Recovery comes in phases, and I feel like a new one started last week. On Friday, Anna and I went to the beach and I swam in the ocean. We’ve been to the ocean a few times since the accident, but this was the first time I’ve done more than glorified wading. I swam, I let the waves wash over me, I got wet, and it felt great! My arm tingled in the salt water, and I felt so alive.
On Saturday, I went to youth group and played guitar, helping to lead worship (something I have not done since early October). It wasn’t as easy as swimming, and I had trouble holding on to the pick—it kept slipping out of my fingers—but it was great to be able to play, even if I wasn’t playing all that well.
And on Sunday, Suzanne let me drive home from Church! Wow! Life is returning to normal.
But maybe I pushed it too far. Also, on Sunday, Anna and I went to the final match of the 26th Africa Cup of Nations that Ghana has been hosting these past 21 days. It was between Egypt and Cameroon. Egypt was the reigning champs, and it was Cameroon that knocked Ghana out in the quarter finals. Overall, its been a great tournament, and we’ve watched more soccer these past 21 days that we have in our entire lives. Ghana took third by beating the Ivory Coast Elephants, and besides that consolation match, our Glorious Black Starts did beat Nigeria.
So on Sunday, Anna decided she wanted to go to at least one game. We had tried for tickets earlier, but discovered that Accra has a bit of a good-ole-boy-network. Trying to the games Ghana was playing in, were sold at the post office and banks but were somehow always “finished” as they say here. Tickets could be had, but you had to know someone, or know someone who knew someone, and we knew neither. So we watched the games on the Telly, and listened to the roar of our neighborhood when Ghana scored.
We took a taxi to the Stadium, and then bought tickets from a worried father who really didn’t want to go to the game. Cost: $4 each. Then Anna wanted these big yellow #1 fingers that have been such a fixture of this game. As designed, they were to put on your hand to make a big “We’re number 1” but people were buying two of them and then whapping them together by holding the fingers to make an amazingly loud sound. Now imagine a stadium of 30,000 people about half of them going whap, whap. The noise was thundering.
Then there were the horns. Not the compressed air horns like in the states, but these straight plastic ones that can really kick out the deciles. Anna didn’t get one of those.
Around the stadium were 1000s of people, vendors, police, fans, and thieves. Walking through the crowds the feeling of people touching your pockets was a constant. Pickpockets were everywhere. We had been warned, and the stories of this or that happening were abundant. I was wearing cargo pants with almost enough zippered pockets to feel safe. Almost. I kept slapping away the hand of this one guy who kept opening the pocket and reaching in for Anna’s binoculars. Then he and his buddies cut me off from her, and memories of a busy Paris train station flooded in, the last time I’d had such an encounter.
We had been on a family vacation in Europe for 25 days and successfully avoided losing anything. I’d even put my wallet in my front pocket, but here we were rushing to catch a train, going up this very crowded escalator, when suddenly the crowd lunged back, pushed into me, and I started to fall. At the time I remember being so thankful that the guy behind me caught my back. He caught my back, but at the same time caught my wallet, but I didn’t know it. I smiled and thanked him. The second we got off the escalator I knew it was gone. I yelled “Hey, I’ve been robbed! Thief!” And the guy just turned around, he was now about 25 ft away down a stairway, and smiled, saluted me and got on a different subway car. He and my wallet were gone. In 10 minutes over $6000 would be spent on cloths and books, but that’s another story.
Well, I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen in Accra, so when the pickpocket grabbed again, I grabbed him and let him have it. OK-so when a only-one-arm-working-48-year-old-obruni says he let him have it, it isn’t saying much. I yelled “STOP TRYING TO ROB ME!” I pushed him down, I threw him into a market lady stand selling water and canned minerals (sodas). I think he was as shocked at my wildness as I was with my blind rage, and then the police came and pulled me off him. He went into custody. I went to find Anna, who had thankfully missed the whole thing. Then the police found me again and I had to pay the market lady. She had been scrambling to find as much stuff as she could to say I ruined it, and acted upset. But truthfully, I was happy to reimburse her, even at twice the cost to just have stood up for myself, to not be a victim, to not give into the injury. To be a man again. It felt good, at least until about 30 minutes later when my arm started to ache as we watched the game. I don’t know what I did with it in the excitement, but now it ached. But that’s OK, I told myself, it’s the price of manhood. Cost $5.
The psychological cost of the injury is never talked about, the having to ask your 12 year old daughter to open a jar because you can’t. The not being able to drive, having to ask someone to take you, always sitting in the passenger’s side, and the driver ignoring what you KNOW to be the better/faster/smoother route. The being afraid to go to the market because your arm might get bumped, the so many things that increases your dependence on others and your fear of reinjury, and that people take you less seriously (or flat out don’t listen) because you’re injured.
But I think the fear is the worst because as a man, we’re supposed to be fearless and not stupid about things and because I got injured, it appears as if I was…stupid about things, when maybe accidents just happen. That’s why we call them that.
So it’s a new phase I’m entering, one about taking back the life that was mine. The one that says, can we talk about something else (besides my injury), can you just treat me as me without treating me as the injured me, the one that is not going to let this thing define me.