“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.” – Maya Angelou
It was February something 1994. The snow glistened as bright sun beams danced across its crevasses. It was unbearable that year. Inch after inch and foot after foot fell to the ground, impeding even the toughest of plows. I gazed out the window of my childhood home, longing for spring to come.
You see, I had something important to do. I had something that other children only dreamed of.
I had horses, and they needed to be ridden.
I didn’t have horses because I was some over-entitled little brat whose parents indulged her every whim. I had horses because it was therapeutic. Riding horses increased my balance and prolonged my ability to walk.
As I sat, aimlessly staring out that window, my parents were preparing for our bi-annual pilgrimage to Geisinger Medical Center. They called my name, and I headed to the van, ready to tackle the almost three hour trip.
It was an uneventful drive. We arrived on time to see the orthopedic doctor, only to wait another hour and a half to be taken into the room. The nurse mumbled something about an emergency, but I couldn’t care less. I was ten at the time. All I wanted was to go home and be with my horses.
I got undressed and put on the usual hospital gear: a gown so big I could’ve built a fort with it. The doctor came in, pulled my gown open from the back and ran his finger down the 22 inch scar on my spine.
You see, six months prior, I had a total spinal fusion complete with two 20 inch titanium rods, screws, wire, and cadaver bone. I had scoliosis, and it was so bad that my spine was crushing my heart, left lung, and left kidney. The surgery had to be done in order to save my life.
It was difficult for me after that surgery. That’s when I became permanently confined to a wheelchair. I was so perfectly straight, I couldn’t keep my balance long enough to even take one step. I’d just fall over.
The doctor said the scar looked good. It healed perfectly, and I could resume normal activities.
I was overcome with joy. I grabbed my clothes, dressing as fast as I could while the doctor was still in the room. He asked me why I was in such a rush. I replied that I needed to get home and see my horses. We had a lot of things to discuss before spring came, and I got back in the saddle.
He looked at me with a disheartened expression on his face.
That’s when my life changed forever.
You see, while the gait of a horse has therapeutic benefits for the disabled, it also has disruptive consequences.
The gait of the horse would cause too much stress on my new titanium spine. It would cause the rods to shift and damage my spine, leading to possible paralysis.
Because of the rods in my back, I’d never ride a horse again.
I’d never feel the breeze blow against my face as I galloped across a meadow.
I’d never feel the unspoken connection between the horse and I as we transitioned from gallop to walk without speaking one syllable.
I’d never feel the freedom of being one with a 1,600 pound animal.
We left the hospital and headed home. My heart was heavy. My spirit was crushed. I felt utterly devastated.
Little did I know, in four short months, my life would completely change, forever. The man who taught me everything I knew about horses, from soaping a saddle to floating teeth, would die.
My maternal grandfather was a member of the last division of the Calvary. He and his military issue horse, Two Bits, ended a chapter of this country’s furry history.
He died on June 17, 1994, three months after being diagnosed with cancer. His death completely ended the horse chapter of life.
Autumn Tompkins is the head sass-master at ink well copy. She is a skilled copywriter who creates dynamic copy that captures her clients’ expert voices and generates genuine sales, turning maybe’s into most definitely’s.