As many of you who read my Facebook page know, I recently took a nasty fall. Nasty because it came without warning and happened so fast. I was literally standing on a grassy field on a sunny Thursday morning one minute, holding my dog’s leash, and the next stepping down wrong on a curb, slipping and feeling my face and head slam into the concrete. I knew right away I had been seriously injured. I sat on the roadway dazed, my dog staring at me. As blood rolled from my face and splattered my cell phone screen, my hands shook so badly I could barely call my sons. I should mention that the last time I was in a hospital was 34 years ago with the birth of my younger son. And except for an occasional head cold and sinus infection, I had never been seriously ill in all that time. Doctors scare me, hospitals scare me. But when help finally did arrive and it did, thanks to the kindness of a stranger who pulled over and called an ambulance, and my son arriving minutes later, I am healing … albeit with a very sore shoulder and wrist, a couple stitches in my forehead, some bruises and skin abrasions and, most likely, a root canal of my front tooth after it was loosened by the force of impact of face on concrete.
As I watched the blood flow from my eyebrow and lip onto my hands and my cellphone screen that day, I experienced a moment of crisis. Time and age had conspired to make me realize how fragile we are and how it can all change in a heartbeat. Of course, I learned this years ago with the death of my husband from cancer at the age of forty-seven, which I wrote about in my memoir Again in a Heartbeat. Although X-rays revealed no broken bones, the thought of how a sudden fall on concrete could have been so much worse, haunted me and still does. The trauma lingers.
Both my sons’ speedy arrival to the ER, the friends who expressed well wishes, prayers and hope for a quick recovery, who sent cards, stopped by with wine, chicken soup and a blender … yes, I’ve come on board the smoothie train, albeit five or six years late … fill me with gratitude.
Although being on a liquid and soft diet for two weeks as my tooth heals doesn’t help and my shoulder aches at night, I grapple to feel the energy before the accident. It isn’t there. Healing takes time. The thought of our writing group meeting again … took root. After ten years of facilitating the Women’s Writing Circle, I thought that chapter had been closed. Over the last 18 months, many women asked me if we would restart. I always said no, I didn’t think so. I suppose the change in heart goes to feelings of irrelevance, of feeling invisible as an older woman, of the death of a writing colleague, of thinking maybe I need this as much as they do. Writing, after all, is a touchstone to what is true, to what matters. It’s a connection with others.
Friendship, family, the kindness of a stranger who just happened to pull up in his SUV as I sat on the roadway bleeding, offer lessons in grace. As serendipity would have it, I walked into the local library one recent day and by chance remembered a room in the back with ochre and burnt-orange walls, a stone fireplace and windows looking out on a wooded hillside. Would it be possible? As it turned out, the answer was ‘yes’. The library community room was available. As Virginia Woolf said, a woman needs a room of her own. Now we have ours. And so next month when our writing group meets in that room, I might feel the energy return. No matter your age, a life without meaning, without connection and reaching out to others is more injurious, more fatal, than a fall.