Injury a reminder we all can use help

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If you are anything like me (no, smarty, I don't mean clumsy), maybe you grew up in a time and place that taught you to be self-reliant and never ask for anything that isn't offered.

I come from a long line of hardheaded, strong-willed, independent Southerners who'd rather drown in a well than swallow a little pride and ask somebody to throw them a rope.

Refusing to ask for help does not mean you don't need it. It just means it galls you to ask.

Take my mother, for example.

Once, when I was a teenager, I dared to suggest that if her life were more interesting, she might not need to spend so much time meddling in mine.

And if that wasn't enough to get me killed, I went on to say she ought to get out more often.

"I get out plenty," she said, spitting words like darts. "I go to work every day, then I go home to fix supper. On Saturday, I go get groceries, after I clean my house and do six loads of wash. On Sunday, I go to church, then I go see my mama. I don't need to get out more. I need help."

But would she ask for help? No. She hated feeling needy.

They say that when a woman dies, she is reborn in her daughter. Like my mother, I've always hated feeling needy. But lately, it's getting worse.

It started two weeks ago when I tripped and fell (never mind how) and broke my foot.

The good news was, I didn't need a cast, just a plug-ugly boot that I could take off to shower or to float in the pool, but had to wear at all other times around the clock, even to bed, for six whole weeks.

And with that, I slid into a pit of self-pity as I became painfully aware of things I couldn't do.

The boot allows me to walk, but slowly, with a limp and hitch that's exhausting, and makes me look like a hobbled mare.

I limp and hitch from one room to the next, plop down in a chair and breathe a weary sigh, only to realize that I left my glasses or book or Diet Coke or whatever in the other room, along with my religion.

I can't walk fast or far, stand for long or carry anything heavy (like my purse) because my foot will throw a fit.

Also, I can't drive. I've been driving since I was 14. Never mind how long. Too long to give it up for six weeks.

Worst of all, I have to ask for help. My husband, to his credit, has gotten pretty good at reading my mind. He tries to help before I have to ask.

Even so, I find it frustrating and humiliating. Needing help makes you feel so ... helpless.

But it's not all bad. It's kind of fun for someone who's been a mom most all her life to be babied for a while. And it's given me a chance to identify in new ways with fiercely independent people like my brother, who was born with multiple handicaps and had to learn to ask for help with dignity and patience.

My first husband was a coach who ran a marathon before he was diagnosed with cancer and told he had six months to live.

With a solid steel will and the grace of God, he stretched six months into four years before he died. When he could no longer run, he walked on the beach. When he couldn't walk, he read books about Yosemite. When he could no longer climb mountains, he shot photos from the car and made scrapbooks.

He tried to be thankful for what he could still do, instead of grieving for what he had lost. And sometimes, it was enough.

OK, so I can't walk well, but I can hobble. I can't drive for six weeks, but I can ride shotgun. I can't cook much or clean or do a lot of things I usually do.

But I can sit in my husband's chair icing my foot, zipping through ads in the Giants' game while he loads the dishwasher.

My mother would be amazed.


Sharon Randall is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service ( Brian O'Neill is off today.


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