confessions of a gimp
(and a withered, dessicated, unutilized, sickly, dangly, weak left chicken-leg.)
i have mastered the crutches, boy, let me tell you. two weeks ago i couldn't go two blocks without quitting. yesterday i did a thorough borough tour. in high school and college i had a combined 238 knee surgeries, so i know my way around some crutches. old habits die hard. muscle memory is as strong as an elephant's. so, lately i have been joking that being on crutches feels like being a kid again. all too familiar.
that doesn't mean the simple things don't suck. allow me to break it down for you. life with a toddler and only one leg:
1) 6:30 am. baby wakes up. she doesn't wake me up because i haven't slept in three weeks. i lie there on my back, too tender still to confidently roll onto my side or stomach. i nudge my wife awake. "she's up," i say. "go get her." because i can't carry the child to the changing table or downstairs to feed her breakfast, i have the sublime luxury of remaining in bed ... without the luxury of being able to sleep. i believe this was sartre's second definition of hell.
2) 7 am. after mrs nice guy has tended to the child and made coffee i call to her. "babyducks, i need ice on my boo-boo knee." she dutifully trundles up the stairs with my surgeon-sanctioned knee-icing machine (no joke) and hooks me up in between half-muttered oaths that she will commit adulterous feats with olympian agility.
3) 7:01 am. i say "as long as you're icing my knee, could you pour me some coffee? just one sugar, please. no milk. and do remember to stir it this time."
4) 7:01:23 am. i grab yesterday's t-shirt off the floor and dry the boiling coffee that my enraged wife dumped all over my rippling torso. "honey," i whimper apologetically. "before you go, don't forget to put my socks on." (i can't bend my knee, you see, so i am a little dependent on her for certain things. like socks.)
5) 8 am. mrs nice guy has left for work and i have an hour to negotiate on crutches with an iron-willed 23-month old who has a very clear vision of life that entails more mommy and less daddy. especially less daddy-on-giant-metal-scary-sticks.
6) 8:06 am. convince her to read a book with daddy. this lasts for about 3 minutes of "what color is elmo?" "blue!" "no, sweetie. he's red. what color is elmo? is he the same color as your red choo-choo?" "yes! pink!"
7) 8:13 am. baby and i are downstairs. i need to go upstairs to change so i can go to work (in a work-supplied towncar. score!). i tell the child "i have an idea! let's go upstairs and watch daddy get dressed!" since i can't carry her upstairs, this has suddenly become an elective exercise -- one from which she chooses to abstain, preferring rather to throw herself on the floor and scream "NO UPSTAIRS! MOMMY-YOGURT! ELMO! BYE-BYE, DADDY!"
8) 8:28. i give up and get dressed upstairs while she does an uncanny imitation of a child having a screaming-kicking-on-the-floor-toddler-meltdown. i am impressed by how much she resembles every bad caricature of a toddler having a screaming-kicking-on-the-floor-meltdown i have ever seen in movies and television shows. i make a mental note to commend her on her tantrum skills. i continue getting dressed secure in the knowledge that as long as she is screaming she is probably not killing herself. putting my shoes on is extremely difficult -- i must remember to have my wife do this from now on before she leaves.
9) 9:38. the sitter has arrived on time, allowing me to brush my teeth. of course, the toddler shows daddy cavity-sweet affection just as he's attempting to leave for work. ("daddy, hug!") i hop in the car where i spend 40 minutes listening to the driver complain about how much he hates driving people around.
10) 10:31. first meeting of the day. i crutch towards it and am hailed by a spectrum of greetings: everything from "we can hear you coming a mile away, gimpy!" to the earnest, lip-biting-and-head-nodding "how you holding up?" i give everyone a percocet and tell them to stop talking to me.
11) 12 pm. i start strategically seducing my lunch partners. if my next meal is to be eaten in the company cafeteria (23 violations from the city health board -- no joke), i must find someone willing to carry my tray. if lunch is to be eaten out somewhere with a wait-staff who will bring me food, i must find someone with oodles of free lunch-time willing to go somewhere within crutching distance. some days i don't eat till 3, when i am reduced to grabbing some trail mix from the vending machine. cry for me.
12) 2:34 pm. i start bribing people to get me coffee. after a few failed attempts, i remind myself to be more charitable about their good-natured morning gimp-ribbing and earnest-inquiries. anything for a simple cup of coffee ... eventually, i start chanting: all i wanted was a coffee, just one coffee! and they wouldn't give it to me! just one coffee!
13) 3:13 pm. some gentle soul has procured me coffee. starbucks, but who am i to complain?
14) 4:01 pm. decide it's time to start doing work. i put my left leg up on my desk, piteously, courting well-wishing passersby to stop and talk about how much pain i am in and, with a little luck, offer to do me favors.
15) 6:42. time to call the car service to take me home. it is difficult to resist the urge to show colleagues that the swelling has migrated from my knee, which has not been elevated all day, to my ankle. from the left shin down i look like roseanne barr with elephantitis after being beaten by tonya harding with a crowbar. when the lincoln town car finally arrives, i pile in and, just under my breath, say: HOME, JAMES!
16) 7:24. i arrive at the house just as the munchkin is being readied for bed. she is slightly more pleased to see me than she was in the morning. she shouts "daddy!" and she also shouts another, newer word: "money!" then she reaches into my pockets in search of loose change. she refuses to learn her colors, but she has already grasped that coinage is good--be it silver, gold or copper. makes as much difference to her as red, green or blue. the irony that i earn 32 times less than her mother is lost on her.
17) 7:32. mrs nice guy puts the baby to bed. i remind her that i haven't had my knee iced since the morning. "oh," i say. "and before you whip up some dinner, how about a glass of scotch? just one ice cube this time."