lessons from a blow to the head

This past Saturday morning, I rode my bike around Washington Park, basking in the sunshine and the tulips. I bumped into a friend, and we chatted and laughed and hugged — yay, vaccines! Then I pedaled away, feeling such freedom, such joy, such relief, such a sense of renewal and gratitude for life.

Back home, I took a shower in the upstairs bathroom. After toweling off I figured I’d clean up the sink a bit, so I started scrubbing away and fluttering around absent-mindedly, paying no attention to the slippery floor. 

I put my bare heel down on a wet spot, and boom. 

I fell. Slammed the back of my head bloody hard against the tub. I felt and heard the smack in slow motion, almost, recognizing and regretting the stupidity and seriousness of what just happened.

I thought, Fuck. Fuck. Stupid Amy. Fuck. I just did that. I might die. I can’t do that to the kids. I can’t. They already lost their dad. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Mama died after a fall. I watched her eyes fade before me. I should have known better. I should have slowed down. I should have remembered. Stupid. Fuck. Stupid. 

My son Mitchell came in, sweet and wise and calm. He called his sister Jeanne, also sweet and wise and calm, who’s had wilderness first-aid training and knows concussions. I told her I hadn’t blacked out. She asked me a few questions, then sweetly, wisely, calmly told me to go to urgent care just to be safe. 

My boyfriend Dave arrived just then, emitting yet more sweetness and wisdom and calm. He drove me off to urgent care, and I filled out forms. What’s the reason for your visit? one asked. I wanted to write: Because I’m stupid stupid stupid. When a sweet, wise, calm woman walked in and asked me questions, I told her how scared I was. I told her about Mama’s subdural hematoma. But Mama was on blood thinners, I said. And I’m not. Thank God. And no, I didn’t lose consciousness. And yes, I remember what happened. No headache so far. No vomiting. That ringing in my ears? Tinnitus. Nothing new. Same old screech as always.

She had me stand with my eyes closed. Stand with my arms out. Walk heel to toe in a straight line. Puff out my cheeks. Raise my eyebrows. Follow her finger around my face, touching my nose then her fingertip then my nose again. All sorts of weird is-your-brain-broken shit that I was happy to do because I passed every test, passed, passed, passed, and she sent me home telling me to take it easy and go to the E.R. if things suddenly turned worse.

But they didn’t turn worse. I never got a headache, never puked, never even got much of a bruise on the back of my head. And I can’t comprehend why. I. Just. Don’t. Get it. I fell and smacked my head so damned hard against the tub, I still can’t believe I didn’t wind up with a concussion at least. I must have the world’s thickest skull. Or I must have broken the fall with my arm on the sink and my butt on the wall, because if I hadn’t, I might not be here to write this. 

The fact that I still have a mind to blow? That blows my mind. It feels miraculous. Like an affirmation, a new lease on life, a blast of angling sun at dawn. I thought of my bike ride around Washington Park that morning — that sense of renewal and rebirth. Here it was again, minus the tulips.

A friend of mine, hearing the saga of my blow to the head, remarked: “You have more to do.”

And I thought: Hmmm, okay. What is it? Clearly I am being instructed to add no-slip mats and stickers to the upstairs bathroom (done). But what else? If indeed I’ve been given a fresh start, what’s my purpose? What mission am I on? Is this some message from On High telling me to give more, to write more, to listen more, to do more for people in need, to meet them where they are each day? To live in the present, to be kind and open, to see the gifts of the world around me? To finish that batshit and probably unpublishable little novel I’ve been working on, the one about my sister’s first attempt and suicide and my quest to retrieve her from heaven? (There. I just said something publicly about it. Now I have to.)

I don’t know. For all I know, I could die tomorrow. I’ve always known I could die tomorrow: If you spend much of your adulthood losing people you love, many of them suddenly, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion. We’re only here for a wee spell, any of us. That wee spell could be 98 years or an hour. It could be filled with love and laughter or isolation and pain. For most of us who live long enough, we get a combo of all four. But what’s “long enough,” anyway? Not up to me to determine. Not in the end. Which is coming.

And yes, this is an extremely morbid post. 

After getting home from urgent care Saturday afternoon, I ticked off my blessings: three wonderful grown kids, plus a wonderful bonus kid; a wonderful man; wonderful relatives and friends; a meaningful job; health; a home; the joy of music; the joy of laughter; coffee. 

That evening, playing Scrabble with Dave, I looked down at my letters and gasped. Six of them had something to say: 

I ALIVE. 

And I am. I am. I am. Today. For now. For some reason I may never understand. But that’s okay. I’m grateful to be here, and while I am, I’ll do my best to live in the moment. To give in the moment.To love in the moment. To take nothing for granted in the moment.

Because the moment is all we have — and that’s enough.

19 thoughts on “lessons from a blow to the head

  1. Amy, I so missed your blog!
    I found this so uplifting and joyful, so thank you very much!

    The last couple of years, I’ve been saying that despite my troubles, my watchword is “JOY”.
    Your nailed it, here.

    There’s a shaped- note song by Mary Alice Amidon, called “I Still Have Joy”. It goes 🎶I still have joy, I still have joy. After all the things I’ve been through, I still have joy.” Followed by appropriate verses.
    If I knew how, I’d put in a YouTube link! She & Peter Amidon have been wonderful VT folk song leaders for years.

    BTW, if you have time to listen to my own whole story,, I was interviewed by Fr. Scott VanDerveer (St. Patrick’s & St. Mary’s, Ravena & Coxsakie). Google ” Profiles of Endurance, Debbie”.
    I dont think you even need ‘Kirsch’.

    Thanks again, got your wise and wonderful musings!!💓

  2. Phew! I glad you’re alive, too. Long story short: yesterday, adult kids visiting for the first time in forever, they bring my new grand-puppy, playing bocce in the yard, stupid me throws the ball, puppy chases, leash pulls my feet from under me and I go down. What a relief I wasn’t hurt! Like you, I have much more to do. Get to doing it, Amy!

  3. As always an eye opening reflection. Write that book, I love your writing. Glad the bump on your head was not fatal!! You will live to write again.

  4. Amy, it was your low down your moving too fast moment. Listen and see you got the message and now you will be more aware. Good your not seriously hurt a huge hit to pride. I can relate to you I have had my slow down fall, I have dust myself off and took a break to reflect and move on. Look forward to reading more from you. Peace, love and happiness and hugs.

  5. My goodness. Glad you’re OK.
    Many years ago, I heard something fall. I assumed it was my then small child, but she was fine. I assumed that it was something from outside.
    But then I discovered that my wife had fallen in the shower. How she managed not to hit her head on the counter or toilet in that tiny room, I’ll never know. She had passed out probably from too much hot water and dehydration. Ever since, if I hear something crash, I always check out her and the now 17 y.o.

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