Sometimes It Is Like Yesterday
On August 22, 2020, I officially became a quadriplegic for 37 years. Ironically, the same age that I was when I got married. Being injured at 16 years old, it is practically a lifetime ago. Most days it is far in the background of my mind. I have been injured so long that my daily routine is just that; my life. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that once in a while there is a reminder about what life was like “before.” I do wonder if it will ever go away and I don’t think it will. But I can ponder.
You might wonder what makes me think about the first 16 years of my life. And I find that it comes in the most surprising circumstances. Moments when I look out the window and see a runner go by and I imagine myself jogging down the street in the morning before school. Watching a basketball game and having a glimmer in my mind of my high school basketball coach yelling “mental toughness” as we ran back and forth sweating and breathing hard. Seeing a lake and being reminded of childhood trips to Lake George with my parents. And, most of all, thinking of the great years spent every summer at the Rondout Country Club on
the swim team with friends that I remain in touch with today. Those seemed like days of Camelot. How as foolish young teenagers we put baby oil all over our bodies with the goal of getting the best suntan; spraying our hair with lemon juice so it would turn blonde and instead it turned orange; going to the clubhouse and sharing a huge order of French fries and Tab soda, purchased from the vending machine; having our moms sit around the pool visiting while we did our own thing; and then going home to a cooked meal that my mother prepared earlier.
And then I remember the post- dinner routine. My father would usually go outside and unravel the long hose and water his tomato plants. And then he would water the flowers that my mother had carefully planted all over our property. My responsibility was to mow the lawn. And I loved putting on my short shorts and mowing the front lawn as cars would go by and beep. Yes, I thought I was hot stuff!
The other memories are associated with music. Think of it, the summer of 1983. In my upstairs bedroom with pink and orange shag carpeting (a relic of the 70s design), I had my stereo with speakers and an eight-track tape player attached. I would sing into my hairbrush like it was a microphone.
The soundtracks from Grease, Dirty Dancing and Flashdance. Donna Summer. Billy Joel. Bruce Springsteen. Michael Jackson. Bryan Adams. Cheap Trick. The Eagles. Journey. Styx. Survivor. Asia. And the list can go on. When I hear songs from any of those artists today, my mind travels back to my childhood bedroom.
But as the years go by the memories are more fleeting. And they don’t come with as much clarity. It no longer makes me sad. I find those thoughts to be like little white butterflies fluttering by while I live my current life. And while it is not the life I imagined on August 21, 1983, when I left my house, it is a wonderful life. I graduated with my high school class in 1985 and was the commencement speaker. I met amazing women in college. I became a lawyer. I had a wonderful career with the Federal government, and now I get to live my dream in a business with my beloved husband. I met the man of my dreams. Who knows if we would’ve ever met if I hadn’t become a quadriplegic? I find it a waste of time to play the “what would life have been like” game. Life is too short. I take
each day and live it to the fullest. Health is wealth. Family is everything. Friends are my community. And making the world a better place is my passion. I may be doing it sitting down instead of standing up, but I am where I am and it is all okay. In fact, I’m better than okay. I am lucky enough to have everything I need to make my life beautiful and fulfilling.