Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Emotionally the toughest the day for losing my foot was when we scheduled the amputation on March 18, 2009, coincidentally my sister's birthday. I had hoped we would have done this back in January and I'd be in my temporary prosthesis right now, but the AFO brace delayed this decision a while. Although I was relieved to have the surgery scheduled, I did have an out should we want to pursue the other options as I mentioned in an earlier post. Over time I had given amputation a great deal of thought so it was never a shock, but the reality of the decision on that March day was close.

When I left the doctor's office that morning - which happens to be across the street from where I work - I knew what I had to do but couldn't quite believe it was happening, that a date was set, that I was going to have my right foot severed from my leg. I found I could not go back to work right away, and drove around in circles while I steadied myself. I rubbed my lower leg and tried to imagine it gone - what would they do with it? Could I bury the ashes around a tree I planted? That thought continued to haunt me, it seemed both morbid and honorable at the same time. I could hold my own ceremony for a part of me bound for the far field, the windy cliffs of forever...

Back at the office I seemed to be in control only to find tears in my eyes with no warning; first they come and then the realization, like a newly cut wound, of what I was doing.

I was thinking today about how I have had a lifetime of running; from running around the block at Salisbury Acres and going cross country through the soybean fields and nearby clay mines; of being a very late blooming half mile runner who missed his senior HS year due to a stupid left ankle sprain to later that same year winning the local Explorer Scouts Olympics 3 mile x/c race at Parris Island; running for years for the sheer joy of it, fun local races and marathons; and meeting my wife through our love of running.

It is a pure sport; in a race it is, in the end, about time. No refs making knuckleheaded calls, no breaks for crowd noise, no one to take up the slack when the going gets tough but yourself. Alone, nearly naked, a start line, a finish line, and time in between. Competitors, aye, but all race against time.

I had a lifetime of running, but it had cruelly orphaned me, twisting out the deep roots in pain and deformity. A blink of the eye and it was gone. Done. Memories of running last week, last year, or even last century are just that - memories, and there is no comfort in the thinking, only in the doing.

Now I realize I have been given a greater gift than I could have imagined, a second life as a runner. Not that I ever felt I deserved an end to the first, I never wavered from my passion. But this is a new beginning for my old love, I will see things in a different slant of light, and just when I thought I had seen and felt it all, the light changes and the twilight defines the familiar in a new illumination, a brief holiness before the universe appears above.

Oh, I am a lucky, lucky man. Maybe running is embracing me after all.

I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself,
The sprawl of the wave,
The on-coming water.

excerpt from "The Far Field" by Theodore Roethke

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