Karen sat watching the kids play soccer as the trees along the edge of the field blew in the cool wind. It was the first time in a long time she had been to the park and it was the first time she had ever been there to watch Dylan, her seven-year-old son.
As she sat on the bench watching the kids play, memories of her own childhood came to mind. She remembered the days as a young child when she played soccer. It was her favorite sport. Her father, a huge soccer fan, introduced her to the sport. From the moment she learned to walk, he taught her how to play soccer. Upon turning four, the youngest age you can join, her father signed her up with the local AYSO group. For the next several years she played soccer, even played on the high school team.
As she looked toward the field, Dylan caught her eye. It was obvious to her that he really enjoyed playing the game. When Dylan was born, Karen wished she could teach him how to play. She imagined being in the middle of a green grassy field teaching him how to kick the ball, explaining to him the various team positions, and constantly reminding him that he can’t use his hands unless he’s the goalie and even then he can’t use them outside the penalty area. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to do that.
Shortly after graduating from college with her degree in nursing she joined the U.S. Army. It was 2002. A few months later she was deployed to Afghanistan with a Forward Surgical Team as an ER nurse.
What motivated her to join the military was the tragedy of 9/11 and the example of her father who was career military. While her life as an army nurse in Afghanistan was not easy, she relished in the joy she felt from serving her country and fellow soldiers. Many lives were lost during her time in the Army, but many were also saved due to the knowledge, skills, and abilities she and the medical staff possessed. Then it happened.
On a cold blistering morning in 2005 tragedy occurred. Karen awoke early, got dressed and quickly reported to duty. For the first few hours things were going well. It was a slow day. Suddenly, she heard a loud bang, then another and another. Quickly she hit the floor hoping to protect herself. Then another explosion occurred. It was so close to the medical facility that the building shook resulting in walls and ceilings starting to crumble and break.
A few seconds later, a cloud of dust and smoke enveloped her as she felt intense pain. A large portion of the roof had crashed to the ground smashing her right leg. Blood poured out of her severely wounded extremity. Despite the shock, fear, pain and uncertainty going through her, Karen kept her wits about her. She immediately tried to free her leg. Luckily, she was able to do so, and began doing everything in her power to stop the bleeding. Within moments, overwhelmed by the pain, she passed out.
Three days later Karen awoke in a hospital in Germany. Her right leg, about midway from the upper portion down was gone. The doctor told her there was nothing they could do to save it.
For the next few weeks, as she remained in the hospital she struggled. She thought about her family, her parents and siblings. While they expressed love and concern for her during her conversations with them and offered to help her in any way they can, she began to feel as though she was now a disappointment to them. She wondered what her life was going to be like now. What was she going to do? Her military career was clearly over. Her nursing career was probably over. It will be awfully tough to work as a nurse in wheelchair, she thought. Feelings of depression and anxiety overwhelmed her. Then she met Robert.
Robert was also a patient at the hospital but with a much less tragic injury. As Karen and Robert got to know each other, feelings of attraction and love quickly grew. Eventually, they were both released from their military duties and sent home. Upon returning home, they kept in touch and eventually got married.
For the most part, life went really for them. Robert had a good job, and Karen, although not able to perform the duties of a nurse, worked in the office at the local hospital. In the fall of 2007, Karen surprised Robert with the announcement that she was pregnant. Nine months later Dylan was born.
The birth of Dylan brought both happiness and sadness into Karen’s life. She always wanted to have her own children and while she was proud to be the mother of such a beautiful child often times feelings of uselessness overcame her. Her inability to perform certain motherly duties due to her disability led to feelings of uselessness and disappointment. One thing that really caused such feelings was her inability to engage in physical activities with her son, especially when he was introduced to the sport of soccer. Many times Dylan would ask her to play with him. She would try and explain why she couldn’t. With a sad look on his face Dylan would then run away. This all changed in the spring of 2016.
That spring Karen went away for a few weeks. On the evening of Friday, June 10th, she returned, but didn’t go home. Accompanied by her parents, she checked into a nearby hotel. The next morning Dylan had a soccer game scheduled for 11:00am. She arrived at the soccer field at exactly 11:05am, just as she and Robert planned. With a bright orange blanket covering her body Karen drove her electric wheelchair toward the field. Robert, who had been anxiously watching and waiting for her to arrive, saw her coming and ran to greet her. “Are you ready?” he asked as he leaned in to kiss her.
“Yes,” Karen replied without hesitation. “I’m ready.”
With hand in hand, they watched Dylan and the kids play as the trees along the edge of the field blew in the cool wind. Dylan was so engaged in the game he didn’t notice her. Then it happened.
A teammate of Dylan’s passed the ball to him. Dylan, so excited, kicked the ball without paying attention to the direction in which he kicked it. The ball headed directly towards Karen. As she saw the ball coming she tightly squeezed Robert’s hand.
“I know what you’re thinking!” he shouted as he ripped the blanket from Karen’s body. “Do it!”
With strength and precision, Karen stood, took two steps forward, and kicked the ball back just as Dylan looked to see where he had kicked the ball to. The site of his mother standing with her new prosthetic leg immediately caught his eye. He paused, ignoring the ball she had for the first time in his life kicked to him. With tears flowing from his eyes he ran to her yelling, “Mommy has a new leg! Mommy has a new leg!”
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The above short story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.
Copyright ©2016 by Joseph Bunch. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, scanning, uploading, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying, recording, or by any other storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the author.