I’m not that good at remembering numbers. Except birthdays of the people I love and old addresses. But today I found myself rolling around in Parc Lafontaine waiting for open hours at the pool. I started off on my regular path, by the water, watching the sun set, then I found myself going farther, past the volleyball and picnic tables. Past the shady parts with the tall trees, past the open field, back to Sherbrooke street, in front of the Notre Dame Hospital. I noticed the west entrance was blocked off and being renovated. I noticed a lot of people in pale blue hospital gowns in wheelchairs smoking with their families and I wondered if they were jealous of the speed of my scooter. My mind wandered to thinking about how much better it is than those hospital chairs and how it wasn’t that long ago since I was in one, and then it hit me: its been a year to the day that I broke my femur. How the hell could I forget that?
A year ago this morning, I went from running around my apartment getting ready to rush out the door for my last day of a job, to lying in a puddle of half-drank cat water in my underpants, water seeping into my menstrual pad. I went from calling for my neighbours to help me, to crawling on my back to reach my phone and calling various people until I reached my brother and Hannah and they convinced me to call 991. It’s been exactly one year since I was being carried down my two flights of stairs on a rickety stretcher by two first responders who I worried might have a cardiac arrest before we made it down. My leg was in a temporary cast made of recycled cardboard, swelling to widths I’ve never seen. One year since Hannah and I had fro-yo in the emergency room, the nurse unable to take that sweet contraband away from me. You’re not supposed to eat anything until they know for sure that you’re not going to need surgery. Its 11:00pm, about the time a year ago that I was parked in the dep* parking lot across from my apartment in Pascale’s mother’s car as my brother made neighbour arrangements for my cat and packed a few week’s worth of underwear and any dresses I had and grabbed the bananas I told him about on my table because I didn’t want them to go bad.
Of hospital visits, of language barriers, of waiting rooms, of pain medication schedules and brother-provided gluten-free beers to help the codeine kick in. Time spent in the oldest and heaviest wheelchair you can imagine, bathroom breaks timed out, crying on the couch because the woman wasn’t going to come in the morning and I didn’t know how I would pee, trying female urinals, failing at female urinals. A year of relying on family members and friends who gave new meaning to the word: solid. A vow never to flake-out on people again and a year trying to put that into practice.
One year full of physio, getting boss in a wheelchair, getting rejected by bus drivers, learning that little steps are the biggest, learning that one step into a building may as well be a million. Being told about the importance of walking, of exercising, of keeping my weight down, of taking pills everyday; being told I need to get back to normal, get on with my life, stop spending my mornings at physio.
A year full of regret and missing my old apartment, that I would sometimes jealously peep into if I went to the dep and it was dark out and the lights up there were on. A year full of fighting my shrinking self-confidence and resisting microaggressions and bullshit from people on sidewalks and hiring committees. A year of looking for that spot where my identity is formed, and trying to spread it around a bit; make it less dependent on walking. A year of doing everything in my power to get up and walking again and then building a more fitting vision of how to get around, as I’ve come to understand that walking too much is not good for me. And too much is not a fixed amount. A year of building-up muscles and the strength to fight for myself, when in the past I didn’t feel authorized to. Time spent in the pool rediscovering my love of water and discovering a new love with J.
One year of wearing crocs at all times.
Well I didn’t know what to think about it. I didn’t know how to feel when I finally remembered. So I rolled over to the bench across the street from Notre Dame where I had sat with Deon, Pascale, Mum, and Joe after an x-ray check-up. It was the time before the doctor told me the bone had healed, but it had been doing well. A year ago we sat there, I craving sushi, my mother craving answers in a language she could understand, my brother craving country air, Pascale craving to get on the highway already, and Joe probably craving a cigarette or the feeling of nothingness in his mind that he was accustomed to. Today I sat there in my scooter thinking, god: a year ago I had no idea what was in store, what kind of weird shitstorm I was going to be at the eye of along with many other Montrealers; what discriminatory underbelly of the city I was going to be exposed to. I had no idea I would be living the ‘don’t get mad get political’ mantra every time I left my freaking apartment.
Five weeks less than a year ago I sat at that bench in a relationship that was no good for me, with the idea that after this bone healed everything would go back to the way it was before: painful, exhausting, bull-headed, metro-taking normalcy. I had needed the changes this accident forced on me long before that day.
And half a year ago during rehab I had no control over how I got places. I just sat there, waiting. Sometimes for a ride or energy to walk that never came.
Today I sat there, hearing the howl of a husky dog and of skateboards taking quick turns and I thought about the people who have helped me out in so many ways.
Mum, Jo, Lyssa, Hania, Rosie, De and Pascale, they all stayed with me, making sure I had anything I needed or wanted. They fed me and watered me, and made me laugh and hung out with me when I was grumpy.
De busted me out of the hospital that first night, convinced that the country air would be much better for me than the stale adult wing of the hospital, complete with a barfing guy across the hall. He barbequed hardcore pork for dinner almost every night; claiming that the calcium from the meat being cooked on the bone would help me heal. I believed it.
My mum flew across the country to help out in any way she could, spending the majority of my leg-straight-in-a-splint-don’t-move-it-can’t-move-it time. This was a challenging time and she strengthened by example, never letting up on the care I needed, just like she never did when I was younger, in and out of doctors’ offices, blood tests and brace fittings. She lifted, supported, fed me, fed my friends, gave me flowers when we found out the bone was healed, and bought me a badass pleather jacket to replace the one that was fraying. I swear she always knows what size to get.
De and Pas were both my primary caregivers for weeks. They took care of everything. I don’t even know half of what they did because I was hopped up on many opiates. But their kindness and solidarity got me through seriously challenging times, and their laughs and focus on daily dinners and playing songs and getting outside in the sun taught me the relief there is in daily activities with people you love.
My dad came to Quebec for the first time since the ‘70s to take care of me too, bringing Afrikaans cured meats and supplements. He pushed me around the streets, and surprised by how friendly all the gentlemen were in Montreal (in the village;)
Pascale’s mother hosted me and various family members for many weeks, feeding us and being patient.
Rosie spent her only week off over a two year period taking care of me, pushing my chair through the gnarled and rocky streets of Saint Henri.
Naike took me to a righteous Haitian voodoo concert and took me camping. Lucy blocked traffic on Atwater street, lent me pillows and an espresso machine for far too long, offered to stay with me, and kept my spirits up over shared spirits.
Nat took a surprise trip into town for brunch.
Lyssa clipped my toenails one day on that raunchy green couch, and it was the sweetest.
Brennan and Jesse came to visit, brought the kids, even with the business that having two young ones and busy lives brings.
Nic and Steph rode their bikes over to me at like 8 am to help me in the washroom, on several occasions, lifting me like it was nothing. And Steph lent me a bizarre games to play to keep my mind occupied. She made me a friendship bracelet that is still wrapped around my leg. And she laughed her ass off when she saw the photo of my croc in the metro reminding me its good to laugh at absurd situations.
Pauly helped me arrange much needed personal care, and scored me an amazing wheelchair through his contacts with all the right people.
Gifty came over to visit and develop a special bond with Klava the cat.
Julie came over to help me take evening pees, hung out with my dad, and brought her guitar. She and I sang songs even when I thought I really didn’t have it in me to sing. And it always made me feel better.
And about a million other people sent me thoughtful messages, called me up to see how I was doing, and offered support.
I want to say thank you to everyone who helped and supported me as my leg healed and to everyone who’s been there for me since, showing me alternatives to a rather oppressive social emphasis on walking, supporting my battles with the STM, coming together over politics and drinks. Travelling with me on the road to acceptance and defiance (of my body and the city, respectively).
You are awesome, like a big storm rolling in except its not destructive its protective.
As I sip celebratory red wine and express these personal thoughts for anyone who will read them I think about the challenges we’ve overcome together, and the challenges and uncertainty I’m still facing. Yes it’s been one hell of a year. Yes, I’m still standing. Yes I have a ride so I can sit. My bone healed and is stronger because of the break, and I’ll tell you, so am I.
*dépaneur: a Quebec way of saying corner store. With liquor.
Mom, Jo – parents
Lyssa, Deon, Brennan, Jesse, Pascale – siblings and sisters in law
Joe – an ex
Lady names – friends (my Montreal family)
J – My partner