Just as I was thinking with satisfaction about how well I was walking down the icy front steps -- at just that very moment! -- my feet flew out from under me and I landed hard on the glazed pavement. Right on my tail bone. The shock of the impact traveled up my spine to my very teeth. What remains of my brain bounced hard off the interior walls of my cranium. I lay in dread on the cement for a moment, wondering if I'd broken anything or if my teeth would fall out. I'm still not sure. But it can't have been too bad; I could get back up, and I could walk.
Q was coming. I decided to wait for him, lest he take off down the steps at his usual fast trot and go flying across the garden. Besides, I wanted to whine a bit and get some sympathy. This secured, we set out carefully arm in arm for the walk across the street to the church.
Those of us who are unsteady on our feet -- a sizable minority in any population -- go through life with the possibility of falling always somewhere in the back of our minds. We find the handrail, wait to get at the back of the line so that we won't slow the rest of the world down with our annoying step-to-step-to method of descending or climbing stairs. Some of us retain our canes for use in crowds, so others will see that we are unsteady and not knock us down. If you've ever been seriously injured, jokes about "I've fallen and I can't get up!" aren't very funny. Not to you, anyway.
You can never just forget about it -- that's the most dispiriting part. No running down steps. No running up, either. No flopping in a chair any old which way -- you ease yourself into one, survey the selection of available chairs before you decide which one you will choose. Your genuflections are slow; now you must plan them, assisting yourself by pushing down against your bent knee to get a head start on your way up, and you remember the ease with which you performed this small devotional act -- how many times? A thousand? Ten thousand? Who knows?
Annoying washes of self-pity cannot help but wash over you from time to time. They dissipate faster if you think about how many comrades you have in your sorrow: there are so many of us! Sooner or later, everyone will be in this state, if we live long enough. And that's the main thing, after all: to live, still to have the gift of this world and its delights, large and small. Still to see and love those whose lives make our lives so much sweeter.
After all, it's not a marathon, not for anyone except marathon runners. The rest of us are just blessed to be here.
A Ways of the World Reading list! Economist and book addict Carol Stone's unusual recommendations for Advent, after everybody's finished reading Mary and her Miracle! Browse through WoW's archives, if you haven't already, and come away with a better understanding of a lot of things.
Barbara Crafton at Stone Soup in Bethlehem, PA: her reading and signing of Mary and Her Miracle begins at noon. The book's illustrator, Diane Robbins, will also be there to meet people and sign books. Stone Soup is at 301 Broadway in Bethlehem, PA 18015. Call them at 610-867-4626.