Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day

One year ago today I was awakened at 6:00 a.m. by a phone call from my stepfather in Maine, who told me that my mother was in the hospital with a hurt knee. Nothing dire, though she was in plenty of pain; she'd be out soon, maybe later that day. The news could have waited a while, but he'd forgotten about our two-hour time difference.

My bloody helmet & left glove.

Of course I called my mother right away, after which I was unable to get back to sleep. So I started off the day tired and headache-y. I had a riding lesson scheduled and toyed with cancelling it in favor of taking my car to the dealer, as it had some kind of jingle in the engine. But I didn't want to forfeit $40 for cancelling the lesson at the last minute, and figured I'd take the car in later that week.

At 10:00 a.m., dressed in my riding gear, I had a first session with Katie the counselor. I'd been depressed after an unending stream of trouble since moving to Denver in December. In January, my dog needed emergency surgery for two (!) cracked and abscessed molars, which the vet in Virginia hadn't detected less than two months before. Shortly after that, the Boy Wonder got the flu, then for months was down with a string of allergy-related sinus infections and return of a hiatal hernia. Right after he got over the flu, in February I got pneumonia, then a bad case of shingles, during which the dog developed urinary problems. Our (now-ex) vet told me her kidneys were failing and she'd be dead within two years. (Per the new vet, she has non-fatal diabetes insipidus, for which she's taking medication.) The shingles affected my balance and in mid-March I fell and broke my nose; to add insult in injury, a couple weeks later I got a wicked sinus infection. Then I came down with food poisoning at the start of our Passover seder, thanks to lunch from the antipasto bar at un-Safeway. In addition, we'd had to redo the plumbing and heating systems, and install new windows throughout our new (ca. 1902) house, all unforeseen and unbudgeted.

I sobbed to Katie: "I feel like I'm being punished, and I don't even know what I did wrong!" We agreed that I should come for weekly sessions for a while.

I miscalculated how long it would take me to get to the stable and arrived late. Worse, the horse I was due to ride had rolled in mud and it took me a good 45 minutes to get him cleaned up, by which time there was only 15 minutes left for my lesson. Gomez is "girthy"--he gets surly and snappish if you touch his sides too hard--which means I had to brush him very gently, then tighten his girth strap in three stages before I could mount him.

We went in the outside ring and poked around in a slow left-handed circle along the fence. A big bay in the adjoining ring kept rearing and trying to buck, and I admired his rider's skill in maintaining her seat, meanwhile thinking, "Whew! I'm glad my horse isn't doing that!"

Gomez, who'd been perfectly calm when I'd ridden him in the inside ring a week earlier, was a little distracted and kept peering around at the scenery and other horses, but it was nothing I wasn't used to. I took my feet out of the stirrups to stretch my legs, whereupon the instructor said, "You wanna ride without stirrups?"

"Sure," I answered. I'd done it many times before, though admittedly when I'd been in better shape; this was only my second ride in six months. "Should I cross the stirrups over the saddle?"

"Nah," she said. "You can just let 'em hang." I said OK, and she told me to pick up a trot. I did, and Gomez started getting jiggy--nothing like his usual smooth self. (Now I think he was irritated by the stirrups banging his sensitive sides.)

Suddenly I found myself starting to slide off, something that hadn't happened in years. "Oh @#%!," I thought, "I'm going to hit the fence."

The next thing I knew, I was in excruciating pain and couldn't open my eyes. I heard an enormously loud "WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB!" My first thought: "This sounds just like 'Apocalypse Now'."

"Where am I?" I mumbled, through thick, bloody lips.

"You're in a helicopter. We're going to the hospital."

"What happened?"

"You fell off a horse." ["Thrown off with great force" was more like it.]

Twenty-five years ago, when I came to in an ambulance and got that answer, my response was, "What horse?" This time, however, I remembered. Maybe that's the difference between being smacked on the right frontal bone rather than the left occipital.

Continued in next post.

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