Recently, while strolling soberly through the Garden District of New Orleans, I fell. Hard….on my right shoulder, dislocated it, and broke it in three places. Nothing has ever hurt as much. In fact, all the pain I’ve ever had in my life, added up, wouldn’t equal it. The reason for being in New Orleans at all was to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. The eve of the new year was not observed with a festive meal followed by a fine sermon in the fancy synagogue but in bed, in agony despite the best efforts of modern pharmacology. By any standard, a suckish situation.
In the two weeks since the trip—pun intended—I’ve had a $4,100 emergency room bill and a visit to a fine orthopedist; surgery has been scheduled with a doc who says mine is the worst shoulder he’d see in an average month. Yom Kippur was a haze of pain meds and a bungled Torah reading; the suckage increaseth. Sleep is nearly impossible; every single body position hurts. I can’t wear most of my clothes and bathing is an exhausting chore. I can type, thank goodness, so I can work, but I can’t drive, wear shoes with laces, scratch under my arm or pick up my cat. The right side of my hair just looks wrong.
So why am I so freaking happy?
The first blessing was that no fewer than five citizens of New Orleans stopped and got out of their cars to help the lady who stopped to help the screaming tourist on the ground. The helpful lady called family and friends for me and stayed with me until the ambulance took me away.
The second blessing was being invited into the rabbi’s home, already full of visiting family, and being lovingly waited on hand and foot by all. We don’t really have saints per se in Judaism, but if we did, I’m pretty sure that Bob Berk would be at the head of the line.
After making it home, the blessings started coming too fast to keep track…food pouring in from friends and neighbors, rides to everywhere, house cleaning, more food, hand-made and heartfelt cards, and a home visit from my hairdresser. Today, a neighbor took me to lunch (restaurant food!) and the bank, post office, pharmacy and Home Depot. And he brought more food. I’m gaining a pound a day from a combination of delicious cooking and no exercise and I don’t even care. I don’t wear “real” clothes or make-up or a real bra, either. Not being much of girly-girl, sloppy suits me just fine.
The most humbling thing was on Yom Kippur, when a synagogue friend who is herself dealing with cancer and having surgery this week said, “What can I do for you?”
Of course, the person who gets the most frequent opportunities to give me blessings is my amazing husband, Tony. He dresses me, fetches everything, does all the chores, makes sure I take (and don’t over-take) my pain meds, adjusts the covers, sits through doctor visits, and listens to me moan and groan. Nothing is ever too much, and never has been. He wisely tells me that nobody “deserves” the blessings that come their way; grace cannot be earned or anticipated, much less expected.
It has been said that, if you don’t get what you want, at least get the lesson. I think I got it this time. And, if I spend much more time on the couch with Tony, I may someday learn the infield fly rule. Go Yankees!
In her very fine book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel points out some of the hard lessons and joys of raising children. She inspired this post.