When I was 22, I broke my elbow two days before a scheduled flight from Toronto to Minneapolis. The X-ray tech in the ER described my prognosis as “very painful”. Forty-five minutes of surgery later, I had a plate and six screws in my elbow. Shortly thereafter, I received a potent blend of Demerol and morphine that kept me going through the following two nights in hospital. I told my mom to tell the people I was slated to see in Minneapolis about the injury. I would have called them myself but I was bedridden, frail and periodically hallucinating.
I was determined to make the trip to Minneapolis. I also knew my parents were going to Vancouver to visit my dad’s side of the family at the end of the month, and I really wanted to go with them. My dad’s father’s health was failing, and besides, I hadn’t seen most of his side of the family in four years. My aunt and uncle’s daughters were growing up so quickly, I didn’t want to miss a stage of their adolescence. The fracture unit staff at the hospital told me I couldn’t fly in a full cast – there was a worry of my arm expanding in midair – so I had a half cast put on.
I flew twice in that half cast, thrice if you count a hop from Vancouver Island to the mainland. I spent an extra week in the cast so I could make the Vancouver trip. Those trips ended up being some of the most valuable of my life. In Minneapolis, I got a better idea of where I wanted to move. (It ended up not being Minneapolis, but I still loved the city.) In Vancouver, I got to see my dad’s side of the family for the first time as an adult. Most importantly, it was the last time I ever saw my grandfather, who died a year and a half later. My dad had urged me to come to Vancouver, even though it would have been so much easier to get the half cast off a week earlier and stay home. To this day, I’m glad I took my dad’s advice.
I learned some valuable lessons from that month. One, that I was tougher than I’d realized; a person can really fight through even the most painful adversity. Two, that my pain would pass but the memories from those trips would remain. Three, that family can make almost anything worthwhile, even flying across Canada in a half cast. Four, that opportunities aren’t always there, so to take them every chance you get.