Walking around with a black eye for the last two weeks has been well, pardon the pun, an eye-opening experience.
That the almost universal reaction to my black eye were jokes about domestic abuse was frankly, unsettling.
“Wow,” said a friend at the dog park. “You want me to notify social services?”
Another friend joked: “You want me to come and beat up your husband?”
After seeing a doctor, one brother texted, “Did he refer you to a battered wives group?”
Even women I work with were at a loss for words. Seeing their discomfort, I pointed to my eye and explained: “I fell.”
“Oh,” one said, as if relieved. “I was gonna ask, but I didn’t know how…It’s kinda like asking someone if they’re pregnant.”
To be honest, I didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended. Then again, not many people get black eyes because they fell while running. Klutz that I am, I could not come up with a good comeback. Somehow, “You should see the sidewalk,” wasn’t cutting it.
One of the best reactions I got was when I ran outside in the morning having forgotten that I’d scheduled a donation to the Vietnam Vets. Because the pain and swelling subsides in almost direct correlation to the flood of magenta and crimson, you can be pain-free and completely forget that you look like a cyclops. When I handed my bag of clothes to the pickup guy, he took one look at me in my grungy robe, my hair all wild like Doc Brown in “Back to the Future” and said: “Happy Halloween.”
It pains me to admit this, but I have been to the emergency room three times in the last four years, all because I’ve fallen while running.
I can blame the first fall on stupidity; I slipped on the ice on a sidewalk bridge and fell backward. Never should have been running on a snowy day.
The second time my feet got caught in a circular piece of wire left on the sidewalk. I was so convinced this one was Not My Fault, I called 1-800-CALL-SAM sure that one member of the Bernstein family would agree that some careless repair guy from a utility company had not cleaned up was thus due me recompense in the hundreds of thousands range. (Sadly, they did not agree.)
The most recent fall that catapulted me – literally – flat on my face happened because I got cocky. I’ve been training for Detroit’s half-marathon and was at mile nine of a 10 mile run on the sidewalks of a Birmingham neighborhood. I was so proud of myself for feeling so good I turned to watch the mail carrier pass by me. The last thing I remember was thinking how quaint it is that mail is still delivered on foot and door to door.
Seconds later, a goose egg was ballooning on my temple. I got up and knocked on the driver’s side window of a rather frightened gray-haired woman who was about to back out of her driveway. She phoned my husband on her cellphone as I stood there, wimpering, feeling very sorry for myself and wishing my mom were still alive.
All told, I have broken my pinkie finger, had a hairline fracture of my orbital bone, a mild concussion and a terribly bruised ego. But in my defense, in the same time span, I’ve run the 10 mile Crim race in Flint, Detroit’s half- marathon, several 10 ks and, God willing, will complete my second half-marathon Sunday.
I’m fully aware that non-runners think I’m crazy. And I’d be lying if I didn’t think twice when I saw the full page ad in the New York Times for something in called FTD: an early onset dementia for which an accurate diagnosis can take years.
But I have a terribly protective coterie of caregivers in the form of three daughters in their 20s who, after I received the all clear from my doctor, admonished me to pick up my feet and focus on what’s in front of me.
My husband applauded me for my grit, one of my brothers has taken to calling me “Probie” (of the Red Wings “Bruise Brothers” fame) and evidently I scored big points with another brother who used to get orbital fractures all the time from scrums in his rugby days. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t start to feel macho.
By the end of two weeks, I started to look a little less zombie-ish. The horrendous black and blue began to shrink to a small Gorbachev-wine stain on my upper cheek bone.
Surely, there will be many proud runners to cross the finish line on Sunday. But none will be more proudly sporting a black eye than me.