday morning. It’s not worrying about sleepless nights, because you can sleep whenever you like.
It’s freedom. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of, and it’s finally mine. I’ll be giving thanks for a long time.