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Metaphor Of A Life

Story ID:4262
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Montana USA
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Metaphor Of A Life

Metaphor Of A Life

Metaphor Of A Life

Metaphor Of A Life

Metaphor Of A Life by Kathe Campbell

Every year around my birthday I muse and take stock of my mind and feeble carcass as it makes a bee line toward eighty -- this mountain mama having made it through another 365 days without major calamity. The old bod serves me well as I coddle the remnants left by an 800 pound jackass stallion who gnawed a good part of me and took away my dominant right arm. It comforts me to know that some of us harbor angels with only one wing so they can fly by embracing one another.

I'm reminded daily of the brass placard reading, "Yellowstone Orthotics & Prosthetics." Specializing in a branch of medicine that provides custom built prosthetic devices, Dr. Brian Hollis and his arm patients visited me often in the hospital, demonstrating a grim future. My husband, Ken, rescued my frame of mind and short term memory with crossword puzzles, my jiggly left-handed letters finally legible.

In the shop we observed seamsters and experts on lathes and sanders as we strolled amongst daunting plaster forms shelved on walls like ghostly appendages. Taking genuine interest in each other's progress, patients and therapists flocked to rehab daily to practice grips and steps. Ken and I would be burning up the 420 mile freeway back and forth for casts and fittings as the swelling subsided and healing progressed.

Months later a maze of straps and Velcro were adjusted across my back and under my left arm; then came exercises in flexing back muscles to pull the cables. Rhythmic applause from fellow "amps," and Ken grinning his approval, I felt doomed attempting to open the hook and grasp that first buckle. Wondering if it's really true that God doesn't give us more than we can handle, I prayed silently beneath beads of sweat . . . I'm trusting in your wisdom in this bizarre journey, Lord.

Ken insisted I order at least one of every model with attachments. Medicare provided the latest myoelectric arm to slip over my stump, the sensitive electrodes strategically touching brand new emerging muscles. But despite it's latest technology the thing was heavy and left me listing. The concentration and strain of working new arm muscles to turn the hand and open fingers had me impatient, although our grandkids stood with mouths agape, thoroughly infatuated. How was I supposed to get anything done wearing this cockamamie thing?

So grateful to be alive, to have home and family to return to, a sense of thriving settled in. Embracing my precious mountain, it's seasons, sounds and smells, I began to realize I could reach nearly anything that tempted my grasp. I did things that were out of my realm, for lopsidedness was not in the falling, but the determination to get back up. Maybe I was blessed with an extra sense of survival, but I like to think somebody up there had His eye on this sparrow to nudge me and challenge my worth. All the things I relearned and accomplished are a true metaphor of my life.

"Wow, just look at what she can do with that hook!" words I hear often. But compared to double amputee athletes, it's no biggie. We had all learned plenty about the workings of a contraption I still loathe wearing under and over sweats and Tee's. Impatient bridge partners had left me in despair, and I finally gave up taking hook in hook, grateful for family coaxing in my draggy pursuits.

"You can stop crocheting hats and mittens anytime you want, Gran," came the delicious reprieve from four skiing granddaughters.

I'm an old fuss-pot about keeping a great house, despite a few culinary concoctions catapulting across the kitchen floor, so don't expect gourmet at Broken Tree. And yes, because it's good therapy, I allow myself a good bawl now and then. For just as I was getting used to my robotic self and a prized new computer, my doctor announced I was well into rheumatoid arthritis. Just what I longed to hear as my typing hand drifts at right angels to my wrist when left to its own devices. To loosen stiffness and untwist fingers, I play on-line scrabble with dear ones every single morning.

Along with Prednisone I was told to "keep it moving" as I returned to the keyboard to tell the world about my fluky accident. Stories of explosive phantom pain and upbeat accounts of this cussed nuisance have provided helpful fodder for others in a wealth of anthologies, magazines, and medical journal articles. Like fellow writers, I savor the honors and invitations into places only dreamed of. It's such a rush!

After thirteen years, I operate at half speed, but I'm a whiz with my favorite farm and ranch hook that every man in sight runs from. Driving my ATV, snowmobile, Bobcat, and truck are second nature now; changing batteries, using the compressor, and adjusting gates are easy as pie. Best of all, a hook is the best fence stretcher around when moose do the barbed wire in. With the help of my guys, all the ranch equipment and play toys are reconfigured and mounted with left-handed everything. When not keeping my acres in fine fettle, I focus off myself and embark on other missions; judging at the fair, or reading my works to nursing home patients on occasion. It's a joyful duty.

Out to dinner, it's the little stuff that's hairy as I hide a daintier hook in my lap while laboring to eat politely. Sometimes it works, other times I'm unwieldy maneuvering the sorry lefty to my mouth, or lifting a glass. And gussying up for fancy dos or scrawling my name at a book signing is torturous. Slapping a steak on the barbeque, a little poker, or sipping sangria on fire pit benches at the pond while telling Montana stories, fits my dance card perfectly. It's been easy trading in most of the old crowd for earthy pals smitten with my ways.

Now, sadly, the worst has happened. My littlest great granddaughter is petrified of this goofy arm. A big fuss usually ensues with everyone shaking the hook and making light, but it remains scary. If I approach her without the hook, she knows something is different and tears commence. This will be my most important challenge and God willing, we will get through it together.

The great storm will never really be over, but I have grown and expanded - in more ways than one. There is family and blessed laughter around me. I still fight occasional blues, but keep myself productive, for rotten days emerge as I long for my late Ken. I think he'd be proud that I've taken the bull by the horns, living life my way on a mountain mix of wildlife and beloved critters to make us all content. Wearing a mantle of defeat will never be my style, for failing to thrive is the worst thing that can happen to anyone.

As I swung open my storm door the other day, a rectangular box sailed across the deck. It was my newly repaired "go to meetin'" arm, the one I take shopping and dining out, a far cry from the roughshod farm and rancher lined with sheep's wool. It will look simply razoo as my girls and I fly off to wallow in luxury and good food, this Granny Hook bent on not losing her right arm at even one gaming table. Who'd have ever thunk it?

kathe@wildblue.net - 9-08


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