The Guilt Keeps Playing Over in My Mind.
Guest post: By Lee Wisecup
I was given a blessing at birth. Some would call it a blessing. Others would call it a curse. In this story, it’s a little bit of both. My Grandmother had a photographic memory – a gift that was passed down to me. That memory has guided me in more ways than one. This day would be no different.
It was a warm, sunny fall day. My wife had been struggling for weeks to jump-start her weight loss program, so I agreed to go along when asked. Few people know that my better half never does anything half-speed. It’s always full-tilt or go home. Just the week before, she decided to run what I call the “Stairway to Heaven” steps at the local High School. These steps put the 72 stone steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, known as the “Rocky Steps” to shame. Under-conditioned, not at her best ‘fighting weight’ and at a prime 50 years old, I knew before tackling those stairs THIS EARLY in her weight loss plan, she was taking on way too much. With each running step, the weight pounding on the foot, calf, shin, knee, ankle, hip, thigh, hamstring…something may give, and nearly did. She walked away with ‘extremely’ sore calves and shins that made it very difficult to walk for almost a week. Having been at this weight-loss stage more than once myself, I knew she was biting off more than she could chew. She kept insisting on following the HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) plan to lose weight. Being concerned it was too much, too early for that, I offered what I felt was a lower-risk alternative. “Why don’t you walk the hill instead?,” I said when she pitched the idea, “I think I’m going to jump rope today.” I was worried about her shins and calves not being able to absorb the impact and possibly re-injuring herself.
Of all the days for her not to disagree with me.
So we round the track. Walking. Slowly, we pass the stairs. “You’re not going to walk the stairs?,” I asked. Instead, she decided her path would be in the nearby grass. The grass was thick. Uncut. I don’t know how anyone could have ever cut that grass. The hill was way, way too steep and tall. “Here, time me,” she said, handing me her cell phone with stopwatch app.
“Ready?,” she asked before I had a chance to nod back and barely hit the start button, up the hill she went. Not walking, but running. “Slow…High-intensity, Low-impact…WALK!,” I shouted. Slowing. She got all the way to the top of the hill. It was a heck of a climb. Proud of herself, “Take a picture?” she asked. So I snapped a couple of pics of her doing her best “Rocky” arms overhead impersonation. “How fast?” she asked. I hollered back, “Thirty Six Point Five Seconds,” as she slowly started back down the hill.
Feet from the bottom, she lost her balance in the tall grass.
I can see it frame by frame. All the way to the bitter end.
Feet falling out from under her. I thought she was going to land okay. Right foot down, left foot (in slow motion) making light-contact with the ground, landing crooked, her ankle buckles, twists and the LOUD POP follows! I am sure I said at least one or two ‘expletives’ as I stood still for half a second before rushing to her rescue. I KNEW…just knew…what had just happened. There was no time for guilt. That would come later.
I have relieved this mini-movie over at least a 100 times in my mind. In conversation. In my sleep. Simply thinking about it with idle time on my hands. Whenever she retells the story to someone. Every single time, I see the images clearly like I was there. I cringe. Sometimes grabbing my head…like I can stop what happened from happening again. I don’t know why. It’s unrealistic to think I can stop the pain. Or take it all away. A rewind. Or a do-over. Maybe change the ending. I know none of these things are possible. The outcome will always be the same. Maybe the guilt will wash away. I don’t know. In good humor, I must chuckle.
Those first few days were the worst. The guilt. “I suggested you walk the hill. It’s my fault.” Being the sweetheart she is, she never once has rubbed it in. She’s been a good spirit through all of it. A smile on her face every single step of the way. Letting me know, it’s not my fault. Her ankle may be broken, but her spirit is still very much intact. I still struggle with the guilt at times knowing I was partly responsible for ‘her first broken bone.’ I have ALWAYS been my toughest critic.
Grandma’s memory. I may joke a little about ‘the replay’ in my mind but would have it no other way – blessing or curse.