I met a man at the bus stop this morning. I have seen him before. His gait is awkward and he’s a bit unsteady on his feet. This morning I found out why.
We’ve had a warm spell this week. It’s made a mess of the streets and sidewalks. It was just cold enough last night to freeze everything that had melted. Walking is treacherous due to the slippery surface.
I had shuffled my way to the bus stop, losing my footing a few times along the way. I was there for only a short time before he joined me.
He was wearing big winter boots and a tired, dark coat. His grey toque was crooked on his head and pulled down close to his eyebrows. ‘It’s scary this morning’, he said, gesturing at the ground. ‘I am afraid of falling.’ His face reminded me of a child’s – his lopsided hat framing his bright eyes.
I agreed that the skim of ice on the ground made for an unsteady walk. We started to chat.
He told me his story. A few years ago while visiting Ottawa, he slipped on the ice. He fell backward and hit his head. Hard. His injury was so severe that he was in a long term care facility for two months. He was John Doe for half of that time. It took that long for his speech to return, allowing him to share his name.
He now lives with a brain injury that affects his right side. His arm on that side is weaker and he drags his foot.
I asked if his balance was different after the accident. He told me that one of his biggest challenges has been the loss of peripheral vision on his right side.
Imagine. A horrible fall in a city that isn’t home. A two month stay in hospital. A future with a brain injury and compromised mobility. And there he was, out doing his thing. Chatting with folks at the bus stop. Living his day even though it was frightening for him.
Our short interaction was a powerful reminder of perspective and gratitude. I hope I see him again.