He used to tell me I would end up in a wheelchair, and then he wasn’t going to stick around. Then I’d be completely useless. I couldn’t help but to correct him.
“You’d always have my disability check!”
He wasn’t so warmly receptive to that statement, perhaps because he knows it was the entire truth of him forced into the shortest sentence I could. It was the worst thing I could do, show him the truth. How I had come to feel about his character, about his actions, the way he treated others, and how insanely twisted his justifications truly were. They stood starkly in contrast to the personae he presented to the world. For appearance sake. So no one would suspect he true nature of him and he could operate undetected. Or so he thought. He was rather displeased that it was me so who bluntly summed up the years of his life. I was, after all, the one who was supposed to support and assist him in his pursuit of the ultimate lie.
But this post isn’t about his greed, lust over money, willingness to step on the backs of his family and friends to get what he wants, or even the lengths he will go to use and manipulate those around him for his own benefit. Nope, this is about a monster of a different sort.
“Hey mom. Do you have an extra cane lying around anywhere? I’m having problems with my hips. It’s hard to walk.”
“You, too? Must be the cold. I think I have one; I will look and get back to you.”
This is the way the call went. Never did it dawn on her to pause and think about the request I just made and what it may have meant. Not once did she ask if something had happened to her previously healthy thirty-something daughter. There was no concern or worry present in her voice. The next day I had a cane.
It was a cold winter day when I picked up the phone to call my mother. I had been suffering for weeks by the time I broke down and called her. Secretly, I was dreading the questions I thought she would ask: why, what happened, is this new? But the questions never came. Sadly I realized that those are only questions someone would ask if they had any awareness, if they paid attention, if they cared. Seeing that I had spent all that time living under her roof, in all the years she knew me never being so drastically injured to need a cane to walk with — not even when my brother and I were hit head-on by the plow on the way to school so many years ago — she did not know me. Did I not live there in the house? Did she notice me there or was I just shoved out of the way until she needed to come asking me for money? I was there for years, right under her nose, and never did she take notice of something so obvious that no one else would miss it. No one else except for her.
But I digress, because this post isn’t really about her, either. It’s about something I do not really spend too much time talking about, because I feel like I am complaining. Because I only have to open my eyes to see others who have physical injuries so much worse than mine, and they can function just fine. They don’t complain about it. They accept it and maneuver around as best they can. But I had a preview not a few weeks ago of what I may in-store for this winter, and I am already wishing I could sleep through until spring, avoiding this inconvenience as much as possible.
One of Kevin’s favorite things to do to mete out punishment was to strike me in the legs with a metal bar that was probably about a good inch and a half in diameter. I have visible neurological damage from this. Some of it I was eventually able to have a vascular surgeon rectify, but so much remains as a constant memory to the sting of the cold metal as it hit my bare skin. Worse than the appearance of the damage he left behind are the symptoms of that damage: the constant burning, throbbing, vibrating, and pulsing I feel no matter what position I am in. I have giant spots on my legs where I have areas that are completely numb, surrounded by a ring of fiery ache. Every second of every minute of every day. RLS medication has helped to alleviate some of the symptoms that keep my awake at night, but it isn’t so effective much past that.
The worst symptom is when the cold moves in and winter has settled across the region. I was cruelly and unexpectedly reminded of this when we had our first true cold snap of the month not a few weeks ago. When I woke up one morning planning on going to work early, I was met with a wonderful chill in the air of my room. It was only 17 out. I told myself it was going to be a definite sweater day, and I turned off my alarm, shook off the sleep, laid there in the dark, cold air for a few minutes dreading the fact I had to leave my warm cocoon. Hastily, I flung the covers off, and when I went to roll over and sit up, the lower half of my body refused to move. In fact, it rebelled, sending stabbing pains from my hips down to my ankles. I could not move.
What I should have done at that moment was pick up my phone and call my stepmother — a nurse who lives in the house? How convenient! — but I did not. I did not want them to know that what he had done to me was this bad. So for the next half hour, I struggled to maneuver myself to a sitting position on the edge of my bed. As I used the office chair to push myself up to a somewhat pathetic standing position, my legs screamed back at me. The first time, I actually fell over on the floor, and I had to then subject myself to getting up from the crumbled ball I became against my will.
I found myself slowly dragging one leg, then the other, forcing myself to walk in much the same way I did when I decided that I was going to abandon the cane. It took months to wean myself off the stability that one inch thick piece of metal afforded me. Stairs were scary, and in the beginning almost impossible for me to handle. This annoyed Kevin, because the first apartment I was in had a very tricky staircase to begin with. And since I was so slow, he refused to walk behind me. If I fell, it wasn’t his problem. So I struggled on my own, and I was eventually able to shed the cane. Initially, I walked slowly trying to avoid the accompanying pain, but I eventually grew used to it and somehow faked a walk as though I was normal. Not damaged. Not almost broken. An early thirty something year old trying desperately to hide what he was doing to me. So no one would ask. So no one would notice. So no one would talk.
But the pain I experienced just a few weeks ago had an added edge to it. The kick I sustained to my lower back in December has left me with a pain in my tailbone that has grown progressively worse. I have ignored it, so it has persisted to the point where I can no longer sit comfortably for more than ten minutes at a time. I shift in my chair at work. I fidget. I fuss. To ease the burning pain, I have to use my arms and push my lower body up slow enough to not agitate it further. It feels like someone took a blowtorch to my back.
I am hoping this is not going to be a bad winter for me. The past few winters were fairly mild, and although I definitely had mobility issues until the warmer spring air alleviated it, it was not intolerable. Saturdays out in service will be painful hours if it is bad.
The only other thing that aggregates it as badly as the cold weather can is if I do too much physical activity. From experience, sawing and hauling trees that were felled during a storm and walking for an entire day around New York City were probably a little bit of overkill. I spent the next several days fighting the urge to lie in bed and fossilize from the stiffness.
So maybe he was right. Maybe some day I will end up in a wheelchair. The one good thing about it is that even though he is the cause, and he wouldn’t be there to see it if it did happen — all he would do is gloat anyway — he can never break my will. He isn’t taking that from this girl. Not ever again. That wheelchair is just going to have to sit there empty if I have anything to say about it. And if I lose that fight, I have the solace that at least I didn’t lose my life. Things could have been so much worse. So much worse indeed.