500 Miles From Home

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Kentucky Refugee Ministries

I had a rather unsettling experience the other day while teaching ESL at Kentucky Refugee Ministries here in Louisville. We have students from all over the world in the class room: The Congo, Cuba, Somalia, Syria, and Iraq to name a few.

One of the other teachers in the class room was teaching a lesson on home and asked the students to name their home, as in what countries they came from.

She declared she was from Arkansas and then asked the students to name where their home was and they answered in turn. Then, for for some inexplicable reason, she turned to me and asked, “Benn where is your home?”

Well she caught me by surprise and at that moment I was dumbstruck because I literally could not think of an answer and it was at that moment I realized I did not have a home.

So I said, “I don’t really think of any one place as home as I have lived all over.” Well she repeated this back to the class and as the words rang rather hollowly in my ears, she went on with the lesson.

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If you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone

I sat there stewing in the inadequacy of my lame answer and finally came up with a better one. I raised my hand and grabbed my hat!

“Here is my home,” I cried. Then I took my hat and hung it up on an imaginary nail on the wall behind me. “My home is any place I hang my hat!”

Claire dutifully repeated this back to the class, then she caught my eye with a moment of silent recognition, then said, “good one.”

Lesson learned.

 

I Feel Bad About My Leg

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

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When I was in South Florida recently I injured my right leg. I don’t know how exactly, I just know I got up early one morning and I could barely walk. With every step I felt an excruciating pain in my right knee. It slowed me down for sure. Stairs were out, which meant I couldn’t get down the staircase to walk Gideon the Dog, a little white Shi Tzu with a boatload of energy. I took to wearing a knee brace which seemed to help. I hoped my leg would heal in a few days if I stayed off  it and I would get back to normal again. I am a pretty active guy.

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Gideon, the Dog

It did get some better for which I was grateful, because I had to travel back to Kentucky in a few days and there would be a lot of walking and schlepping of suitcases and bags. But as luck would have it, on the day of travel, I aggravated the injury to my leg as I stepped up onto the train platform. Ughhh!

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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgefulness

I had to take a train from Delray Beach to Ft. Lauderdale, a  bus from the train station to the airport, then upstairs to the ticket counter to check in. I was carrying a backpack, a suitcase, and a small carry-on item. I checked the suitcase at the ticket counter and stumbled through security with the other two bags. It was more like a shuffle than a stumble but I managed to get through. There was more security than usual due the fact that there was a mass shooting at this airport just a few days earlier. Guy took a gun out of a packed suitcase in the baggage claim area and started shooting people. This would be your worst nightmare. He ended up killing five people.

I sat a moment in one of the ubiquitous lounges that lined the terminal and had a cheeseburger and a beer. Pretty good. So far so good. When the appointed time came I made the queue and boarded the aircraft. It was short flight to Atlanta but sitting on the tarmac and waiting to take off, then the time in the air didn’t do my leg any good. I was pretty stiff when I got off the plane and not just from the drinks.

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I had to change planes for the final leg of my journey back to Louisville. I arrived at Terminal 1 and had to make my way to Terminal 2. Thankfully there as an escalator, a moving sidewalk, and a train to take me to my destination. Then I had to walk the distance to gate 32, which of course was the furthermost gate away.

It was 7:30 at night when I finally got home. Had been traveling all day. All the sitting made my condition worse. By the time my daughter picked me up I could barely walk again. Once home I fell into bed exhausted. Weary, but glad to be home.

I continued to wear the knee brace and took it as easy as I could and gradually my leg began to heal. I was pretty worried actually, losing one’s mobility is a pretty frightening prospect. All this time I was thinking well this is it, this is how it’s going to end…I will lose my mobility and my life will change forever…

I got a little depressed while convalescing. I picked up a book I had recently purchased by one of my favorite authors, J. M. Coetzee’s , the novel Slow Man, and began to read. Turns out his protagonist, Paul Rayment, an older gentleman much like myself, as a matter of fact the same exact age, sustains a knee injury in a bicycle accident in the very first chapter in the novel. Only his injury was much worse than mine. He lost his leg just above the knee. Ironically, the things he thought about were the very same things I thought about. Here is what he had to say about it.

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“A circumscribed life. What would Socrates say about that? May a life become so circumscribed that it is no longer worth living? Unstrung. That is the word that comes to him from Homer. The spear shatters the breast bone, blood spurts, the limbs are unstrung, the body topples like a wooden puppet. Well, his limbs have been unstrung, and now his spirit is unstrung too. His spirit is ready to topple.”

My spirit was ready to topple too. But, as previously stated, I got steady better and now I am back to nearly normal. I don’t know what I would do if I were to permanently lose my mobility and my being became so circumscribed. It might not be a life so worth living.