In 2007 the Academy Awards were held the Sunday night before my amputation. The surgery was scheduled for 8 am, Monday February 26. The night before, I was home with my older daughter (17 at the time), my sister and my cousin who'd each driven eight hours to be with me.
We'd had an impromptu party on Saturday night. It had featured strong margaritas, loud music, and a giant paper leg we burned in effigy in the snow outside. It was a rowdy, over-the-top celebration, a send-off I called my Leg's Retirement Party. But all day Sunday I paced and trembled, too stressed to speak to anyone. When a well-wishing neighbor stopped by, rather than answer the door, I hid. I waited for the hours to pass. I endured. I was ready; I just wanted to go.
That Sunday night, my daughter took photos of me in shorts with my left leg. Later she told me I had the dead, sunken eyes of a concentration camp survivor. Then we watched the Oscars with my cousin and my sister. We watched them straight through but still I can't name a single film or actor mentioned that night.
In the morning I fed my appaloosa in her run-in stall where she was free to come and go. Laredo munched her grain seriously, nose deep in the bucket, breath swirling up in clouds of vapor. Her neck was warm and her thick winter coat soft against my face. the smell and feel of her was like oxygen, like hope. I pressed my left leg against her left foreleg. I wanted the strength of her smooth tendon, knee and muscle as its last impression.
I haven't regretted it, not since the moment I woke up in Recovery with my thigh a bandaged stump. It's complicated but so is every life. Here's to my next thirty-five years, or more.