Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My Hardest Hard: Learning To Fall

It had been less than 6 months since we’d adopted our daughter and we were still in the throes of learning to be a family of four.

Our days and nights had started to round out, but we were still caught by the sharpness of some of their edges.  It would happen unexpectedly, the way you can walk past the same coffee table twelve times, only to have it catch you in the shins that last time. You can kick the coffee table, you can’t kick the kids.

Those early months were what you might euphorically call an “experience.” There was jetlag, the flu, lice, doctors appointments that felt like a med school crash-course, a major dental surgery and a boy and a girl learning to be a brother and a sister, MMA-style. 

Life punched us in the gut and knocked us to our knees. 

Before we’d adopted our daughter, we’d researched and read and consulted and talked with the kinds of people who knew the kinds of things we didn’t.

We were as prepared as one could be, or so we thought. But nothing can prepare you to spend weeks washing and drying every item of clothing in your house while simultaneously scratching your head like a dog bitten by a pestilence of angry fleas.  Had the plagues that had befallen us been the ones to torment the Egyptians, those Israelites would have been freed from captivity much sooner.

To top it off, our possessions, the ones we depended on to take us places and suds our remnant-residued dishes, decided to call a universal fritz. I don’t know if it was Murphy’s Law or the Curse of Us – but things went flat and things went pffssst.

The timing was comedic. There was a tension-filled build up, a beat of silence and then a punch line that brought down the house.

If I’m making things seem bad, that’s misleading. In the moment, they were cataclysmic. In reflection, they were our liberation.

We laughed, we cried. We cursed the blighted present and prayed for the future to deliver us.  And yet, we were learning: Fear could grip us, but she could not hold us.

There is a bizarre adage that says if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. However, if you put the frog in cold water and heat the water incrementally, the frog will become complacent and fail to jump, thus boiling.  The analogy - when extended to humans -  is meant as a cautionary tale.

Except that it doesn’t work. Every frog I know, my web-legged self included, bailed for a lily pad the first time the water gets above tepid.  How were we to know that if we just stayed in the water that when it got hot enough, that we’d jump higher than we ever jumped before?

All of this was my backdrop the day I met Mike and his father. Mike, like my daughter, is a congenital quadruple amputee.  He is missing some portion or all of each of his limbs.

Mike gave me a “facts of life” talk. This wasn’t the birds and the bees. It was depression and bullying and adaptations. It was hard and expected. He talked. I nodded. I murmured. I smiled at the funny parts.

Then he launched himself upright on his carbon fiber legs.  

He said, “And she needs to learn how to fall.”

I didn’t crumple. I didn’t fold. I crashed.

My heart splintered when it hit the ground. I needed to learn to fall too.      


  1. And then you beautiful, brave friend.

  2. And then you beautiful, brave friend.