Mom,” she said with the embarrassment of a pre-teen, “you shouldn’t say the s-word.”

I was muttering, placing one sneaker slowly before the next, inching into the lady’s locker room. Hattie flitted like a hummingbird, away and then back to check on me. I was barely aware of her, focused on a freckled tile, then the next one.

“Sorry, Honey,” I said. I paused while a spandexed woman sped past us.

Hattie took my hand and mocked physical therapist. “One step at a time, Mom.” She exaggerated her patient steps, her head barely clearing my elbow. “Tell me what happened.”

Photo by Liz Whiteacre“I had an accident on the treadmill.” It was all I could spit out between steps, my lips pressed tight. I know better. Seriously, Back? Now? Now’s when you go out? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I’d wiped the sweat from my forehead. The ear bud popped out, swung toward the machine, I grabbed across my body—I know better than this—the twist popped my spine. Such a simple gesture, and it stopped me in my tracks. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I remembered the pain as I inched towards the mat area, hoping to lay myself down until Kevin was done with his workout and could collect me.

“What happened?”

I opened my eyes, and he stood above me, hands on hips. Was it that obvious? Fortunately, we both know the drill by now. I cursed winter coats and purses—all the important stuff that had me inching into the locker room, my six-year-old therapist busy as a bee, hoisting my purse to her shoulder, her voice grave, “Mom, let me carry this.”



To be continued…