I couldn't catch my breath. I'd made it down two flights of stairs to my front door with my wedding dresses on my arm and a bag with the shoes I hope to wear on my big day on my shoulder. I'm not sure how I balanced it all while grasping my cane in the right hand.
I flung the front door open and staggered on top my small porch; that's when I noticed my next door neighbor and friend, Monica, was outside. Even though mere inches separate our homes, I hadn't seen her in days. I had been pretty bedridden following another back procedure to alleviate the searing pain when I walk.
With a spring in her step, Monica raced up her stairs, which are adjacent to mine. She reached over the bannister and grabbed the dress bags from my arms and sprinted over to my vehicle.
"Do you need me to carry anything else?"
"No, thank you," I replied. "That helped me out a lot."
As soon as I got in the car, I checked the time and noticed I had an hour to get to my appointment.
"That may be just short of the time it takes for my leg to fall asleep because it's not in use," I mumbled.
When I got to the helix leading to the Lincoln Tunnel, Ten, fifteen, then twenty minutes passed while I sat in virtually the same spot. I shifted as much as I could, to try to wake up my irritated limb. But, nothing worked. My foot became numb and my thigh and calf tingled.
I distracted myself by dialing the alterations shop to let them know I was running a bit late and texting my mother to tell her about my delay. Afterwards, I turned up the radio and punched on my leg, trying to wake it up.
I got off the west side highway at the 79th street exit fifteen minutes after my dress appointment was supposed to begin. So, I called my mother again to see if she had made it to the shop. As soon as she picked up, I heard her telling the receptionist her daughter was on the way.
Just then, I saw a space open up on 80th and Amsterdam Avenue. I quickly pulled in. Then, I took out my pill case, tossed my medication in my mouth and chugged a sip of water.
"Mom, it's going to take me a few minutes to walk one long avenue and two blocks to get to you. Please let them know."
Rather than repeating my message, my mom said, "I'll be back. My daughter walks with a cane so I have to help her."
I waited at my car until my mother arrived. She carried the dresses while I took the bag with my shoes. By the time we got to the dress shop, I was a half hour late for my appointment and a burning pain shot down my left leg.
At least half a dozen women, two young girls, one dad and a dog crowded the small shop on Columbus Avenue. The sofa and chairs strewn were filled to capacity.
I saw the familiar glance of curiosity as I limped in the door behind my mother. A few people stared but no one got up to offer me their seat. I had no choice but to stand and keep smiling, hoping I'd convince my mom I wasn't in any pain.
An hour passed. I knew because the time on my phone went off, signaling it was time to feed my meter. My mother volunteered to hike back and add money.
"You go in and change," the seamstress shouted.
"Forget it, mom," I said, stopping her from leaving the shop. "Let's do my fitting now."
My mom and I marched into tiny dressing room that was made smaller by dresses left hanging on the wall hooks. There was nowhere to sit down so my mother held me up as I undressed and stepped into my wedding dress. She then stood up my heels and held me steady as I took my first steps in them in more than a year.
A sharp stabbing pain raced up the back of my leg and across my lower back with every step. My mom supported me on the left and used my cane on the right. Slowly, we made it to the pedestal; that's when the seamstress finally made an effort to help.
"So what's going on with this dress?" The seamstress asked. "It's a bit small on the top."
Slightly embarrassed, I blurted out, "Well when I bought it I was dealing with a Lymphoma scare so I was about 40 pounds lighter. Guess I gained some weight back."
"Well, then it's a beautiful dress," the seamstress said. "You should shorten the dress because it doesn't look like you'll be able to wear these heels."
Stunned, I replied, "No, I intend to wear them on my wedding day. I'll be well enough."
I thought I'd fall or pass out before the end of the fitting. But, I took a few deep breaths and I made it through. I limped off the pedestal proud that, for at least a few moments, I was like every other bride at her first dress fitting.
My mother and I gradually made our way back to my car. I could feel my heart beating rapidly as I approached. As soon as we got within feet of the vehicle, I saw a ticket on the car behind mine. We were an hour over the metered time so I was all but certain I'd have a ticket too. I was wrong.
I'm surrounded by small miracles every day that make my life as a chronically ill person run smoother. My autoimmune condition makes it hard to eat, to drive or even walk at times. Perhaps it's because I'm sometimes reliant on others that I see every instance of selflessness, generosity, kindness or support as the rare, merciful gift. So whether I'm getting a helping hand from a neighbor, taking pills to ease the symptoms of my condition, accepting an arm of support from a mother, or receiving a grace period from a meter maid, I believe, all the little acts make each day bearable, brighter, and better than the day before; these are my miracles.