My Left Foot

17 Sep

by Beth Finke

I swim laps two or three times each week. Tapping the lane marker with every other stroke keeps me swimming straight, and limiting myself to the crawl stroke means I always have one arm in front of me — my head never bangs the end of the pool. Swimming has always been a safe form of exercise for me. Until last Thursday, that is.

I finished my laps that night and was heading back to the desk to fetch Harper when I slipped and fell back into the pool. My left foot must have gotten caught in the gutter as I took the plunge. It broke. In three places.

Can you tell which foot was broken?

“That cast is huge!” my friend Jenny’s 20-year-old daughter Claire exclaimed while we shared iced tea on their deck late Saturday afternoon. “It looks like the kind of Santa Claus boot we would draw when we were little!” The image made me laugh — one of many laughs I’ve shared with friends and family after my fall. All to explain how it is I am able to sit here and publish this blog post today. You know, rather than curling up in the fetal position in the corner to spend my days whining about my inability to swim or dance or walk or do much of anything until August.

Mike helped me hobble into the car Friday morning and accompanied me to Midwest Orthopedics for the diagnosis — and the cast — that I had dreaded. The first call we made once we got home was to the Seeing Eye so Mike could talk with trainers there about what he could do to help keep Harper on track during my recovery. Doug Bohl from the Seeing Eye encouraged Mike to take Harper on long walks for exercise. “But really, you all should focus on getting Beth’s foot back to normal rather than worry about how Harper will perform once she’s better,” he said, describing one Seeing Eye dog who had to quit working for four months when the person he guided got hurt.  “That dog did fine after that. These dogs don’t forget their jobs.”

Mike uses a leash on walks, and the two of them stop at each curb, just like I do when Harper is on harness. Mike follows other Seeing Eye rules, too: dog lovers can’t pet Harper, and Mike doesn’t let Harper lunge or sniff at other dogs during walks, either.

Harper was supposed to lead me to the train to Glen Ellyn for their Bookfest Saturday. My friend Jenny’s husband was working in downtown Chicago Friday and offered to pick Harper and me up and drive us to Flo’s. My sister Cheryl was there waiting with a bottle of wine when we arrived. We shared some wine and laughs with Flo, I stayed overnight and slept like a baby.

Jenny’s sister Jill picked Harper and me up and took us to breakfast near The Bookstore the next morning: Harper’s first ride in a convertible. I hobbled with them to The Bookstore after breakfast and spent the afternoon seated at a table (foot up, per doctor’s orders) visiting with friends, signing books for customers and using my slate & stylus to poke out children’s names in Braille for them as they passed through the store. Bookfest 2011 was a hit.

After the Bookfest, we sat outdoors (my foot elevated, of course) at Jenny’s, sharing iced tea and stories with her and her family. Mike drove in from Chicago and joined us for a while, then helped Harper and me into the car for our ride back home.

Being with Mike and all of these other loving and supportive people the past three days really lifted my spirits. This is only a broken foot, after all. It will heal. And in the meantime, I’ll read books, work on a story assignment from National Geographic School Textbooks, brush Harper, watch White Sox games on TV with Mike, attend lectures, see a few plays (I have tickets for Porgy and Bess at Court Theatre), play fetch with Harper, check my blood sugar levels, get more comfortable using my iPhone, work up some jazz tunes on the piano, sit and share stories with friends, practice my newly-repaired accordion, publish blog posts, write a few books…as Flo would say, “I’d better get cuttin’.” There’s not enough time in a day to accomplish everything I need to do while this cast keeps me off my feet!

Beth Finke has been an NPR commentator and is an award-winning author, teacher and journalist. She also happens to be blind. Beth’s memoir, Long Time, No See was named one of the Chicago Tribune’s favorite non-fiction books for 2003.  Her children’s book about seeing eye dogs — Hanni
and Beth: Safe & Sound
– published in October, 2007, won an ASPCA Henry
Bergh Childrens Book Award in 2008.  This essay has been shared with us from Beth Finke’s blog: www.bethfinke.wordpress.com.

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