Saturday, February 25, 2012

Incidental music for above-knee amputation

Today I've been steeping in music like a teabag in hot water. My amputation-anniversary tomorrow has a resonance similar and different to my daughters' births. This afternoon I had to drive forty miles round trip on an errand. My town south of Ithaca NY, centrally isolated, is 20 miles from anywhere. I put on a certain song and cranked the stereo until it was pegged just as I did that last month before my surgery was approved in 2007, when my girls were 7 and 17 and it hurt me even to ride my horse. Then, my left knee was painless and bent, rigid for thirty years, auto-fused when I was in my teens. But my left ankle and foot had ground bone on bone; my right knee had broken down. In line at the grocery store I'd shifted from foot to foot, unable to find a comfortable stance. My chiropractor had adjusted my back every week so I could walk. When my girls bumped my foot I'd yelped like an old dog. The doctors wanted to fuse my leg straight and let me limp that way for a while. My knee was surgically uncorrectable. One specialist called it "unique to North America." It was the kind of fusion they didn't see anymore, not since the discovery of antibiotics. 
This is where religion-based neglect of children can lead.

I was the one who looked into amputation, researched it, met with two different prosthetists, talked to amputees. Amputation was my worst nightmare when I was a kid, especially as a teen when I sensed it might happen if a doctor saw my disease-ravaged leg. But ever since the bone disease blew my world, I've needed to know the worst-case scenario. I've needed to know so that I can imagine enduring it. That's my security. I've struggled to find a sense of future or hope.  It's typical  behavior for someone with post-traumatic-stress-disorder. But I found that facing my worst fear head-on can be the most empowering event  of my life. “Our fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasures.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

That winter in 2007, my older daughter would turn on her radio every morning as she and her sister got ready for school. A song caught my ear: sliding guitar chords, heavy beat, and hopefully desperate lyrics. Appropriately enough, it's called Gone Away by the Offspring. I got the CD & twisted the volume to eleven. It was--is--my theme song of that time. I guess it's my anthem. I drove with it blasting, then and today. Listening to it feels like staring amputation in the eyes, like runnng off a cliff and hoping to glide instead of fall like a stone, like being chased and choosing to take a chance. When the surgeons agreed to amputate my leg, it was the biggest act of faith in myself I could imagine. Though I had friends and relatives supporting me, I had no partner or spouse or lover; I had no god or religious faith. But I had evidence of so much  human love and caring around me. I had evidence of and faith in my own strength and resilience.

A bobcat dashed across the road in front of my truck this morning as I drove across town to get a load of hay. It was a furry streak too small for a coyote, tailless,too big and brown to be a feral cat. It ran with that wild and hellbent singlemindedness imprinted by survival. When I got home I looked up the meaning of BOBCAT as a totem: "Silence. Solitude. Secrets." It seems appropriate for me today. As the Offspring sing (cranked up way too loud), It feels like heaven's so far away. For me, tonight, that's a good thing.

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