1. No Food for Alligators

1. No Food for Alligators

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade

No Food for Alligators

A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.

~Hugh Downs

I freely admit that I am a Pollyanna. I look for rainbows after the storm. I point out silver linings. I am accused of having a perennial smile on my face, seeing the good in everyone, and sometimes being “annoyingly” happy. On most days, I live up to my reputation. And most days, I get the proverbial swamp drained even when I’m up to my eyeballs in alligators. But there are those days when the alligators are unrelenting, snapping at my every move. They lick their chops in anticipation of taking a bite out of my Pollyanna spirit. I remember one such day when they almost devoured me.

I was the homeroom mom for my son Colin’s fifth grade class. It was the morning of the end-of-semester holiday party. Colin and I were loading the car with bags of porcelain cups filled with candies, teachers’ gifts, and food and games for the party scheduled that afternoon. After several trips from the house to my car, I started one last time for the house to get my purse and keys. Upon turning on my prosthetic leg, I found myself falling forward and landing on my very cold cement driveway.

I rolled onto my side and sat up like a seasoned pro linebacker hardly realizing I was down. I spotted the lower half of my prosthesis, with my foot attached, three feet away from the rest of me. Colin was terrified that I had hurt myself and was on the verge of tears. I assured him that I was fine — it was one of those rare moments when I felt grateful for well-padded hips — and instructed him to get the rolling desk chair from my home office.

The words of my physical rehab doctor, “Cindy you will need to make friends with your wheelchair,” were swimming around in my head. I had not made friends with my wheelchair, and in fact two years after becoming a bilateral below-the-knee amputee, I donated my wheelchair to an organization that was in desperate need of one. My office chair had to suffice.

With Colin and my neighbor’s help, I got into the chair and was pushed to my car. I transferred myself into the seat right behind the steering wheel. Luckily, it was my left foot that broke. It was sitting on the passenger seat right next to me. My right foot was securely in place where it belonged, at the end of my right prosthetic leg working the gas and brake pedals.

When we arrived at school, I noticed one of my friends in the parking lot. I waved her over to my car.

“Can you help Colin take some bags into the school? I broke my foot this morning and can’t get out of the car.”

She gasped. But after I swept my arm across the passenger seat and pointed to my foot, Vanna White style, she began to laugh.

“Oh my gosh Cindy, I forgot that you don’t have real feet.”

We all laughed and agreed it could have been worse — a real broken foot.

I phoned Chris, the guy who makes my prosthetic limbs, on my cell phone and left a message asking — I may have sounded a little desperate — for his help.

“I need to be back at school this afternoon for the party,” I explained.

I said a silent prayer that my leg could be fixed.

Boy the alligators are biting today, I thought as I started the engine to make the trek to Chris’s office in downtown Denver.

When I turned my key, I found that I was riding on empty. Rolling my eyes, and shaking my head, I uttered a forlorn, “You’ve gotta be kidding!”

I then remembered that there was a service station only a few blocks from school with an attached auto repair garage. I hoped that it would be open, and that someone would be there to pump gas for me. It was still pretty early in the morning. Most businesses had not yet turned on their lights.

I drove into the station and up to the garage doors. The doors were closed, but I could see people moving around inside. I began to honk my horn. As I waited for a warm body to emerge, I tried to reach Chris again. Bingo! I got him on the second ring. He told me to come to his office as quickly as possible.

“Call me when you get here, and I’ll meet you in the parking lot. I’m sure it will be an easy fix.”

“Yes!” I pounded my fist on my dashboard. “Ha! The alligators haven’t gotten me yet!”

I may have said these words out loud.

Finally, after several toots of the horn, a grouchy looking man emerged from the garage, obviously not thrilled to have been beckoned in such a rude manner. I rolled down my window, and began to explain that I had broken my foot earlier that morning and needed his assistance at the gas pump.

“You broke your foot?”

As he looked into my car, I once again swept my arm across my seat where my left foot sat. He looked down at my leg. His eyebrows went right up to his hairline. He literally laughed out loud.

“Well there’s somethin’ ya don’t see every day.”

On my way to Chris’s office, I was listening to the radio and heard something that I felt compelled to impart to a friend. . . immediately. During our two-minute conversation, my phone died. I was out of battery power. I exhaled heavily, wondering how I was going to alert Chris to my arrival.

As I turned into his parking lot, Chris came out. He had been watching for me. He took my foot and the rest of my left leg into his office. Ten minutes later he emerged with my leg — foot attached. I put it on and hopped out of the car. He tweaked the alignment of the foot a bit, making sure that I was walking well. I left the parking lot, waving happily over my shoulder.

“Not on your menu today, alligators!”

I drove to the grocery store. Snow was predicted to start falling that evening, and by all accounts the storm was going to be a doozey. No one would go hungry at my house. After putting away my groceries, I sat down with a cup of coffee.

I looked up at the clock and started to laugh. It was not yet ten o’clock. I took stock of all the morning’s events. If I had given in to those alligators at any point, I would have never been able to find the help I needed to get me back up on both (fake) feet.

I arrived at the party with time to spare. Colin’s teacher could not believe that I had made it. I assured her that it would take more than a broken foot (and a swamp full of alligators) to keep me away from a good party.

~Cindy Charlton

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